Here is Avastar-625. And this time it contains many small changes and a few realy big new features. Well, maybe not soo big on first view, but big enough to get very excited. The video to the left is a reworked version of the Avastar-5-: Mesh Rigging tutorial showing how to use the SL bones for posing (new feature)Here is the summary of the changes/new features coming with Avastar-625 (feedback wanted, error reports appreciated!):

Avastar Collada

 optimized for OpenSim exports

Feature complete:

We have fixed all major issues with the Collada export. As you might know the Avastar -500 already contained a preliminary version of our own Collada exporter. We have meanwhile improved the exporter significantly. And it now provides everything needed for exporting your Meshes to OpenSIm and compatible worlds (see feature list on the right side)

Easy to use:

On first sight the new export panel looks like we have dropped functionality. But actually we have removed complexity from the user interface and now Avastar does the job for you. The only necessary decision for you is from where Avastar will collect your textures (if you have any) You do that in the texture options.

And you wonder what this “SL Bone bug fix” thing is ? Well it is another issue we found. Aside from the normal bones which start with an “m” there are a bunch of other bones that can be used – the “attachment point” bones and around twenty “collision volume” bones. These can be weighted and animated (see below), however if you try and reposition them, or even position them in their default place, horrible things happen in SL. This option just removes those bones from the armature section of the exported collada file.

BTW: Avastar can be used to export static meshes. Just select your meshes and export them all together with your weighted character or alone. There is nothing to consider here. It just works.

You do not like the Avastar Collada exporter ? No problem, the Blender Collada exporter is also available for you (as part of the Blender 2.64 distribution) with many improvements and it works reliably for OpenSim meshes.

  • Exports static meshes and rigged meshes
    (limited to Avastar Rigs!)
  • Support for color-only (material color)
  • Alpha value (fully transparent/fully opaque)
  • Brightness (on/off)
  • Up to 8 textures per object (texture faces)
  • Export of UV textures
  • Export of material textures
  • Uses active UV-layout for export
  • Object names are sorted to support multiple LOD files
  • Exports only deforming weight groups.
  • On the Fly normalisation during Export to Collada.

Compatible with older Blender releases:

The Avastar Collada exporter works with any blender version starting from Blender 2.60 up to the most recent version. The export options have been cut down to a minimum. All critical export parameters are now calculated by Avastar:

Actually you just need to select the meshes which you want to export. Avastar detects on its own when it must export the armature.

Volume Bones

Recently a new idea popped up for making meshes more adjustable to the default Avatar: Volume Bones. Originally the volume bones are used to create a simple invisible collision mesh for calculating collisions of the avatar with its environment.

Weighted Volume Bones:

Red Poly (a resident from a popular online world) has pointed out that the volume bones in fact can be weighted to mesh. These are just ordinary bones and every SL avatar has them already. Avastar now has them too (see the red bones in the image on the right side)¬†and you can use them in your own creations. Where they are really interesting is that they react to some of the shape sliders in SL (like the way mHead reacts to Head Size) which means you can create clothes and attachments that adapt to the character’s shape.

Simple workflow

To get to the point: Avastar now supports volume bones in a really nice way. As mentioned above the bones always follow the avatar shape sliders, and all the complexity in using these bones is taken care of automatically. We’ve added a function that allows you to see the effect the shape will have on your mesh inside blender so you can now model over a whole shape range (see below).

  • all 19 available Volume Bones are now supported.
  • the volume bones react to the shape sliders in Blender just like they do in the target system.
  • The volume bones can be animated just like any bone

 

Enable volume bone weighting

The volume bones can be weighted just like the default SL bones:

  1. Parent and Weight your own Mesh to the Avastar character (as always)
  2. If your mesh has not yet any Shape keys, then create a Base shape key (Simply add a shape key, it will be named “Base”).
  3. Add another Shape key and name it “bone_morph”. Avastar will use this shape key as the storage for the changes on the mesh due to the shape slider movements.
  4. Set the shape key influence to 1.0
  5. Select the Avastar rig, go to Pose mode and open the Bone properties section.
  6. Select all volume bones at once. (assuming you have enabled their visibility before)
  7. Press SHIFT +W -> Deform to enable the deform checkmark for all volume bones. You might need to do that twice. This toggle behaves like the ‘a’ toggle for select/deselect all vertices.
  8. Go and add some weights to the volume bones (in weight paint mode)
  9. And now your custom mesh will react to the Avastar Shape sliders. And when you wear it in your oline world and change your shape it will react in exactly the same way as it does in Blender.

We still need to specify how exactly the volume bones need to be weighted. That is currently a field for experimentation.

But please note that the weight painting of the volume bones is still up to the user (you!). We do not provide ready weighted volume bones (yet).

Skeleton editing

When you want to create non human characters, then you need to edit the skeleton. Until now it was very painful to do that with the Avastar skeleton due to a lot of built in constraints. The most apparent problem is that the Avastar skeleton uses the SL target bones and a similar set of bones, the “Avastar control bones”. The control bones and the SL bones must be kept in synchonisation all the time. Otherwise you will end up with very weird issues.Now we provide some helpful tools. But beware. This is still a work in progress. The tools are still not easy to use and you need to be very careful and understand exactly what you do. but after some practicing you should be able to setup a non human mesh in a short time.
  • Function panel for Lock/Unlock skeleton Rotation
  • Dito for Lock/Unlock Location
  • Bake selected Bones as new rest pose

weighting

Sorry, we still do not provide the magic button “press here and all is well”. But we continue to improve our tools.For example in previous releases the user had to know exactly what to do when preparing a mesh for weighting. We have now added a whole lot of extras which make Avastar much less restrictive. it now can handle many situations which previously was a huge source of confusion.
  • Weight adjustment tool now only appears in weight painting mode with a single vertex selected (so the values are live and can be adjusted immediately)
  • copy weights no longer normalises the weights
  • find unweighted now ignores non SL bones and bones set not to deform (avoids many issues seen on previous releases)
  • normalise all now ignores non SL bones and bones set not to deform
  • Normalisation of Weights only done on export to Collada. It’s quite useful to be able to weight paint several bones to 1.

Mesh

We now support 2 important features and we hope you will love them.The very most impressive new feaure is that Avastar can be configured such that any bone length changing slider will not only influence the Avastar model, but also your attached meshes will get affected. That means, you have much less work to do when you have to adjust your mesh to specific Shape configurations:

Just reshape the Avastar character and your mesh will follow all bone length changes. Note: This is exactly what also will happen in your online world! This gives you some great benefits:

  • You can see in Blender how your mesh will react on the shape sliders.
  • You can optimize your weighting directly and with visual control. (work in progress, currently its not yet as user friendly as we want.)

Using this feature is almost trivial, you just have to do a couple of preparations:

  1. Parent and Weight your own Mesh to the Avastar character (as always)
  2. If your mesh has not yet any Shape keys, then create a Basis shape key (Simply add a shape key, it will be named “Basis”).
  3. Add another Shape key and name it “bone_morph”. Avastar will use this shape key as the storage for the changes on the mesh due to the shape slider movements.
  4. Set the shape key influence to 1.0
And now your custom mesh follows the bone length changing Shape sliders in Blender.
You always can remove the shape key again at any time (or set the key influence to 0) and your mesh snaps back to its original shape. This should help you tremendously when your custom meshes have to be designed for different shapes. Actually you even can switch between shaping the mesh and weighting it.
The other important feature is that now Avastar will handle non-deforming vertex groups. (XXX more to add)
  • Your custom meshes can now react on the Shape sliders in Blender
  • default material added to meshes when new Avatars created
  • mesh statistics reported (on console for now)
    • Basic mesh data (polygons, modifiers, armatures, etc.)
    • analysis of weight groups (zero weight / more than 4 weight groups etc)
  • bake T pose now ignores non SL bones and bones set not to deform
  • shape preview also ignores non deforming weight groups and normalises on the fly

 

other new features / improvements

Our feature set grows every day. As you can see we have been very busy to also improve many small details of Avastar. Here is a brief listing of all other changes since Avastar-500.We plan to update Avastar until end of august. But because we have added so many changes all testing may still not find all issues. So please be patient with us and give us the time to get Avastar as good as possible. Testing has already started…

Shapes:

  • basic code in place using custom shape key “bone_morph”
  • deals with non deforming weight groups correctly
  • deals with unweighted / unnormalised vertices correctly
  • reacting correctly to normal bones like mHead as well as volume deform bones
  • reacting correctly to volume bones taking into account base rotation and scale
  • hidden mesh is now not updated for efficiency.
  • morph-only changes are now really fast. to be verified!
  • general speed improvements in the sliders
  • fixed some bugs with the torso muscles slide

Animation:

  • bone location animation enabled
  • increased the accuracy of exported animations. This will produce bigger files but it should capture much more of the subtle motion.

Armature:

  • Parent to armature button added besides T Pose bake button. (You only need T Pose bake if your armature is NOT in T-Pose when you paent a mesh to your armature!)
  • Bake bone pose – set default rest pose for selected bones only. this is needed to provide support for non human characters (to be documented)
  • foot pivot code changed to not depend on the mesh (now mesh keeps on ground in blender) Note: this has nothing to do with the z-offset in the mesh importer.