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Lesson4: Adding Gestures

Mimic gives you the power to customize your phonemes and expressions and also allows you to add gestures that give your animations added depth. Unlike phonemes or expressions, gestures reside in the Gestures Track in the Timeline. Let's learn about gestures and how you can use them to add complex effects with minimal effort.

Step 1: The Gestures Track

The Gestures Track contains the following elements:

  • Gestures List: The Gestures List contains all of the available gestures you can use in your current session.
  • Selected Gesture: Select a gesture by clicking it. The selected gesture appears blue and the spline and keyframes for that gesture appear in the Gestures Track. While all gestures share the Gestures Track, only the currently selected gesture appears, to eliminate any possible confusion.
  • Selected Key Value: The Key Value field displays the value of the currently selected keyframe.
  • Keyframe: Each dot on the Spline represents a keyframe.
  • Selected Keyframe: The selected keyframe appears red and its value appears in the Key Value field.
  • Spline: The Spline shows how the selected gesture's value changes over time.

    gesturesvalueline.jpg

Please see “Gestures Track” for more detailed information about the Gestures Track and working with gestures inside Mimic.

To apply a gesture:

  1. Select your desired gesture in the Gestures List.
  2. Insert keyframes at desired points in the animation.

    Positive-value keyframes apply the gesture normally, and negative-value keyframes apply the gesture in reverse. For example, a negative value applied to a blink gesture might make the eyes open wider than normal. A keyframe is a frame in an animation where a control action occurs. All other frames are called tweens, since they lie between keyframes. As the animation progresses between keyframes, each succeeding tween frame displays less of the previous keyframe's value and more of the next. The amount of transition between tween frames depends on how far apart the keyframes are, how much the gesture's value varies between keyframes, and the type of spline being used.

Please refer to “Modifying Gesture Definitions” for more information about animating gestures within Mimic.

To begin this tutorial, please either load the basic animation you did in the first tutorial or create a new session.

Step 2: Adding, Editing, & Deleting Keyframes

Let's perform a simple experiment.

  1. Select the Eyebrow Raise Left gesture in the Gesture List by clicking on it.
  2. Click on a spot in the Timeline, making sure that your selected spot is past the darkened area that may appear at the beginning as a leader that does not become part of the animation (if there are no frame numbers at the top of the Timeline, then don't insert any keyframes there). A red dot appears and the Spline moves to connect to the new keyframe.
  3. Add a couple more keyframes and see how the Spline adjusts itself to show the gesture's changing value over time.
  4. Play the animation and watch carefully to see the effects of your newly modified gesture.

icon-tip.jpg TIP! All available gestures are always active in the Gestures Track. By default, their Splines remain at 0, meaning that the gestures do not have any effect on your animation.

Now let's try adjusting a keyframe's value. To do this, you may either:

  • Click and drag your desired keyframe to its new location in the Gestures Track. This method is great for “roughing in” your animation.
  • Click your desired keyframe and enter your desired value for that keyframe in the Key Value field. This method is great for fine-tuning your animation.

Mimic lets you select and work with multiple keyframes by either:

  • Pressing the Shift key while clicking keyframes selects all keyframes between the first and last keyframes you clicked.
  • Pressing the Ctrl key while clicking keyframes selects only those keyframes you click.
  • RIght-clicking in the Gestures Track and selecting Select All from the context menu or selecting Edit > Select All from the menu selects all keyframes.

To delete one or more keyframes, select them as described above, then either:

  • Press the Delete key
  • Right-click and select Delete from the context menu.
  • Select Edit > Delete from the menu.

See “Working with Gestures” for more information on adding, editing, and deleting keyframes.

Step 3: Interpolation

As we've mentioned, keyframes are where control actions take place in an animation. In other words, they serve as anchors that say “At Frame X, Gesture Y will have Value Z”. Tween frames lie between keyframes and blend the keyframes at either side into a smooth transition. You can see a tween frame's value by looking at the Spline at any point between keyframes.

icon-tip.jpg TIP! This tutorial uses gestures to highlight interpolation methods because the Gestures Track gives you a visual representation of how each gesture changes between keyframes. The same concepts and interpolation methods also apply to phonemes and expressions.

Mimic calculates the tween frames for you using a process called interpolation, which defines how one keyframe's value transitions to the next over time. There are many different types of interpolation or methods of calculating these transitions. Mimic supports four types. To see this, begin by selecting a gesture and create four keyframes as shown on the right.

To select an interpolation method, select a keyframe and either right-click or use the Edit menu. You interpolation selection will affect the Spline between the currently selected keyframe(s) and the next previous unselected keyframe. For example, if you apply an interpolation method to the third keyframe from the left in the above example, it will affect the transition between the second and third transitions. This allows you to switch interpolation methods as often as you like within the same gesture, greatly increasing Mimic's power and flexibility.

Your interpolation options are:

  • Flat: Selecting Flat causes tween frames to retain the value of the previous keyframe until the next keyframe and then perform an abrupt change. This interpolation results in motion that appears as a series of pauses with abrupt position changes between them.
  • Linear: Selecting Linear causes each tween frame to change an equal amount. For example, if Keyframe A has a value of -1 and Keyframe B has a value of +1 and there are 10 tween frames separating them, each keyframe will show a value change of 0.2. A useful analogy is to think of a billiard ball traveling in a straight line until it ricochets off a rail and continues in a new direction.
  • Smooth: Selecting Smooth causes tween frames to create a gentle transition between keyframes. As one moves from Keyframe A to Keyframe B, each succeeding tween frame “accelerates” as it moves away from Keyframe A and “brakes” as it approached Keyframe B. It help to think of a car traveling between stop signs. From a stop, the vehicle picks up speed, maintains a constant speed for a time, then slows down for the next stop.
  • Extra Smooth: Selecting Extra Smooth causes tween frames to create gentle transitions where the transitions themselves occupy as much of the transition as possible. To continue the vehicle analogy from the previous example, imagine accelerating very gently to a point halfway between the two stop signs, then just as gently slowing down with no period of constant speed.

See “Interpolation Indicator” for more information on interpolation methods.