Animation Module/addon for zBrush...(Nr 1 on Santa Wishlist)

Hi guys and you ladies out there

I have been dreaming about zBrush as an animation tool.

I am an animator and I have looked at the different analogue animation techniques, and tried to couple the capabilities of zBrush with the most appropriate analogue one.

By far, the most intuitive and natural way to animate, in my opinion, is stop-motion doll animation or clay animation, like what the animation company Laika and more so the british aardman animation company are famous for.

My university was lucky enough to have a close relationship with aardman animation, seeing their techniques and my thoughts are based loosely of what I learned during that time at the university.

This is how I imagine it would work.

It follows traditional puppet animation construction and animation, aka:

  1. Make a skeleton/rig much like you do in stop-motion animation, add joints and feet and a head attachment. Possibly have ready-made skeletons/rigs for animation that you can start working on. (Humanoid, Quadruped and so on)

  2. Make a head tool with replaceable parts or slots for different expressions and mouth shapes. Or have the head have multiple layers for that, like blendshapes work in most 3d animation software.

  3. Have the whole character be manipulatable from one key to the other as if it were clay. So animating it would be like animating with clay/a stop motion doll.
    This is key in my opinion, because the major advantage of clay/stop-motion animation, is that it is the only animation form that is almost as free in expression as 2d drawn animation. And mimicking clay animation/stop-motion animation without the drawbacks of analogue techniques (Gravity aka: freedom of movement in xyz without crazy rigs, things moving unintentionally, you dont have to only animate straight forward in time, joint wear and the list goes on…)

Animation like this in 3d would bring a new way to do 3d animation on the table, that could be extremely liberating and hands on. It is possible to do 3d animation that looks smooth and also looks like it has the deformable freedom of clay animation, but really it requires a dedicated rigger to make advanced rigs that mimic the look of stop motion/clay animation. And that is beyond the reach of most animators. At-least generalists such as myself and especially pure animators who only care to do animation.

I believe that Pixologic with their zBrush suite, would be uniquely positioned with the tools they already have, to do a solution to animation that would be very unique and could take the (animation)world by storm.

I am hoping for feedback on this, to polish it more and possibly for someone at pixologic have a look at it at some point…

So please Santa, I have been ok this year…

N.A Utsi

I believe zbrush already has most of the features you are asking for. Blend shapes are possible by using Morph Targets and models can be rigged using z spheres. you can even transfer your morph targets into other programs as blend shapes. you can animate just about everything in z brush using the timeline. If you really wanted to have mutliple heads instead of using morph targets you could make multiple subtools and animate their visibility. here is quick run down of the animation tools in zbrush. http://pixologic.com/zbrush/features/Timeline/. Hope this helps or maybe i am not understanding exactly what you are asking for

This is something I always dreamed about. ZBrush as an Stop motion animator tool using dynamesh instead of clay.
It is true that you can make subtools , animate subtools visibility and rigging with ZSpheres but they totally stopped developing those features a decade ago and apparently nobody cares much about them.
Another thing it would be great to have is being able to attach a mesh to each ZSphere segment WITHOUT RESIZING IT OR MOVING IT!! we could have an easy way to rig Robots or other rigid meshes and make our mannequins much much better… It is actually a matter of adding a switch that would disable the actual resizing behavior, nothing magical, just don’t apply any transformation to the mesh and leave it alone.The actual ZSphere Rig would act merely a hierarchy of pivot points, with a mesh assigned to each one…
Right now if you can attach a mesh to a zsphere or zsphere segment but it gets stretched and moved so it fits with the length and width of the segment, this is what the mannequins are right now…