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Aleksandr Shatalov talked about the release of Allright Rig and gave some advice on how you can build awesome animation with Unreal Engine 4 and Maya.
Hello everyone! My name is Aleksandr Shatalov. I am a 3D developer, as well as a teacher in 3D graphics courses at a school located in Kharkov, Ukraine. My specialty is to develop tools with scripts to increase comfort and productivity in editors such as, Autodesk Maya, and Unreal Engine. I began working with Autodesk Maya eight years ago when I was studying in 3D graphics courses. These are the exact courses I have been teaching for four years already. While I was in high school, I tried to open 3Ds Max and I think the first time someone rotates the teapot, it defines whether or not 3D is your career. At least this is how it was for me. I also told my sister when I was six years old that I was going to make cartoons, and this all came true.
The projects that stand out the most for me are the animations, The Dragon Spell and of course, Bell and Sword. Unfortunately, this project is currently frozen. However, it gave me the opportunity and inspiration as a developer to work feverishly without a break. I was incredibly happy working on such a miraculous film. I worked in the motion capture department under the command of my chief and friend, Egor Tomsky. Egor could electrify a team and always had a sea of ideas and endless positivity. I also was involved in R&D and the development of tools for previsualization and layout departments. Here is an example of my work:
It is my passion to find and solve new logical puzzles in 3D, as well as to share the accumulated knowledge with those who need it.
Using Unreal Engine 4 for Animation
About a year ago we were searching for an editor that could give a more complete picture than the Motion Builder while recording motion capture, and we found Unreal Engine. It was very difficult for the director to accept a shot without grass, smoke, fire, and other effects however, we were pleasantly surprised by the features in Unreal editor. When the engine became free, we discovered that we could do a full length animation in the editor. The stylization of Bell and Sword aligned well with the features in Unreal. There are two examples here for comparison:
At first it threw our technical directors for a loop. We had already completed half of the project and rebuilding the pipeline was a daunting task and it was unclear what to expect. However, at the same time the new pipeline budget would be three times smaller. The director in the previsualization stage sees 90% of the image. The process of working with heavy scenes was much easier. It is also very easy to switch between game production, animated films, and virtual reality rides. When the producer had seen that we could drive out of the engine a 8K resolution for IMAX, there was no turning back. Here is where we started to conduct the development in Unreal Engine, and I began to transfer my raw autorigging system from Maya to Unreal. Unfortunately, the project was put on hold and I hope the project will be resurrected again. I would love to take an active role in its completion.
The idea of creating this rig began about 2 years ago when we began working on Bell and Sword with complex scenes and heavy rigs. Working on the scenes turned into a turn-based strategy game with prolonged hours of opening and saving scenes. I slowly began writing the Allright Rig, trying to make it as light as possible, but practical at the same time. The architecture of the system I put together in Maya. As I said earlier about a year and a half ago we decided to use Unreal Engine, and I was given the task to explore character rigging and animation by Egor. This is how it all began.
I am so grateful to Egor Tomsky for the opportunity to start this way! In just a few weeks I was able to create a rig and I began developing it. I was extremely happy with the development and the convenience of the blueprints. Initially, I was not so familiar with C++ and my good friend Ilgar Lunin actively helped me. We had a wonderful team for developing. With immersion in Unreal API, I increasingly admired the fact that all the codes were free. In February 2016 the project froze but I continued to work on my system, because I believed that this was exactly what was missing. Finances were difficult but without risk there are no chances. We agreed with management that the right of the system belonged to me.
The main goal is to create a possibility of creation and editing character animation in Unreal Engine 4. The plugin itself adds about 30 nodes which the engine doesn’t have so that one may create, update, inlay, etc. “Autorig” is a simple actor blueprint with complex blueprint macroses that can create, update and bake a humanoid rig. Right now people can’t see all the possibilites by just looking at this humanoid rig. This rig is not the final product; it only demonstrates the capabilities of the system. It is like the project template, the foundation on which it draws upon. The system creates more extensive possibilities. First of all I want to extend these possibilities instead of just making the rig. Now any character TD with a little rigging experience in Maya and Unreal can make a rig for their characters using my system, this is important to understand.
Advantages of Combining UE4 and Allright Rig Beta
I would like to help Unreal users to abandon third-party 3D editors for creating animations, rather than dragging animators from Maya to Unreal. Maya certainly has great animation capabilities; in fact, it was created for this purpose. However, to create a relatively simple animation cycles or previsualization, it is not necessary to buy Autodesk Maya. To bake and clean a motion capture in Unreal is extremely comfortable. The editors features and price makes a lot of movie production studios think about switching to Unreal Engine. My system is just a small guide to the Epic world of wonders.
A few months ago I submitted my work to Unreal Dev Grants. For a few years Epic Games has given money to talented individuals or groups every few months. I cannot describe in words or translate my amazement when I learned that I had won one of the grants. My wife and I were jumping for joy because it had been a long and difficult journey. In the first stages of development, I stated that if I could obtain enough funding the system would be free. Now thanks to Epic Games everyone can use Allright Rig. I am absolutely convinced that this will benefit everyone. I am already beginning to see the feedback that will make my system comfortable for everyone to use. As someone once said, “if you love something, set it free”. I am very grateful to the people who bought my system in the first stages of the beta test, and who supported me morally and materially.
Aleksandr Shatalov, Developer of Allright Rig
Interview conducted by Kirill Tokarev.