Take a look at a Houdini Digital Asset (HDA) called Skinning Converter.
If you have a deforming mesh sequence, and would like to convert it to a bone-based animation, simply plug it into the first input of the tool. The interface provides a couple of parameters to tweak in order to achieve the desired result.
The “Convert to Bones” button will convert the input mesh sequence.
The user is able to change the frame range to bake, which by default is set to frame-range start-end.
The capturing method can be configured to either use Biharmonic Capturing, or Proximity Capture. It is recommended to use Biharmonic Capturing over Proximity Capture, due to the higher level of quality capture. You could however use Proximity Capture, to improve the speed of the capturing process.
The capture frame determines what frame will be used to determine the capture pose. It is recommended to use your first frame.
Max Bone Influences controls by how many bones a point can be influenced. Higher values could mean smoother results, but also increases overhead in engine.
Bone Placement Control
The Bone Placement Control tab allows you to choose between two methods of generating bone placements. Uniform and Adaptive.
Uniform will simply distribute the bones uniformly over your mesh. This is useful when quick results are desired. When dealing with sequences that don’t have specific regions where you want more detail to be conserved, this is the best way to go.
Adaptive will analyze the motion of your mesh sequence, and focus bone density in the regions it deems most important based on the provided ruleset. (Area Deformation, Curvature , Velocity) The user can then use the “Primary” bones slider to control the number of bones in the focus areas.
The tool also allows you to feed custom bone positions through the second input. This allows you to build custom methods for determining where bones should be placed. Note that the tool will lock the transforms at the specified capturing frame.
The tool also features a really useful feature, where you can hand paint bones on the mesh to get very accurate placements. Simply select the tool in your network, and hit enter to go into painting mode. The tool will then show you strokes at the bottom of the tool, where you can also remove them again. To exit this mode, simply hit escape.
You can find more details on the HDA and get it here.