General Feedback Notes for Character Animator

New Here ,
Aug 16, 2018 Aug 16, 2018

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Not sure where to really post something like this, but I have some compiled thoughts I'd like to share with the ACA team on things I feel need improvement or need to be added. These are thoughts that come after a long project using ACA.First off, the program is really cool, and I love where it's going, but it still feels very much like a Beta to me and not a full release ready for big time productions.

1. Dynamic link to After Effects is unacceptably slow  and unstable in my experience. It's great on paper, but after having to bring 40 plus links into Ae and having each import take 3-5 minutes, I had enough. Not to mention that after enough links are added an Ae file, the file may never open again. In my opinion PNG sequences are the only usable method of getting the work into Ae.

Not only this but if you set multiple renders to Media Encoder Que, there is some kind of memory leak that will eventually crash media encoder. It seems character animator makes lots of little "RAM eaters" in the background and that RAM doesn't get dumped after each render finishes, so I could only set 1-2 renders at a time if they involved ACA. A further note, if you delete out all ACA links in the Ae project, these "RAM Eaters" still show up when rendering, unless you run a reduce project in Ae, regardless of if the render is even using ACA data or not.

2. Animated Character Puppets cannot simply be pasted into another scene. Not much can be pasted from scene to scene. I found this out the hard way, and had to hand select every single animation layer and paste them onto new scenes, with new puppets, and bring the audio in. All separately, with a good 30 second wait time for each action. (A kind of general problem, the program is simply slow, even running 64 gb ram with a good processor. Almost every action has at least a 5-10 second wait time, which quickly becomes tedious.) This wastes tons of time.

3. I don't know how to explain this well, but there's a sort of painful back and forth that happens when rigging and adding things to character rigs. You sort of have to double manage the visibility of layers especially when making edits to rigs. There needs to be some kind of clear designation in ACA of what layers are visible regardless of the visibility in PS or Illustrator. This is more of a workflow issue.

4. The timeline needs some work,I felt I had to "trick it" several times to accomplish simple things like placing one take layer over another.

5. Some really go behaviors to add would be single joint IK handles that could aim things without mesh warping them. A key frame graph editor would be a godsend for simple transforms and rotations.

Not to sound too negative, I just thought this feedback may be helpful. This program is really cool so far.

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Enthusiast ,
Aug 16, 2018 Aug 16, 2018

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The puppet layers / groups setup ( im using Illustrator ) seemed complicated at first, but has enhanced my workflow as far as static artwork goes, so thats a plus to me...

I agree with IK handles and some point-to and follow behaviors. Definately keyframing. The performance based recording is really cool, and works great for some things, but the option for some good-ole keyframe animation would be a great enhancement.

I am still digging around with this one and have no real complaints. it does a lot of things that were way more complicated before it came around.

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LEGEND ,
Aug 16, 2018 Aug 16, 2018

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Thanks for your comments. I wanted to support a few bits and offer workarounds they I use in case helpful. Note also there is a "feedback" area (at top of page in forums). Feel free to vote for features there, or create new ones and leave links here to encourage others to vote for the issues. (Power to the People!)

1. Yes, I find dynamic linking slow - useful at times, but so slow that I avoid it when I can. (I assumed it was my slow laptop.) Personally I export video files rather than PNG sequences. I use "QuickTime GoPro CineForm with alpha" myself when I need to preserve transparencies (normal when including into AE). It felt faster using a movie file over hundreds or thousands of separate files, but I never timed it. That sped me up personally a lot - made it usable.

I think there was a memory leak if character animator is exited when there are still jobs in the AME queue. Something about AME sends a message back to CH but there is no one to receive it. Maybe there is another similar problem with multiple renders lurking there. Do you close CH or keep it open? If you keep CH open, make sure you close the Scene window - it sucks up lots of CPU.

2. V1.5 allows more to be copy / pasted, but yes - cannot copy whole puppets with recordings. You can however use "duplicate" on a scene then rename and edit the duplicate. That makes a copy of everything in the scene including the puppets and takes.

But yes, it’s pretty slow and painful when spending extended periods in the tool. It takes me hours to just drag the characters into scenes for a short video (because I have lots of short scenes I join together). Optimization of the code would be a great feature. It makes it take so much longer to get jobs done when you have to keep waiting each change.

5. I would love better key framing as well. You can do crude keyframing using blends (e.g. see https://extra-ordinary.tv/2018/08/08/timing-music-with-character-animator-movements/ ). But not being able to see the recorded values for say X, Y and scale is painful. Makes it hard to go back and adjust things. I also would like to control the curve of the blend (e.g. flat or curved).

I have my own little gripes too - such as the UI locks up sometimes. It does it much less now since 1.5 though, so a step forwards. And I would love to be able to have drags the are relative to the parent layer - so I can record say hand waving, then I can move the puppet and the hand wave stays relative to the puppet location and size. At present the drag positions are always absolute to a position in the scene window, so moving the puppet means you have to re-record the drag. Another one is its really hard to do hair dangling behind a body when you have an independent head. Oh and my favorite - I would love camera panning support.

But I also agree with the final comment that it makes things possible and feasible that I would not have achieved otherwise.

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