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First Impressions .... First hour in Cascaduer from a 25 year VFX person in LA

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  • First Impressions .... First hour in Cascaduer from a 25 year VFX person in LA

    Hello, My name is Casey Christopher and I am a 25 year vfx vet in Los Angeles. I have use all the software and have been lucky enough to have made a living at CGI and VFX for a long time. I have worked at Digital Domain, Method, Mirada, Timber, etc etc over the last two plus decades. I have used almost every piece of software over that time and am fluent in most CGI disciplines.

    I am hoping I can give good feedback to this beta beyond just testing for bugs. More like an overview of intended usage cases and expectations. I see a lot of potential here.

    My LinkedIn.
    https://www.linkedin.com/in/casey-benn-3191b578/

    ---How I found Cascadeur---

    First off, let me start by saying that I had only recently discovered Cascadeur just over a week ago. I was busy modeling, sculpting, painting, rigging, animating, shading, and finally rendering an eel character for a fun commercial spot in Los Angeles.

    My co-worker had seen your youtube clip of the character running, jumping, swinging etc and showed it to me.

    My initial thought was... "Oh this reminds me of Natural Motion Endorphin but looks like it has easier animation controls and moves similar to the Human IK rig in Maya."

    I signed up for the beta and just downloaded the software today.

    ---Why I am interested in Cascadeur----

    My initial impression from the videos was that Cascadeur was going to be very useful to me on a personal project.

    I currently rig and set up my characters with custom rigs but I use motion capture fbx, bvh, etc from libraries. I bring this data into Motion builder and map the joints and also create a T pose and then send them over to Maya. Then I can use the Human IK system to retarget the mocap onto my custom rigs and then bake out the animation onto the controllers from which I then begin animating on top of the mocap to customize my needs.

    Walk cycles, jumps, going up or down stairs.

    Going from laying down to sitting up.. sitting up to standing.

    Falling down rag doll style, Etc. I have quite a good collection of useful reusable mocap.

    This process has allowed me to create content quickly.

    I block out scenes and can quickly get my characters interacting.

    From there I use Redshift to render. I am able to create one to two shots a day and rendering takes about the same.

    When I saw your software I imagined myself using it in very specific ways.

    ---ASSUMPTIONS from Cascadeur youtube clip---

    I saw the text "physics based animation, no mocap". So I am imagining a way to not be so reliant on mocap.

    Since I see the character run, then jump, then run along a wall, then jump to bar and swing I had the impression it worked similar to Endorphin.

    Create walk cycles, jumps, rolls, etc and export fbx to motionbuilder or Maya.

    There is another Cascadeur user on Youtube doing a review and he also shows some of the old Endorphin videos next to yours.

    Anyways... I could see myself outputting very useful custom animations that would be hard to create starting with mocap.

    ------------- First Impressions from first hour in software-------- and feedback------------

    I watched the first 8 videos on the Cascadeur you tube channel to make sure I knew how to get around the UI and navigate the 3d views.

    I was happy to see it was very close to Maya so it was going to be minimal learning to adopt into my workflow.

    I started up the software and saw the first issue that should be addressed.

    1. The UI gives you a pop up window recently loaded scenes and Tutorials

    This open recently used scene UI is similar to Mudbox or Zbrush in that it shows you a screen cap of the scene

    Upon first load I see a load scene UI that is empty because I had never loaded any content before.

    So it was confusing at first. I would recommend placing pre-packaged content in the freshly opened load UI to reduce confusion.

    Mudbox has a list of recently saved/loaded scenes but it also gives a list of packaged content that comes with the software.

    Having at least a couple of options to load prepackaged content like the Simple or Standard rig in this fresh opened UI load/new window would help reduce confusion on first open.

    2. The Standard rig was not intuitive to pose at all.

    I was able to load the standard model but immediately had difficulty posing him the way you see in the videos. I had watched the pose video.
    The double click is mentioned in the video description but is not mentioned in the video.

    I was trying to get the character to pose the intuitive way the videos seem to work.

    The problem was two fold.

    1. I wasn't double clicking to select the chain.
    2. I was looking at a function using the 6 point auto pose mode

    Once I was double clicking. I was able to get the arms to move correctly but it still felt a little wrong. I realize this is because I would assume that rotating the elbow would move the whole arm down the chain.

    This was wrong because I needed to double click the elbow to fully move the chain below. I thought maybe I should use the controllers instead so I switched to the cube mode and tried to move the controllers. Again the motion was not working. It was as if every single point of articulation was locked down.

    3. Trying to pose the character even using double click chain method was still a bit frustrating.

    1. I want to simply grab the hip center to pull the waist down. expecting the upper frame to move with it. Instead.. the character began to stretch weird and collapse. Shoulders snapping in tight. Head and neck looked stretched.

    2. I found that by double clicking the chain above the hip gave me the entire upper body by which then I could single shift add the hip point to my selection and was able to finally pull at the hips and have the upper half of the body all move together whilst making the knees bend in the expected IK fashion.

    At that point I was wondering if there was a way to simply have standard controls for the character. The same way an FK/IK rig works. That you could have a controller mode that has two modes. One for individual controller mode but then a few colored box controllers that make the character move like a standard fk/ik char rig in that grabbing the main hip control moves everything except the hands and perhaps a switch to pull hands along with it?

    4. 6 Point Pose Mode --- OK here we go. ---

    Once I found the 6 point pose mode the character did begin to move a little more intuitively. Like humanIK or a standard IK/FK rig.

    Once I had the 6 point pose mode engaged I began to try to pose the character with much better results.

    This was more the way a user expects the character to move. Which I am sure is the reason it is implemented. Likely because someone like myself in the old forum gave similar feedback.

    I still would hope for a controller mode/ rig method to pose the character that is similar to 6 point pose mode. Something animators would be 1 to 1 with in Maya.

    5. Posing and Animation ------

    Posing the character with 6 point was pretty good.

    I set out to create an idle pose animation over 72 frames that I would hope to loop.

    I created a key at the first frame. It made the blue keyframe... I went to the end to capture the same keyframe so that no matter what I did in between the character should loop nicely.

    When I created a keyframe at frame 24 I noticed it defaulted to green instead of blue. I was then clicking around trying to get the green to turn blue. I instinctively right clicked on the key itself. This didn't produce a right click menu. This is something I use in Maya a lot. But I was able to select either the keyframe or at least the color between the keyframe and use the drop down menu to switch it from green linear to blue bezier. This made the first, second, and last keyframes blue but there was green between the 2nd and last keyframes. I had to somehow select the green between the keyframes and also set that to blue using the linear/bezier drop down.

    The animation was smoothly transitioning between my poses. I posed the arms moving up and down opposite of each other offset from the legs and it looked pretty good.
    I wanted to add one more key at frame 42 and when I did again I got green behavior and had to switch everything around from green to blue again. This was counter intuitive and I wonder if it is just a setting I need to place so that I will not get green unless I specify it?

    Finally I played the animation and it seemed ok but it was not perfectly looping. I did turn on the loop button and it was playing over and over but there was something on the last keyframe that was slightly off from the first keyframe. I thought that this shouldn't be trouble though. I often copy paste keys in Maya when I finish a loop.

    Well, the copy/paste key frame was not apparent. I tried selecting the key and right clicking it hoping for a copy/paste/delete right click menu. No luck.

    So I went to the edit menu and did see the copy/paste in the menu. BUT this didn't seem to be copying or pasting the keyframe. I tried to select the first keyframe and then use "copy" in the edit menu and then moving to the last keyframe and clicking on it so that it looked highlighted with the little black around the keyframe and then using "paste". But the first and last keyframes do not match.

    6. First hour conclusion.

    I like how the software feels. I love the UI navigation since it matched Maya very well. I have used almost all the software since 1995. Softimage, Lightwave, Maya, Max, Modo, Zbrush, Mudbox, Houdini, etc. All during paid gigs and used to a deep level. I really appreciate the UI so far and like its very clean design and organization.

    I would recommend that you do a few things right off.

    Make a new youTube video that gets a user oriented quickly. Your current vids 1 through 8 are really good BUT, there needs to be one video that helps a user get comfortable quickly.

    Like a "Before you use Cascadeur watch this quickstart video.

    Show them in one video.....

    1. Alt+mouse to navigate windows....
    2. Make sure they load the standard rig.
    3. Make sure they switch on the 6 point pose mode.
    4. Show them how to move+rotate+scale (W,E,R keys) to make the poses
    5. Show how to set keyframes in bezier mode.
    6. Show them how to create a looped animation like an idle or walk cycle.
    7. Export FBX file for use in other app.

    I have a desktop recorder. I would be happy to create this video if needed.

    I just need to learn a bit more so that I can copy paste the keyframes to make it work.

    This quick start video would get people in quickly and using it right away enough that they would continue figuring out the other details like double click selections in point mode, etc.


    7. Indulgent requests or more functionality.

    1. Collisions for posing feet/hands/ etc

    Finally one thing I think would really help is to have collision detection for the floor. Or even Collision detection for custom items.

    I would imagine myself importing scene geometry that I want my character to walk upon like stairs, angles slopes like a beach or hills.

    If there was a grid/floor collision OR say I could set the collision to arbitrary geometry I could then be really general with foot and hand placement as I could use the grid or geo to press the foot into and have it simply flatten out when it hit the grid or geometry.

    2. Walk cycle, run presets so that one could get a scene blocked out quickly. I could imagine that once a good walk, run, or stairs cycles were made that one could then create jumps, and rolls, from said point quite well.

    Anyways. Thanks for letting me join the beta. It seems I'll have lots of time inside to test it now.

    Last edited by Intuition; 20 March 2020, 07:54.

  • #2
    Hi Casey,

    Thanks for giving a try to Cascadeur and for such a thorough review!

    We like the idea of including our sample scenes on the start screen, might do that!

    Yes, our work with the rig is currently based on double-click, which we find very convenient once you get used to it , but there will be other options in the future. You are right, we should probably clarify it a bit more in the tutorials.

    The idea with a video tutorial for a quick start is a good one too, we will try to make it once we release the updated version of Cascadeur. Thanks for offering your help! My colleague will contact you in private to discuss

    Regarding cycles - we don't have this function at all in Cascadeur. All we have is a cyclical playback of animation, so having animation presets wouldn't help, since we don't have the function for creating or working with them.

    Collision is also a difficult feature to implement. We might have the floor collision in the future, but not so sure about more complicated types at the moment. We'll add it to our idea list though.

    If there's anything else you notice and want to suggest - let us know! We are always happy to get feedback and new ideas


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    • #3
      Hi Casey,
      I tried to get in touch with you, but it seems that you didn't get my email.
      Could you please write a message to my personal email account t.borovskis@corp.nekki.ru?

      We are looking forward to discussing your video tutorial proposal with you.
      Thank you!

      Comment

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      Cascadeur is a standalone software for creating physically correct keyframe animations for characters, humanoid and otherwise. Make realistic animations from scratch or improve your mocap, while retaining full control over the results.
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