Posing the armature

Now that you have a grasp of moving your camera around, let’s talk about posing the armature. (Armature is Blender’s fancy word for “skeleton”.)

The hip bone’s connected to…

There are 25 bones available for your posing pleasure, laid out as seen below. For clarity, I didn’t label the bones on the left side.

The Bones of the Armature: hand, hand control, forearm, shoulder, clavicle, head, neck, chest, ab, body, hip, thigh, shin, foot, foot control.

Most of them correspond to bones in the SL avatar skeleton, but 6 of them are purely for convenience: root, body, left and right hand controls, and left and right foot controls. Usually, you don’t need to even bother with the root, and for this tutorial I’m not going to cover the hand or foot controls. If you want, you can Shift+Right Click to select each of those bones, then press H to hide them and get them out of your way. If you want them back later, you can un-hide them with Alt+H.

If you’ve done animations with Qavimator and the like, you might be confused about the Body bone and Hip bone. In SL, the hip bone is the main bone, and all other bones branch off from that. That would mean that if you move the hip, the whole body moves! That’s hardly conducive to animating, so I set this armature up so that moving the body bone will affect the whole body, but rotating the hip bone will only affect the lower body, as it should be! Now you can freely wiggle your butt, swing your hips to the music, etc.

Baby’s first pose

Let’s make a simple static pose — learn by doing! Posing is pretty fun in Blender, thanks to a feature called Auto-IK, which is enabled by default in the exporter scene. Let’s try posing the arm — just right click and drag on the forearm bone, and the whole arm will start to move! You can let go of the mouse button while you pose, then left click to set the pose, or right click to cancel the movement.

Posing the arm. Click and drag the forearm, and the whole arm moves!

Pretty cool, huh? Let’s pose the arm so it’s reaching down across the chest, as show below.

Setting the pose on frame 1.

Move your camera around to view the pose from different angles, and tweak it until it looks right. (Checking from multiple angles is really important to making a good pose!) If you mess up, you can undo with Ctrl+Z, as you’d expect.

A word about poses

Bone poses are relative to the parent bone. If you rotate the shoulder, that only changes the pose for the shoulder, not the forearm and hand. That’s because even though the forearm and hand move when the shoulder rotates, they are still in the same pose relative to the shoulder.

But, if you were to bend the arm at the elbow, that would set the pose for the forearm, because its rotation changed relative to its parent, the shoulder. This will become more important for setting keyframes, because auto-keyframes will only be set for the bones that Blender considers to have changed.

Another word

For most bones, you can only rotate, not move or scale. That’s because they’re attached to the parent bone. (This is true even of the thighs, shoulders, and neck — even though they don’t look like they’re connected, they are!) So if you want the hand to move up above the head, the only way to do that is to rotate the shoulder and forearm appropriately.

The exceptions to this are the Body and Root bones, which can move independently, and Hand and Feet Controls, which can move independently as well as change size (but that’s an advanced feature that I won’t be covering.)

Widgeteridoo

By the way, there’s a little widget — some red, green, and blue rings and arrows — that appears when you have a bone (or multiple bones) selected. You can use the widget to move and rotate the bone with more accuracy. It works pretty much like the object editing manipulators in Second Life! Left click on a ring (rotation) or arrow (movement), then move the mouse to change the selected bone(s).

Sometimes, though, it can get in your way and block your view. Luckily, you can toggle it by clicking the little hand icon in the header above the 3D view:

Toggling the manipulator widget.

Save!

Okay, time to save our progress. Wouldn’t want to lose all this hard work! Rather than save over the main exporter scene, let’s save a new scene. File > Save As, then type in a new file name, and save.

Later, we’ll just use File > Save (or Ctrl+W) to save our progress over this new scene. (Blender will make backups, with file extensions like .blend1, .blend2, etc. — .blend1 is the most recent. By default, up to 5 backups will be made, and then older ones will be dropped. You can change the number in the “Autosave” section of the preferences.)

Next up: Keyframes, and making it move!

In the next part, I’ll cover keyframes, and we’ll turn our static pose into a true animation.

  1. Intro
  2. Getting set up
  3. Using the camera
  4. Posing the armature
  5. Working with keyframes
  6. Exporting for SL