MotionBuilder 5 Review

System Requirements


MotionBuilder is a software specialised in the animation of 3D computer graphics characters, by keyframing, graphs or MotionCapture input.

New in this Version of Motionbuilder is the difference between MotionBuilder and MotionBuilder Professional.

While MotionBuilder Professional retains all abilities of the old versions and adds some new, the "normal" version of MotionBuilder has the same new style but is stripped of some big features.

They have a chart for download on Kaydara's Website, but I will list the big differences here, too:

MotionBuilder 5 MotionBuilder 5 Professional
can't use C3D, TRC can read and write C3D, TRC
only one take per file more than one take per file
animation trigger not possible real-time animation trigger
no actor mapping actor mapping possible
price $995 US price $4,195 US

After this I want to introduce you to the MotionBuilder working environment, just in case you have never used it before.

This is MotionBuilder. In fact one view of it because the arrangement of working windows is fully customisable.

You have a big Viewer window, where you see your scene and interact with it. You see a skeleton with a Forward Kinematics Control Rig. One of the effectors its activated and I am in Transform mode.

On the right side are a assets browser, which you can use to drag and drop templates into your scene. Beneath are the Character Controls, which I will show in more detail later.

The bottom bar are the Transport Controls with timeline. Here you change time settings, keyframes etc.

The Navigator

The Navigator gives you a hierachical overview of your scenes assets and their properties.

You can select just specific branches to be shown, so you just see the assets you need to work with.

The Navigator Windows

This is the Navigator. On the left side you see the all your assets in a tree structure. On top of the tree are buttons for changing the view options, locking assets and jumping forward and backward.

Most space is used by the properties. The contents and panes of this area change depending on which type of asset you selected.

The Navigator is a very useful tool, because you can get a fast overview over your scene and directly change associated properties.

The Character Controls

The Character Controls are very important, because this is where you decide how to animate your character.

You can change the motion input of your character between Actor Input (When you use MotionCapture Data for example),

Character Input (if you already animated one character and want another character to do the same motion),

Control Rig Input (if you want to use Forward Kinematics or Reverse Kinematics to set up animation by hand),

Control Rig Output (if your Character has a baked animation, maybe from another software, you can plot out to a control Rig to manipulate this motion) and

Stance Input, which simply sets the Character back to a T-Stance.

This is the actual window. On top you choose the name of the character you want to modify. You can also see that if you select an effector it is also marked green in the main view.

Beneath this you choose between body, hands and feets effectors, like you see in the next picture.

Under the Edit menu you will find the input options I described, you can reach the character properties like in the Navigator and you can choose to plot motion, that means to bake the motion onto your model.

Animation Tools

This is the dopesheet which lets you manipulate, copy and delete keyframes between characters. A is the show menu, B shows assets by type, C Locks selected properties, D is the hierachical assets list and E is the timeline.

The FCurves Editor lets you manipulate the graphs of attributes like Translation or rotation, so you can set up a motion by hand or correct for example MotionCapture Data.

The Pose Controls are very useful for the character animator, because you can set up your own library of poses and just drag them on any model you like. You can also do mirroring of poses or just affect certain parts of the body, like the head or the fingers.

New In Version 5

Quadruped Support

The character engine now supports an augmented biped character with hand definition and floor contact. You can select whether your character is a biped or quadruped when you activate Characterize.

Keyboard Shortcuts

MotionBuilder 5 lets you select between different sets of keyboard shortcuts based on the four main 3D software packages supported through Kaydara's .fbx format (These are Kaydara's own Shortcuts, 3ds max, Maya and XSI.)

There are many more new features in this release but I don't think it makes sense to write down a long list. These two are very big and useful features so I listed them.

Final Words

I think this new release of MotionBuilder is very smooth and good to work with. It is definitly a software every animator should take a look at. The only complaint from me is that they stripped the MotionCapture support from the standard version, leaving the much more expensive professional version as only choice.