Tech Spotlight: Mixamo 2.0

Having just moved from Beta to public release, product manager Tyler Georgeson explains how the animation system reflects a changing industry
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Speaking broadly, how does what Mixamo 2.0 introduces reflect the industry as it now is?
The industry is trending towards more indie studios that have tighter budgets. Smaller teams don’t have as much time or money to build massive production pipelines. Smaller teams also means more people wearing more hats. Mixamo 2.0 is easy enough for non-animators to pick up and animate characters and is designed for developers that need to quickly add animated characters to their game and get going.

We are also seeing more indie stealth teams working remotely and dispersed geographically, making online collaboration a must. Mixamo’s online asset storage is more streamlined in the new update and can help teams find and use animations and characters quickly.

Another trend-reflecting novelty that Mixamo 2.0 introduces is its WebGL 3D viewer, which makes the visualisation of animated 3D assets easier, much faster and more mobile friendly.

Mixamo's offering has long championed ease of use and quality through simplicity. How have you extended that simplicity while still offering quality of output?
Our whole aim with Mixamo 2.0 is to get customers what they need faster, within one integrated application. Now you can search for, edit and auto-rig a character all in the same screen, whereas previously you had to navigate to individual pages.

And with features like bulk downloading through animation packs and sticky export settings, we have eliminated the grind involved in managing assets. You will find the same quality of hand-cleaned animation data on our site that we’ve always been known for. But with Mixamo 2.0, the depth and breadth of the collection is more accessible because the search functionality is more robust and having the viewer side-by-side with the search results lets customers cycle through and preview animations on a character quickly, then make edits to get it just right.

No more opening multiple tabs and writing down reference numbers to make sure you have compared all the different options for strafing left.



In terms of key new features or updates, what do you think will have the biggest impact for games makers?
With the redesign we are able to organise more and more of our existing animations into packs, easily found in the Mixamo Store. Now developers can quickly find animations based on a genre, and with the new interface, they can customise the pack to their own needs. By starting with a base of animations that all work together, customers will now spend time editing the contents of the pack instead of hunting for animations that work together.

Coupled with the ability to bulk download animations, the customised animation packs will give the serious developer a huge advantage over buying bulk motions from other asset stores. With Mixamo, all the animations can be previewed and edited on our site, so you know what you are getting before you buy.

Currently we have 22 animation packs covering a range of animations types from Rifle, Combat and Melee in addition to our classic Locomotion and Zombie packs. We’ve been adding new packs each month since February and the plan is to continue on this trend.

Our focus in on broadening the collection both in terms of animation genre and also by pack robustness – each of our newer packs has been grouped into Lite and Pro versions so that that users have options of how many motions to start with. Get what you need to get characters moving.

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Does 2.0 also expand your tech's relevance to the casual and hobbyist users?
Yes. Along with the official unveiling of Mixamo 2.0, which has a wealth of features that make our service easier to use, we have decided to make rigging free for all the characters created using our Fuse character creator at no charges. We did this to reduce any friction around understanding the value of Fuse as part of the Mixamo eco-system.

We see the 3D character creator as the ideal beginning of the pipeline for getting quality animated characters into a game project in less time. By starting with Fuse, game developers at every level - hobbyists, indie, triple-A - just need to build the character that they want, then upload to Mixamo to apply animations. The functionality works the same as before, but by not charging to Auto-Rig Fuse characters, we are opening up the pipeline to far more users.

What does the new WebGL viewer mean for users, and why is it important?
WebGL enables plug-in-free viewing of 3D graphics inside any modern web browser. In the past, users had to install the Unity Web Player plug-in to view content. A year ago, our engineering team took a look at our user flow and noticed that we had a significant drop off after people signed up for a free Mixamo account.

In addition, web browsers like Chrome have stopped supporting some plug-in architectures, so we have made the transition to make sure all Mixamo visitors can see a faster, higher-fidelity image without needing to install a plug-in.

Does Mixamo 2.0 support and compliment motion-capture process and technology well? Are there new features relevant there?
We have our own motion capture studio. By nature of authoring animation assets in that studio, we are continuing to integrate motion data with online editing capabilities.

We realise many game studios already have a cache of their own motion capture data and we are exploring options for how to enable customers to import their own animation assets to the Mixamo system. This would allow teams to take advantage of Mixamo’s powerful re-targeting capabilities, search and organisation features of the site.



We have always seen the need to turn facial animation into an accessible game feature for developers. That’s why we made it easy to get a facial rig onto Fuse characters. Starting with Fuse version 1.3 and above, characters that are built in Fuse and rigged with Mixamo’s Auto-rigger come with facial blendshapes. Apply our free python script for Maya, and the Fuse character will have full facial and body control rig. Not only does this make it possible to keyframe facial animation, but it also opens the door for lip syncing and also working with programs like Mixamo’s Face Plus to record motion capture onto characters in real-time.

What do you have in place in terms of a migration plan for existing Mixamo users?
Migration has been happening since February of this year, when we first made Mixamo 2.0 available as an optional way to experience the site. Now that all the account management capabilities are available on Mixamo 2.0, existing users have everything they need to access assets and services from the new interface. All new visitors to Mixamo will be directed to engage with the software via the Mixamo Store.

Why should a studio not yet using Mixamo embrace the technology?
Something we hear a lot about in the Mixamo Community forums is that the hardest part about developing games is planning the production. There is a 'catch 22' to prototyping - you have to do it so you know how to plan and avoid costly mistakes, but getting a sufficient prototype together is often so resource intensive that teams forgo this vital step.

Mixamo keeps lean development teams nimble by packaging those prototyping resources for 3D animated characters all in one place. You can find what you need quickly and get instant feedback on whether a character or timing works, before you spend money creating assets from scratch.

Many of our customers, including Mike Bithell – [who made] Thomas Was Alone, Volume – end up keeping our assets in the game because, and I quote: "We found that using full Mixamo solutions and mixing it with things we made ourselves allowed us to speed through the prototyping process. And then, we realised they were really good in game anyway, so we left them in."

We build customisation tools into each of our products so that you can get assets that don’t look like everyone else’s from the available asset stores. Because we keep the software simple enough to use without extensive expertise and there is no cost to test our free assets in a development pipeline, we make it possible to plan your production at a professional level.

www.mixamo.com

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