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8.1 Skeletal Animation

Skeletal animation is a process of animating a mesh by moving a set of hierarchical bones within the mesh, which in turn moves the vertices of the model according to the bone assignments stored in each vertex. An alternative term for this approach is ’skinning’. The usual way of creating these animations is with a modelling tool such as Softimage XSI, Milkshape 3D, Blender, 3D Studio or Maya among others. OGRE provides exporters to allow you to get the data out of these modellers and into the engine See section Exporters.

There are many grades of skeletal animation, and not all engines (or modellers for that matter) support all of them. OGRE supports the following features:

Skeletons and the animations which go with them are held in .skeleton files, which are produced by the OGRE exporters. These files are loaded automatically when you create an Entity based on a Mesh which is linked to the skeleton in question. You then use Animation State to set the use of animation on the entity in question.

Skeletal animation can be performed in software, or implemented in shaders (hardware skinning). Clearly the latter is preferable, since it takes some of the work away from the CPU and gives it to the graphics card, and also means that the vertex data does not need to be re-uploaded every frame. This is especially important for large, detailed models. You should try to use hardware skinning wherever possible; this basically means assigning a material which has a vertex program powered technique. See Skeletal Animation in Vertex Programs for more details. Skeletal animation can be combined with vertex animation, See section Combining Skeletal and Vertex Animation.

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