Saturday, September 20, 2008

Converting the Carnegie-Mellon University Graphics Lab Motion Capture Database for Poser

The Carnegie-Mellon University Graphics Lab Human Motion Library was created with funding from the National Science Foundation. It was done in their Motion Capture Lab that included 12 very high tech Cameras placed around human models wearing black jumpsuits with 41 "markers" taped on. This data was released to the public on July 21st. The project gathered over 2500 complex human motions. It was translated by the Graphics Lab into c4d, vsk/v and asf/amc. It then was initially translated to bvh for use in the Motion Builder software by Bruce Hahne over at Bruce did all the heavy lifting getting it into an initital bvh format from asf. I would like to thank Bruce for this work and his committment to make hobbyist animating easier, cheaper and faster. Be sure to check out his web site at

Since I don't own MotionBuilder, I decided to take Bruce's BVHs and translate them so they would work in Poser. I was familiar with the BVH format from some work I had done to translate Second Life animations into animations that would work in Multiverse, so, a couple of weeks ago I started working on the conversoin program in Python.

I had to convert the MotionBuilder BVHs into the equivalent Poser skeleton. Then I spent a number of hours adjusting the rotations of the joints for almost every joint, as the Poser and MotionBuilder skeleltons are significantly different. The most challenging part of this are around the shoulder area as MotionBuilder does not handle the collar joint in the same manner as Poser. In any case, after a few days of tweaking and changing the program, I got a fairly usable conversion routine. The python can be seen at:

I have converted the over 2500 motion bvhs and made them available as Poser ready BVHs to the general public at Share CG at:

I have tested a number of them in Poser and if you aren't satisfied with the results you can always download the python and tweak it yourself. Also, PhilC's animation software should be able to "fix it" up, if you want to do further tweaking. A text file has been included in the zip file that describes each BVH file in terms of walk, run, etc. I plan on converting them eventually to poser animated poses and also making this available. But, you can download the zip file and just import the bvh's on top of your character and begin using it now.

When you import there a number of bones it won't find. Just click ok during the import to skip them. They were Neck 1, which has no equivalent in Poser and then the finger settings. The MotionBuilder BVH was only for a general finger and finger tips, instead of individual fingers, so they didn't translate well and I omitted them. Also, the first frame is a modified T-pose that I needed to use to get things initially lined up. You will need to eliminate this first frame before you use the animation in a scene. As I start using these animations in my work, I probably will make adjustments to the python program and even get an overall better fit for all the animations. Stay tuned for re-releases of the library in the future.
I have been doing a number of my own animations associated with playing music. This along with my music props, I plan on selling sometime in the future at a mojoDallas store at Renderosity and/or Content Paradise. So, consider this initial release of the CMU motion library for Poser as my first merchant "gift" to the community. Also, check back to the blog and the site and follow my adventures in animation and 3D modeling. Thanks for stopping by and have fun with animation library.


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