Create more realistic animation in less time with Pose Driver Connect

When it comes to creating high-fidelity 3D characters, anything you can do to improve the believability of the animation is an obvious win. One of those things is to add secondary animation—additional animation that reacts to, and enhances or emphasizes, the main animation.

An example of a secondary animation setup that relates to characters is where joints move naturally in response to other joints, without the animator having to directly control them. So if you rotate a character’s clavicle (collarbone) by moving its arm up, down, forward, or backwards, surrounding joints such as the scapula (shoulder blade) should also move—just as in real life. The result is more plausible and detailed animation that, after the initial setup, comes for free.  
Today, we’re happy to introduce a new Pose Driver Connect toolset that means you can author secondary animation like this in Autodesk Maya and import it into Unreal Engine to recreate it as a one-to-one match, without having to start over from scratch. This could potentially save you hours of work.
Currently in Experimental status and ready for your feedback, the toolset—which uses radial basis function, or RBF for short—consists of a Pose Wrangler plugin for Maya, and a Pose Driver Connect plugin for Unreal Engine.

If you’ve ever used Maya’s Set Driven Key feature, the basic concept of using Pose Wrangler should be quite familiar. To put it simply, you author the animation by rotating a joint in one direction, transforming the surrounding joints to provide a realistic deformation, and creating a pose at that point. Then, you rotate the driver joint in the opposite direction, transform the driven joints again, and set another pose, repeating these steps for the other axis of rotation.
Secondary animation off (L) vs. on (R)
Pose Wrangler creates a solver for each set of these joints, which determines how the poses are interpolated, based on a number of options you can set. You can then export the solvers in a JSON file, along with the poses as an FBX clip. Importantly, you can optionally export the poses as deltas from the default pose, making it possible to retarget the setup onto similar characters—more time saved!

Over in Unreal Engine, with the Pose Driver Connect plugin installed, you can import the solvers and the poses to recreate the secondary animation, using the exactly the same math, via an Animation Blueprint. The result is higher-fidelity characters for your game, animation, or other real-time content—in far less time.

Here’s a tutorial that goes over all the steps and settings in depth.
While Pose Driver Connect works on MetaHumans and other skeletal setups, it’s not limited to character animation. Essentially, you can drive any object’s transformation (translation, rotation, and scale) based on the rotation of any other object. And what’s more, the functionality is exposed through both Blueprint visual scripting and Python, so you can build in automation that works for your pipeline.

We hope you find Pose Driver Connect useful. Drop us a line on the Epic Developer Community if you have any questions.

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