The RAIC system is not a character rigging system, it is instead a character control system that can be applied to any type of character rig from Biped and Multiped to even a sack of flour or basketball. At the heart of the system are three plugins, Character Root, RAIC Object and Character Modifier. These three components work together to form the full RAIC system, sharing information about the character, rig and tool sets.
The RAIC system is not available for down load as it is reserved only for clients of PEN Productions and is offered as a free add on to rigs that are created for clients by PEN Productions. This allows PEN Productions to offer far more in character related tool sets and character rigging then other companies or solutions can. Custom character rigs have always been more flexible than pre-built solutions, such as Biped or CAT but have usually lacked the tools for working with the rigs during animation or when using motion capture data to drive characters. The RAIC system takes care of that while still using just about any character rigging solution that the client requests.
You can try out the RAIC system on the PEN Animation Characters that are free for down load. The RAIC system has been used on these characters, there is some work that still needs to be done on them so please read the bug list at the bottom of the page before installing them.
The Class tab sorts the controls into groupings by class, each class representing a section of the rig, such as the right arm, which would contain all the controls for the whole right arm.
The Group tab sorts the controls into groups, based on what those controls do. In the case of the right arm there would be two groups, one for the IK controls and one for the FK controls. Once again selecting the group head will select all the controls in the group. You can also multi select groups and individual controls using the CTRL key.
A fourth tab, called Map, can be setup for characters that will provide any number of sub tabs showing a map of the character with hot spots for selecting controls. The mapping data is stored as an XML file on the server so any changes to it will be propagated to the rest of a production automatically. Any number of selection maps can be created for a given character.
Right clicking on the selection list brings up a menu with options for setting up preferences and working with the selections. The objects in the list can be collapsed just to show the group heads. Other options, such as mirroring poses based on list selections, keying and resetting of controls also can be done through the menu.
Animators can add, remove or rename layers as they work. Selecting the ">" button opens options menu for the layer system.
When a layer is added it is added to the whole character. Layers are made active by just clicking on the layer name. Layers are weighted by clicking on the weight value to make it active and then changing the weight by either changing the spinner or typing in the value. With animate on, the weights can be animated to blend from one layer to another.
There is also a quick copy/paste for poses that work on the current selection of controls. Simply select a control or group of controls and press copy, move to a new frame then paste the pose back to the selection of controls.
New additions to the pose capture list are on the way. Soon there will be an ability to ramp the pose by selecting the pose in the list and scrubbing the mouse on it. This will work much the same way as PEN Attribute Holder, in that the pose will blend from what ever the current pose is on the group of controls, to the pose that is saved in the applied pose. There will also be some work flow updates to make it quicker and easier to set up poses.
When the first parent node is added, two constraint items will show up in the constraints list. The first is the actual parent node in the hierarchy of the characters rig. The weight of the first item in the list is set to zero as soon as it is added. This can be used to weight the control back to the original parent node in the system at any time.
The second item in the list is the one that was selected, it is weighed to a value of one, or 100% as soon as it is added and all others in the list are set to zero. If the animate button is on when this is done the weight values are keyed.
New parent objects can be added at any time and re-weighted to get the effects that you are looking for.
Using TRC data instead of the typical rotational bone data that is often used, such as FBX, HTR or BVH can add an advantage to the conversion to the character rig. In the typical rotational data types the marker data has been cleaned and then converted to the character rig. This can work well if you have taken the time to import your rig to a package like Motion Builder to make sure that the data is represented on the final character as it will be used. This can take time to do production, especially when there are many different characters that you want to use the same motion capture data on.
When TRC data is used in the RAIC system all that is needed is clean marker data, this is data that has no occlusions, and noise has been reduced. When this is imported for use on the RAIC system, PEN Productions will have set up the character to receive it based on naming conventions of the markers. The advantage to using TRC marker data is that original data hasn't been filtered into rotations yet, thus allowing the data to be converted to IK and FK portions of the rig in real time and get the best possible result for either.
IK solutions can target the wrist or ankles of a character ensuring that the hands and feet are locked to their intended locations. Knee and elbow targets are also projected through the solving plane and placed behind or in front of the joint, where artists would expect to find them.
The FK solutions can be handled in one of two ways, by angle or a targeted FK solution. When angles are used the joints in the RAIC system will base the solution on the angles of the marker data. Using the targeted FK solution, each joint in the RIAC system will try to point at the next even if the joint lengths are not the same. This will result in joint angles being incorrect but the final position or the end of the joint will be closer to what it was in the motion capture data.
Marker data can some times be imported on its side based on which axis is up. If this is the case the X,Y,Z rotation spinners can be used to realign the data as needed. The Scale spinner will scale all the markers so that they can be sized more closely to the size of the character they are being applied to. The mirror markers button currently only works on TRC marker data that is named correctly. The addition of a right/left search string could be added to make this work with other naming conventions.
To test the motion capture solution just turn on the Auto check box and scrub the animation time slider. Currently the real time update is only active when a control is selected and the modifier panel is open.
To adjust the alignment of the RAIC controls to the TRC marker data just reposition and orient the markers as needed and press the Apply Offsets button.
Once a solution is found the result can be baked to the Mocap animation layer in the rig. This may be opened up to work with any current animation layer for the future. The animation range to bake can be set based on the TRC marker data. TRC data is typically captured at a higher rate than what is needed in animation. Often that rate is 60 FPS, the TRC Rate will update itself when importing TRC data using the values that are stored in the TRC data files. This can be adjusted if needed once the data has been imported. The Frame rate that you want to use to bake the data to can be set to what ever is needed. Once the baking has been completed, if the TRC rate and the Frame rate are different you will notice that the character moves correctly but doesn't move at the same rate of the markers.
The Frame Step spinner can be used to change the step rate of the keys that are created. A step value of one will force a key at every frame. A value of 5 would create a key ever fifth frame. This can be useful when the motion needs to be smoother but not necessarily as accurate.
The TRC markers or FBX rig can be managed in the final group of tools. Deleting all the baked keys or deleting the current markers or FBX rig can be used to help manage the scene.
Saving and loading of the current settings for the rig is useful for setting up a character to a ROM file, then being able to load the settings back in when ever a capture is being used from any given session. This can also be used to store the settings for using FBX or TRC settings so that either option could be used.
When FBX data is used the rig is designed to align to the data using the transform data of the FBX skeleton. The same offsets and setup apply to using FBX as it does with TRC, the only difference being, that data in the FBX has already been converted to rotations, so some of the information has been lost. FBX data can be just as useful depending on what the final requirements are.
The character can also be deleted from the scene here. When pressing the Delete From Scene button all parts of the rig that have been associated with the RAIC system are deleted. This ensures that nothing is left behind in the file that is not needed.