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nemyax

MDL exporter for Blender

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This addon exports the following from Blender:

  • Polygonal meshes converted to a patch-based representation in Animation:Master's .mdl format.
    The exporter tries to maintain good continuity, preserves UV mapping, and has an option to add "whiskers" (Add tails check box in the file export window) to extend discontinuous splines.
  • If the mesh is associated with an armature, the bones and skin weights.
    Constraints, limits and all other rigging relationships are ignored.
  • CP groups from vertex groups.
    Vertex groups named after the bones of an associated armature are skipped.
  • Optionally, CP groups named after assigned materials (Group CPs by material option).
    These groups override any vertex groups with the same names, so make sure your vertex groups and materials have different names. The option is useful in round-trip import-export scenarios through the .obj format.
  • Optionally, a spline action (.act) file for each shape key that is different from the base mesh (Export shape keys option).
    These .act files can be useful, for example, if you want to transfer spline shapes to your smartskins.

To export your Blender scene, click File | Export | Animation:Master model (.mdl). This will convert the active object (the one selected last).

The resulting files are based on the Animation:Master V17 model format. The addon requires Blender 2.76 or later.

 

Get the addon here: https://sourceforge.net/projects/blenderbitsbobs/files/
The name of the file is io_scene_am_mdl-*.*.*.zip.

How to install the script
If you have the Animation:Master Middleman script installed, remove it before installing this addon.

  • Open Blender's User Preferences window and go to the Add-ons tab.
  • Click Install from File and specify the downloaded .zip file or the unpacked .py file.
  • Enable the Import-Export: Animation:Master Model addon.
  • To make your changes persistent, click Save User Settings.

Special thanks to Malo for his excellent advice and eagerness to help finish this thing.


Tools for A:M-friendly remeshing
The add-on includes the functionality of the Animation:Master Middleman script. It helps convert models created with CatmullClark subdivision in mind into more spline-friendly meshes. Here's a quick before-and-after (click for a larger image):
500_831124cd0178e05fc80e133f93ba7773.png

Note that for best results you should keep your mesh all-quads and avoid more than five edges converging at a vertex. This is generally good subdivision modelling practice, but it is especially important for the kind of remeshing that this script does. Following these rules should give you a spline cage with nice criss-cross spline intersections.

The tools are available on the Tools panel (shortcut: T in the viewport) in the Misc tab:
73195e3df0aa046ae1166a3a479cd3c4.png

The Make A:M-Friendly Copy command uses the custom Hatch Face command automatically to improve flow in problematic areas. Faces generated by the Hatch Face command will remain selected after Make A:M-Friendly Copy has completed.
Tip: This pre-selection can help you reduce detail if you want. You can use the Select Boundary Loop command and then dissolve the edges it has selected.
466e5d096108bf27019b0796351eedab.png
dc3cf4998db69c39ec71bdb5e9582464.png

You can use the Hatch Face command independently as well. It is available when face selection mode is on.

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Impressive work... and python driven too! :)

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I tried it but I would have to work through a blender tutorial first... I just do not get that program (I just spent about 15 minutes to try to select a polygone of a box without looking something up... I just did not get how to do it... after 20 minutes I looked it up and found out that I need to go to "Edit mode" (which I found, since I can for some reason select it with a selectionbox which is available at at least 3 places in my interface) and select vertexes using the RMB. That was just not at all in my head and I just did not think about that button for selections... after I got that, I then extruded something from a simple box I wanted to export the file just for test purposes after that and did not see the option after I installed it from file you provided here... is it for a special version? I just downloaded blender 2.73 a.

 

I will try again soon, but for now I am frustated enough with my stupidness or the unintuitiv feeling I have about Blender again that I need a break....

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Great! You got it ! Congratulations ! :)
Thank you!
Note: By importing in a window model(right click, import/Model.mdl), it is imported perfectly (without refreshing)!

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did not see the option after I installed it from file

You need to enable the check box next to the addon's name in the list. Use the filter box to find the addon.

You can enable left-click selection on the Input tab if you like.

I know how frustrating a new software environment can be — good luck =)

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I tried it but I would have to work through a blender tutorial first... I just do not get that program (I just spent about 15 minutes to try to select a polygone of a box without looking something up... I just did not get how to do it... after 20 minutes I looked it up and found out that I need to go to "Edit mode" (which I found, since I can for some reason select it with a selectionbox which is available at at least 3 places in my interface) and select vertexes using the RMB. That was just not at all in my head and I just did not think about that button for selections... after I got that, I then extruded something from a simple box I wanted to export the file just for test purposes after that and did not see the option after I installed it from file you provided here... is it for a special version? I just downloaded blender 2.73 a.

 

I will try again soon, but for now I am frustated enough with my stupidness or the unintuitiv feeling I have about Blender again that I need a break....

 

Blender can be a pain in the neck. I was messingaround in it this weekend for a bit and wow.

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I'm curious...

 

I can't tell from a cursory glance at the code.

I know this python code launches in Blender but... How much of this python code actually relies on Blender?

 

The reason I'm curious is that I'm wondering about approaches to using A:M files in other python friendly programs (or even as standalone code). I'm not familiar with the classes mentioned and I'm assuming they themselves may invoke Blender driven activity but I confess I don't know. At a glance the code appears to be largely Blender independent with custom classes of their own.

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How much of this python code actually relies on Blender?

The most important parts do. This script uses Blender's bmesh data structure very heavily. I suppose if you replicated that structure's features and implemented conversion to it from your geometry format of choice, then the same approach would work.

Incidentally, you don't have to use the actual Blender UI if all you need is its Python engine. See the Don't Use Blender! tip here.

 

 

I'm wondering about approaches to using A:M files in other python friendly programs (or even as standalone code).

This script uses polygonal edges to represent CPs, and marks them with additional data that indicates the "previous" and "next" edge (up and down the spline). If it weren't for the "magic" undocumented bitfields, the format would be trivial.

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Incidentally, you don't have to use the actual Blender UI if all you need is its Python engine. See the Don't Use Blender! tip here.

 

 

Nice. Being able to pass data through Blender in the background should be quite useful.

 

and marks them with additional data that indicates the "previous" and "next" edge (up and down the spline)

 

I followed parts of that in your code but only barely.

If it weren't for the "magic" undocumented bitfields, the format would be trivial.

 

 

Not that I'll ever use the information but I found that exploration by you and Malo (and others) very interesting especially since I've followed Malo's explorations before and learned a lot from those also.
Thanks much! If I come up with anythng worth mentioning I'll post it to the forum.

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The March update has got 36 downloads, and people keep coming. I never expected it to get even that many. I wonder who all these people are.

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The March update has got 36 downloads, and people keep coming. I never expected it to get even that many. I wonder who all these people are.

 

 

Hopefully they'll animate something with Blender and A:M and we'll find out. :)

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This exporter works VERY well! I have a question, though: does A:M include a function for selected all 'tails'? The model I've imported in A:M needs to have hundreds of tails deleted, and it's very time-consuming and tedious... :)

 

If not-- does the A:M SDK provide functionality for choosing tails?

 

Thanks!

Bryan

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Hmmm... interesting question.

I managed to correctly zap all of the unconnected tails (and heads) off of a test model by brute force comparison of what splines where not identified as belong to patches. I missed one tail and deleted one needed cp by mistake. This was in a text editor and that method won't be any more accurate or useful than just selecting all of the trailing control points and hitting the delete key in A:M. I did this mainly to get my head around the idea of how to deal with trailing/leading control points not assigned to patches.

 

I'm sure there is a method by which to identify tails and more easily considering that most tails (thats an approriate name BTW) are adding in modeling stage at the end of the spline rather than the beginning. To select/remove all 'tails' though you'd also want to check for dangling heads that aren't used as well. In my brute force test I looked at the patch matrix and then removed all splines segments (CPs) that weren't referenced.

 

There may be a better way or trick that already exists in A:M.

It's too bad we can't use hair grooming on regular splines because then we could brush the dangling CPs to the side where they could more easily be selected and deleted.

 

In considering further a manual method to remove all tails and heads would be to use the Patch Select tool to manually select each patch, then you have several options at your disposal to remove the tails/heads: 1) copy and paste the tail-less/head-less selection 2) hit the period key to invert the selection and the hit the delete key to remove the dangling CPs. Note that (at least for me) I have to hit the ESC key immediately after using the Patch Select tool or else A:M doesn't free itself up to do any of these other things.

 

So, I"m going to say that the easiest method I've outlined above would be to find a way to select all valid patches (manual method works with Patch Select tool) then invert the selection (period key) to select all the dangling splines (tails/heads) not assigned to patches. Hit the delete key. Save as new model.

 

And... all this assuming I understand what you mean by the word 'tails' ;)

 

Added: If there isn't a more direct method perhaps you could put in a feature request through A:M Reports for 'Select all patches'. Perhaps it could even be invoked via Shift clicking the Patch Select icon.

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Hmmmm.... very interesting.

There is a plugin called 'Select' that should do the job but don't recall ever using it before.

An initial test reveals I can't get it to select patches when the 'patch' option is selected so I will have to investigate.

There are some other intriguing selection options.

 

I note that 'patch' is the option and not 'patches' so that may be why I'm not seeing the results I expected.

 

That option to select all 5 point patches is sure to be useful.

Select plugin.png

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Awesome! Thanks for all the info, Rodney! I didn't even think to select a patch then invert the selection to choose tails. And this selection plugin looks very useful....

 

Bryan

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For a simple model the select and invert should work well. I'm trying to wrap my head around doing the same for a more complex model.

I love it when folks asks questons in the forum because I learn a ton of new things. (because it made me experiment I just invented a new workflow on my end too... unrelated to your query)

 

If your model's patches are all facing the same way then the 'view dependent' option option will get your patches selected and then you can do the quick inversion to remove extra CPs. If the patches are just slightly off due to curvature you could temporarily Peak (P key) the model so that the splines/patches all align to specific planes. After completion then smooth (O key) the model again.

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I installed and ran a fairly complex (random) mechanical model (a car) through this plugin and it worked quite well.

 

A few notes:

The resulting mesh in A:M was (as stated by Nemyax) of a twisted spline variety (quite a mess).

I didn't have to tweak any spline to get them to behave though because the parts of the model came into A:M as different models and so I had dropped them all into the chor to create a combined model. Exporting out of the Chor to a new model and then bringing that model back into A:M repaired the twisted mesh. One of the smoothest external models I've ever brought into A:M.

 

The hardest part of cleaning up the model was as Bryan mentions above... getting rid of a ton of dangling splines.

Of course in most cases these danging splines could be left alone as they wouldn't adversely effect the model. (I didn't remove all the danglers, the the ones that were prominent)

 

All in all (once the plugin was installed in Blender) a rather pleasant experience. :)

 

Disclaimer: I didn't use Blender for anything except as the conduit to convert the OBJ file via Nemyax's plugin. I don't want folks to think I can actually find my way around Blender. Also, if you note a little oddness in the front fender(s) that relates to me accidentally deleting them and then modifying the back fenders to quickly replace them. :lol:

AMBlender plugin.png

image z 000.png

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If the whiskers/danglers/tails are a problem, I can add an option to automatically remove them. But you'll have to do the testing, folks, because my subscription has expired.

 

I didn't use Blender for anything except as the conduit to convert the OBJ file via Nemyax's plugin. I don't want folks to think I can actually find my way around Blender.

You sound like you're ashamed of something.

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you'll have to do the testing, folks, because my subscription has expired.

I'll be glad to test basic stuff.

 

You sound like you're ashamed of something.

You type like you are misinterpreting something. :)

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Rodney this looks great. I know nothing about Blender but love to give this a try.

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'll post an update some time next week then.

 

Thanks. I'll give it a go.

 

Here's a very dense model that made the transition quite well.

I'm not sure I'd want to animate a character this dense but its nice to know you can get the detail and definition if needed.

 

 

Not all models make the conversion well and much depends on how the model was originally created on the other end.

 

I should be crediting the original modeler but I can't recall where this one came from.

superdensemesh.png

densebasemesh.mdl

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That one really made my day! This is Ucking AWESOME!

I am a long time user of AM and Blender (I wrote two books about Blender and made tutorial CD).

Thats what I wanted to see for a very loooong time now. Because if you work with zBrush for example,

you can produce models which only consist of quads. And then you can export them via OBJ and

Blender to AM ... so coool.

The only issue whit the imported meshes is those regions where five patches meet (see picture). There is at least

one spline which has no continuity. If it would be possible, to set something like a smoothing group for

spots like that would be extra awesome.

 

Unfortunate there is no export of the UV coordinates (Stamps in AM). If that could be added, the whole thing would

be a serius bridge from the Polygon world to AM!

Again!

Exellent (I am still very exited)

Regards

Heiner

5_Points.jpeg

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I'm wondering if it wouldn't be best just to leave those areas empty and let the user fill them in with 5 point patches (or other topology).

One aspect of leaving them empty (in A:M) is that they might not even be noticed.

The other (more importantly) is that those areas can sometimes be resolved into four pointers.

I'm guessing that one could delete the CPs just prior to the dangling splines and then attach those as needed.

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Leaving it empty would mean, that you loose the UVs on them...

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Looking at it, a 5pointer with hooks on all sides comes to mind.

But if that is doable? Neymax would have to answer this.

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Leaving it empty would mean, that you loose the UVs on them..

 

You'll lose the UVs when those areas are manually repaired too.

 

Added: With A:M's approach to platt projection I wonder if multiple UVs couldn't be assigned to the same location (well of course they can but... read on). I assume here that any UV assignments that don't correspond to real patches will be ignored (or best case scenario... layered). I suppose the real trick would be to keep A:M from automatically repairing those multiUVs before a decision on which to keep would be made by the user (if necessary). The CPs themselves cannot have duplicate names/numbers but perhaps their correspondent UVs can? This is doubtful so I reckon the multiUVs would have to append a sequence number of somesuch. Or perhaps they could be preceded by a iterative number. The underlying idea being to assign to that extraordinary vertex's area as many possible combinations as reasonably plausible. In A:M's case this would likely need to account for 1*, 2*, 3, 4 and 5 point patches as well as four point patch UV hook derivatives. The 1 and 2 point UV assignments being reserved for some cool spline coloring/manipulation feature somewhere down the line. ;)

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Unfortunate there is no export of the UV coordinates (Stamps in AM).

No UV export where? OBJ?

 

 

a 5pointer with hooks on all sides comes to mind.

But if that is doable? Neymax would have to answer this.

There's no support for hooks in this exporter. And a 5-pointer with hooks everywhere doesn't seem like an advisable configuration in A:M.

 

With A:M's approach to platt projection I wonder if multiple UVs couldn't be assigned to the same location

A:M's multiple stamps per patch are for all intents and purposes multiple UV layouts. Blender supports those, so there's a reasonably direct mapping. However, Malo and I didn't dig that deep.

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I'm wondering if it wouldn't be best just to leave those areas empty and let the user fill them in with 5 point patches (or other topology).

One aspect of leaving them empty (in A:M) is that they might not even be noticed.

The other (more importantly) is that those areas can sometimes be resolved into four pointers.

I'm guessing that one could delete the CPs just prior to the dangling splines and then attach those as needed.

A group or an option in the importer/exporter with these in it. like that you could delete them or keep the uvs with a none continious pattern depending what you prefer.

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What I did: Loaded a model in Blender,

created some UVs and exported it as MDL.

In AM there was a stamp, but it did not contain

any UV data.

I did not assign a material nor a texture to the

UVed polygons, but that is usualy no problem.

Uf you say, that UV export is supported, I will try again.

Cheers

Heiner

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Here is my approach to solve the above structure...

 

See you

*Fuchur*

 

strukture.jpg

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Thank Nemyax to take time to ameliorate your plugin.

 

Repair poles with 5 , 3 or more vertices With hooks automatically seems to me not so easy to solve , because of a different combinations make Approximate results (which one to choose for the same topology) . And the bitfields for hooks are not resolut yet.

 

"With A:M's approach to platt projection I wonder if multiple UVs couldn't be assigned to the same location" I am not sure to understand, could you explain more?

 

The loss of the UV patches is a problem that can be repaired. I had this problem to be solved on one of my models, when i add hooks. see this picture. AEL.jpg
I solved this problem by writing small tools I talk about in this topic with links to download them : https://www.hash.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=47180&hl=

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"With A:M's approach to platt projection I wonder if multiple UVs couldn't be assigned to the same location" I am not sure to understand, could you explain more?

 

I'm not even sure what I'm talking about so... probably best not to delve too deeply into my thoughts. ;)

 

Basically, the idea would be to predetermine how any patch created at the extraordinary location can be applied and then normalize(?) each so that they each approximate the same end result (UV assisgnment). In the attached image I haven't attempted to get the UVs to align so that you can see that all five stamps are applied to the same basic location on the decal image. In thinking of your recent tool that 'fills' missing patches some of that exploration might apply here in that a tool could give a best guess at what the missing patch could be supplied as but then the user could ultimately decide. They could later even change their mind (assuming they didn't purge the extra unused MultiUVD data. The downside to this approach would be increased file size (multiple topologies at every extraordinary vertex). The plus would be that UVs would be maintained... and where comes to final layout of splines the user would be able to decide.

 

Note that this suggestion is entirely naive (if not ignorant) but perhaps someone with some understanding of the process could retool the general idea into a working solution. The key here (I think) is to go the opposite direction of those that have tried to solve this in the past; they've tried to avoid the problem entirely by avoiding tris, 5 pointers, hooks etc. The solution is surely to account for them (in similar fashion to Pixar's OpenSubdiv where quads may be ideal but all other variations are accounted for so they can be dealt with in turn as proscribed.

 

Again, I think your webbased utility that repairs missing patches is definitely heading in the right direction.

 

 

Added: I cannot help but think that the term 'poles' is an very appropriate term for extraordinary vertices because that is exactly what 5 point patches are. I dunno, perhaps it may help to think of 5 point patches as circular? Then just make sure the UV/platt assignment is a square/rectangle/quad fully contained inside that ellipse/circle?

MultiUVD.png

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Uf you say, that UV export is supported, I will try again.

It should be, but getting it to work was a PITA, and it may still fail in many cases.

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I'll add this to the mix too...

 

5 point patches aren't much of an issue *inside A:M*. It's mostly the consideration of work outside of A:M that is driving this particular solution.

So, those two environments should be considered with respect to final results (an optimum solution in one might not be in the other).

 

A consideration in A:M with regard to whether or not a extraordinary vertex should be considered as a candidate for a 5 point patch might be: is the area to be covered flat? Running this 'is flat?' process that is already well established in A:M coding practice might be useful. Specifically, if the result of 'is flat?' is false (according to a given input criteria by the user) then the area would not be considered for creation of a 5 point patch.

 

Note that I base this on the understanding that 5 point patches are best used on flat surface areas. If this can be shown not to be the case then I'll gladly retract.

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Regarding hooks: it's entirely possible to mark the edges in Blender that you want to "carry" hooks. For example, a sequence of "Freestyle" edges could be interpreted as a single spline that hooks connect to. The tricky part, besides implementing the conversion, is to tell valid topologies from invalid ones. Otherwise, the exporter would generate naive geometry that A:M won't accept, whereas anything goes in Blender.

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UVs work well for me.
Normally if you have UVs on your Obj , then you must have a stamp for each UV .
It is normal to not see the textures , because the converter does not import and will not attribus images in stamps .
So you need to import and assign them yourself.

For the poles , I think it is better to think polygons as patches before converting the Obj model in MDL. (Nemyax have write an another addon for Blender that can help for that : https://www.hash.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=46873&hl=nemyax&do=findComment&comment=401532 , and there are plenty of tools to modify polygons,edges and vertices). The problem of modeling polygonal as patches, it is there are no hooks with polygons... however it would be possible to do it with ngones rules , by choosing every vertex that is on three common faces, is an hook ... but angle with no bevel will create problem (but personnaly I prefer beveled them to be more natural for the render)

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The add-on has been updated. Tails are now optional, and the Animation:Master Middleman script has been incorporated and has a (very modest) UI.

The zip file with the old version is still available just in case. Please test and tell me how it goes.

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Thank you very much Nemyax, i will try it tomorow (I have to go)!

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Hi Nemyax, Integration A: M middleman works well. thank!
"add tail " button is reversed.
Export works well with tails. thank!
but not without tails :
Nemyax01.jpg

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Thank Nemyax, there the same problems... I have to go, I will be late this night so I will try to understand more tomorow in the format generated, and try to understand more in the python script,to help you to see better. Thank again to did your best.

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Update 0.1.20150713

Well-formed geometry should be exported correctly now, both with and without tails.

I'm still getting trouble with export of bizarre topologies, such as wire edges. This little bastard has consistently caused bad things to happen (infinite loop in Blender with Add tails turned on and invalid geometry in A:M with Add tails turned off):

9d6097098e8f2e1cc1a76aeecf48c123.png

 

If you remove the wires, everything is in order.

So until I work out what exactly is happening in such cases, please keep your meshes tidy =)

In other news, I've got a new subscription thanks to the awesomeness of this community, so the show goes on. Next up: bones and skin weights (no schedule for that yet, though).

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Awesome news (especially about the subscription) Thanks to whomever was behind that!

We are too few in number as it is so it's good to have you with us.

 

The discussions of recent past have sent me through some very interesting areas and while I won't pretend to understand it I have been enjoying the journey.

I want to post a few odd things just to get them out where they can remind me of what I've been looking through.

 

Firstly, the full solution appears to be toroidal in nature.

Secondly, if the problem is symmetrical in nature then the solution will require (at worst) working out only half of the computation. It is then mirrored or multiplied to gain the full solution.

Further, there is a part of this that would serve as part of the proof that tris are odd (no kidding right... but more on that later) and - the part that I haven't yet truly pondered in adequate depth- not preferred.

Additionally, its fascinating to me that Malo's Modeling Method has already led the way in this area.

 

Now where things get interesting regarding the poles I mentioned before is where the pole are (or are not) monopole in nature. If monopole then this wont be ideal except as a means to flag it for further examination, in anticipation of the likelihood it is in fact of a symmetrical nature and has an other side we can't yet see at present. And what relevance does this have to do with energy and transportation of virtual matter in the world of A:M, (and... here is where the odd man out comes back to being usefull in the equation; as its asymmetry creates an imbalance/instability/imperfection an internal or external force is generated)

 

At any rate... these are some random thoughts encountered while exploring mostly unrelated approaches to using A:M (experimenting with building my own personal particle system inside A:M, etc.).

 

And here's a random graphic that (hopefully) will trigger the appropriate memories should I ever need them.

REF: Single control point derived from two point spline with their various toroidally planar configurations

01 Toroidal.png

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Great! that is a good news. Thank for the peoples who help you.

 

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Update 0.1.20150715

The handling of bad geometry has been improved. You can now get wild with your topology. (Well, somewhat wilder than before, anyway.)

The addon now exports only the active object (in Blender parlance, that's the object that was selected last). Previously it wrote all visible objects, but A:M seems to load only the first object in the MDL file and ignore the rest. If there is a need for multi-model export, I can add a batch export command. But so far everyone's been OK with single-object export.

Incidentally, this makes me wonder: does anyone besides me have any practical interest in the tool? My long-term goal is to enable the use of A:M for animating Blender assets and import of the resulting animation back into Blender. I'd like to implement it through conversion of A:M actions (realistically, only the directly-keyed transforms in them) to Blender actions. I'm going to pursue that direction, but is anyone else on board or am I alone in this?

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I can't speak for others but I'll go out on a little limb and say you most definitely aren't alone. The desire has long been to be able to use A:M resources with other programs and vice versa and your addon has done just that for models. If it can be made to do the same for animation data then you'll find interest in that also. Further, what you are doing in the code itself is enlightening and who knows what others might learn and produce.

 

Yours is one of the first efforts I've seen that has produced smooth-looking surfaces from external files that otherwise would be completely uncompatible (as well as unanimateable). The results of your effort speaks for itself because it works.

 

I hope others will weigh in on their interest.

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I am not sure if I would use Blender to model with it, but as a conversion tool this is most welcome and very helpful.

I'll have a look into that and very likely will be using it too.

 

See you

*Fuchur*

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