IMMERGE CHARACTERS WITH YOUR STORY
Story immersion is created by realistic character actions and unpredictable (teasingly deferred?) plot points, the right pacing, an interesting premise, intriguing characters and worlds, showing actions instead of telling, evokes emotions, involves multiple senses, pulls the viewer into the action, and makes the viewer curious about what happens next. Simple, isn't it? So plot structure, pacing and balance are very important characteristics that help to entertain your audience. But when you place your shots in sequence on your NLE timeline, sometimes it seems there is something wrong, as if there is no clear relation between your shots. We animators like to think that the audience can see through our exercises and value our skills. The truth is, sometimes even experienced directors can't value our precious demo reels because they tend to respond to the message of your piece. They're not really interested in the complexity of digital techniques behind your scene that made that scene possible at all.
WITH AN EFFECTIVE PRODUCTION FLOW
Especially when we're running a one-man business we need to streamline our digital workflow to focus on effective storytelling. Since the most important decisions are made in the edit room I've made my NLE the center of my animated story universe. For maximum production efficiency and minimum loss of animator hours, we must make the cutting- and stretching process on the timeline as painless as possible during the entire production, without discouraging experiments, ideally at these production stages: 3D scene setup, refining and lip-sync, rendering, and compositing. Why? Because every single animated frame costs money and time. It really hurts when you have to throw away fabulous shots or frames that fail to do their job: being functional.
BY USING SMART AUTOMATION
Thanks to my LW-link Vegas Pro script, a few mouseclicks make it possible to trigger automatic render activities to prepare your audio, images and video for your LWS scene, trigger its LWS scene file generator, or on-demand data link. This way the media events on my NLE timeline drive my initial, modification and rendering activities in Lightwave 3D without distracting procedures. Keeping focus helps to experiment and take drastic decisions at the earliest possible stage so that no manpower, time, or resources are wasted. My plugin Legato for LightWave3D is all about meta data, selection, manipulation, and reuse of character performances without ending up with a bunch of apparently unrelated keyframe clusters that are difficult to handle.
MARKERS & REGIONSReferencing is the basic concept of Legato.
Markers are frame references, and Regions are frame range references. They are tied to the top of an Hierarchy with 3D items, to reference an entire character: the Hierarchy Master, and can be quickly re-assigned to reference a sub-part of that character in that same frame range. For example, to isolate the movements of the legs for a walk cycle.
The combination of frame referencing and item referencing, and the ability to specify filters to limit processing to relevant items (rig controls) and tracks, is what makes Legato functions flexible and easy to use.
Marker and Regions in the upper area are story-related, and belong to the Director. Marker and Regions in the lower area are actor-related, and belong to the Animator.
Global Markers and Regions are not related to anything, and can be protected. NLE Markers and Regions are imported from the NLE software, and can only be changed by the NLE software.
Markers & Regions are used to expand the selected items according to the Operation Mode (Family, Hierarchy, Item, Group, etc), track filters, item filters, and genus filters, and process commands in order to:
HIERARCHY MASTERThe Hierarchy Master is simply the name of the Item at the top of any item hierarchy. That name is saved together with the definition of Markers/Regions and can be changed at any time. This is a quick way to tell Legato you want to apply a Legato process to an entire character, only its left hand, or from/to multiple characters at once.
HIERARCHY FILTERSThe child items of the Hierarchy Master can be filtered by type (genus / master channels / morph channels / other channels), item status (active / visible / unlocked), and tool channel locks.
By limiting the number of source channels, filtering speeds-up the processing significantly.
Frame ranges can be filtered by pose type. For example, to delete all in-between poses.
STRUCTURE CHAOSDid you ever attempt to change or reuse a piece of finished animation?
Made by another team member?
A few years ago?
Some structure could have helped.
MARKERS & REGIONSLegato enables you to place markers and regions to reference important moments and item hierarchies in your scene, as storybeats/developments/poses/actions.
Use them in advance to plan your animation.
Use them during animation to shuffle your timing or store & retrieve important moments.
Use them afterwards to share your animation and explain its structure.
Place them anywhere in the timeline, or out of sight in the so called "library" by taking advantage of the (unused) negative frame range, use them as references to Move/Clone animation data to/from armatures or rigs, treat any LWS scene file as an external library for valuable animations and poses.
The Transfer function uses the current position, orientation, and scale as a starting point. The Copy/Paste and Clone functions create exact clones of poses and animations.
Change the source/target hierarchy anytime you like. This makes it easy to recycle poses and animations of sub-hierarchies. Think bodyparts, single character selection, or even multiple character processing.
BLOCKSBlocks in the NLA viewport were implemented as an experimental feature, similar to Motion Mixer but based on markers and regions.
Development of this NLA feature set is currently on hold because the features in the KEY viewport are more useful to me right now.
POSE TYPE TRACKAnother way to create structure is to identify pose types in the pose track.
Legato processes can be applied to specific poses.
These tracks are linked to a default Pose Character "character #1". You may assign the Pose Character to any 3D item in Layout. Create additional Pose Characters to distinguish pose types per character.
TEXT TRACKSA third way to create structure is to add text strings per frame or text strings per frame range.
There are 7 tracks to choose from.
The tracks for emotional state and physical expression are presented when editing Objects (incl. Nulls) or Bones.
Tracks for mood and effects are visible when editing Lights.
When editing Cameras, the tracks for type-of-shot and point-of-view appear.
The speech track, in the middle of the graph area, is visible in all Edit Modes.
In contrast to the pose type track, text tracks are never grouped by character. They are global.
Also, Legato keeps text per frame on dedicated tracks with cues for emotional state, speech, physical expression, mood, effects, type-of-shot, and point-of-view. Optionally they can be moved (and even quantized) together with the frames and keys they belong to.
PROCESSINGLegato can be instructed to process keys, blocks, markers and regions, text tracks, and the pose track. One at a time, or all at once.
Since the Legato interface is too small to contain buttons to every available function, I've added a remote control. It opens a bi-directional data link with Legato and combines settings from the F7 Config pages with command buttons.
Some commands are available as a plugin to make them available from the Layout menu system and the Layout keyboard shortcut system.
NEW FEATURESThe general idea behind the latest new features is to create a full transcription of an audio track in a single 3D scene, then use parts of that LWS scene file as the foundation of new 3D scenes.
For example to extract necessary shots from the lyrics of a 3 minute song.
Maybe add some ideas in the non-Speech tracks, define the shots that need a new 3D scene by defining regions, then use parts of that LWS scene file as the foundation of new 3D scenes.
Use the EXT Transfer function to retrieve TextTrack data (or other tracks as well) of a specific section from the main transcription.
Export Text Tracks as X-SHEETExport Text Tracks in X-Sheet format, to a printable file. Just in case you need to discuss them in detail, or quickly want to make notes.
Column width is optimized for each column individually, and limited by a minimum and a maximum value. Spanned text labels are repeated on each frame. The frame range of the exported data block is determined in order of priority, by:
Import Text into Text TrackImport plain text into Text Tracks. Currently this feature has 4 options:
Export Text Tracks as CSVExport Text Tracks as a CSV file, suitable for modifications in a spreadsheet program.
Import CSV into Text TracksImport CSV files into Text Tracks, to transfer your modified data back into Legato and present them in the Legato timeline as usual.
Text cells that are repeated for a number of frames are interpreted as a single text label that is spread over multiple frames.
Transfer Audio TrackThis feature is currently limited to the transfer of external markers (poses) and regions (motions). You're supposed to use it only once in each 3D scene file, because LightWave 3D only has one audio track definition.
This feature copies the filename of the audio track in the source LWS scene file to your current 3D scene.
It also calculates an offset value to keep audio exactly in-sync with the original sound track. This value is repeatedly reported when you toggle the Audio track (in F7 Config or Legato Remote Control).
Because of LightWave limitations, this offset value needs to be set manually. In the future I might be able to split the wav file.
Previous/Next text label on Text TrackPress the '<' key to change the current time to the previous text label on any Text Track.
Press the '>' key to change the current time to the next text label on any Text Track.
Keys ',' and '.' were already assigned to previous/next pose item on Pose Track.
Keys 'arrow.up' and 'arrow.down' were already assigned to previous/next markerregions on markerregion Tracks.
F1 HelpF1 Help has been changed to start a batch file in the plugins directory that opens the Legato web-page at chapter Shortcuts.
For security reasons, Legato checks if the contents of this batch file is unaffected before it's executed.
Keep a safe copy of your LWS scene file, just in case you encountered a bug or unfinished feature.
Use the Save Scene Increment function at important moments.
This warning is unfortunately needed nowadays: As the author of this script, I accept no responsibility for any damage of any kind. Use Legato and its helper plugins at your own risk!
Or not at all.
RETRIEVING THE PLUGINS
Download the ZIP file with Legato 2020 plugins here, then check your local file with your virus scanner.
Currently, I update these plug-ins regularly.
Unzip the ZIP file and copy the plugin directory on your C: drive to
or equivalent, depending on your version and location of LightWave 3D.
[new] In build 8-MAR-2020 or later, F1 opens an on-line list with shortcuts.
For security reasons, verify that batch file OpenLegatoHelpPage.bat ONLY points to:
In case my web-site moved or ceased to exist, rename this batch file and the original Help dialog will be presented. You can't just redirect it to another web-site because its contents is checked before it will be launched.
In Layout, press Alt+F11 or open the Utilities menu tab, and click button Edit Plugins. Then click button Scan Directory to register all plugins in the Legato plugin directory.
After installation of the Legato plugins, press Alt+F10 to open the menu system in Layout, and create a Legato menu. Then right-click that menu and select Import Branch, select the Menu_Legato2020.cfg file and press the Open button.
DEMO CONTENTDownload the ZIP file with two demo scenes here.
LEGATO PATH IN DEMO FILES
The .LWS demo files assume you install them on your C: drive in
If you don't, but still want the demo files to be functional, locate the plugin during scene load, or modify the plugin path in the demo .LWS scene files with a texteditor.
Select frame range. Reposition markerregion.
Pan timeline. TimeBend selected markerregion.
Zoom timeline. ReTime markerregion.
Change current frame + deselect.
Change current frame + deselect.
Change current frame + deselect.
(Accept current text label and) add text label on double clicked Text Track. Select frames between markerregions.
Auto Layout, according to layout settings in F7 Config.
Previous Pose on the Pose Track.
Next Pose on the Pose Track.
Previous Text label on the Text Tracks.
Next Text label on the Text Tracks.
Previous markerregion on the markerregion Tracks.
Next markerregion on the markerregion Tracks.
Delete current frame or selected frame range. [FILTERED]
Delete previous character of text- or markerregion label, while editing.
Insert 1 frame or selected frame range. [FILTERED]
Delete data on current frame or selected frame range. [FILTERED]
Delete entire text- or markerregion label while editing.
Zoom out, being aware of selected frame range.
Zoom in, being aware of selected frame range.
Goto Preview Start or start of selected frame range.
Goto Preview End or end of selected frame range.
Exit Dialog or Stop Playback.
Open the SHORTCUTS section on the Legato website.
Data Dump to .\Legato_DataDump\F6.txt in your Content directory.
Sync Legato Remote Control.
Open First Available MorphMixer in the hierarchy.
Auto Layout, according to layout settings in F7 Config.
NLA: Add a Relative Block, or toggle between Relative/Absolute.
KEY: Bake keys.
NLA: Add an Absolute Block, or toggle between Relative/Absolute.
KEY: Select all Genoma controllers to the tip.
NLA: Cut Block at current time.
KEY: Copy Keys (set reference at current frame / frame range).
KEY: Morph channels.
KEY: Master channels (in Sliders).
NLA: Destructive Bounce of selected Block or all Blocks.
Flip selected items between Left_* and Right_* item names, as defined in F7 Config.
Flip pose in current frame, or animation in selected frame range.
Goto current frame +/- 1s, selected frame range, or selected region range.
Toggle markerregion to/from pink global, or unrelated to any hierarchy.
Toggle selected markerregion between lower and upper.
Toggle all markerregions between lower and upper.
Set key Limited Region on current frame or entire selected frame range.
Add the selected markerregion to the internal Library in the negative frame range.
KEY/NLA: Add a marker in the lower (animator) area + rename its label.
KEY/NLA: Add a Marker in the upper (director) area + rename its label.
NLA: Remix Now!
Define pose type: k=key, b=breakdown, i=in-between, e=extreme, s=straight-ahead, h=hold, d/Del=delete, c/p=cancel.
Cycle Playback modes: Ping-Pong -> Looped -> One Shot + Rewind -> One Shot + Pause
KEY/NLA: Add a region in the lower (animator) area + rename its label.
KEY/NLA: Add a Region in the upper (director) area + rename its label.
KEY: Symmetry Pose/Animation LEFT --> RIGHT.
KEY: Symmetry Pose/Animation RIGHT --> LEFT.
OUT: Add a Still or Render Range.
Organize hierarchy items in the Schematic viewport.
KEY: Quantize keys. [FILTERED]
KEY: Transfer INT or EXT markerregion data to the current frame or selected frame range. [FILTERED]
KEY: Prune Flat Envelope Parts, removes multiple series of repeated cloned keys and keeps 2 keys per side to keep the envelope intact.
KEY: Prune Flat Envelopes, removes series of repeated cloned keys.
NLA: Destructive Unbounce of selected Block or all Blocks.
KEY: Paste Keys (from referenced frame / frames). [FILTERED]
KEY: Thinning of keys by 50%
KEY: PasteBake Keys
Reverse track data. [FILTERED]
Toggle between forward and reverse selection.
All Channels Zero.
Copyright © 2005- by V.D. Mesman, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, EU. All rights reserved.