Create a Biped 3D Ripper DX Character

You may want to create a rigged and animated character from a game which has no way to export character models. One solution to this is to use 3D Ripper DX and a Biped to quickly rig the character.

Ripping the model
Before capturing the scene, see if it’s possible to get the character into a T-Pose. Some games have command line options for this (such as Skyrim).

Importing the model
1) Open the scene in 3DS Max. Delete everything except the character meshes.

2) Attach all the character meshes together.

3) Use the Transform Toolbox (Edit > Transform Toolbox) to center the character, then rotate as needed so the character is standing upright.

Creating the Biped
1) Under the Create > Systems tab there will be a Biped option. Make the Biped about the same size as the character. Turn on figure mode.
– The “figure mode” button is located in the Motion panel. This is the mode that allows you to alter the biped.

2) Move, Scale and align the Biped to match the character mesh.
– The goal is to have the biped bones in the center of the mesh.

3) Once your Biped is scaled and aligned properly, turn off figure mode.
4) Add a skin modifier to the mesh
5) Under the Skin Parameters, click the “Add” button and select all the biped bones.

As you move the biped bones you may notice some vertices don’t move with it. This is an easy process to fix, but will take some practice to perfect.

1) Select the mesh. Click the “Edit Envelopes” button. Select the Vertices checkbox.

2) Scoll down and open the weight tool (has a wrench icon).

3) You will notice gray lines. Select the one that corresponds to the bone you wish to use.

4) Select the vertices you wish to fix, they will turn into white boxes.

5) In the Weight Tool, press the 1 button.

– When done weighting, you can use BIP files to test the rig.
– Once you are satisfied, you can export to your game of choice.
– Weighting, like all aspects of animation, has many more options to control and refine things. This tutorial is only a start.

Problems and Fixes
1) The skin color or clothing doesn’t look correct.
– Many games use dynamic materials which allows them to easily change the appearance or characters. You will need to manually adjust the material to try and recreate the same effect.

Helpful Links
Biped rigging 3DS Max tutorial

Converting a 3D Ripper DX Scene to UDK

  1. Capture and import the scene into 3DS Max.
    1. Some scenes will need to be scaled up before exporting, it depends on the game.
  2. Run “Clean Multimaterial“.
  3. Run the 3DS Max script to clear any extra UV channels.
  4. Run the 3DS Max script to export all the meshes in ASE format to a new directory.
  5. Export the Summary Info file in 3DS Max (File > Properties > Summary info. Press the “Save to File” button). Save as summary_info.txt to the new directory.
  6. Copy the toolbox folder to the new directory.
  7. Run convert_3dr_to_udk.bat.
  8. Import the textures into UDK.
  9. Save the package.
  10. Import the ASE files into UDK.
  11. Save the package.
  12. Import t3doutput.t3d into UDK.

Example Output #1

This tutorial has been updated 2/29/16.

Converting WoW Terrain to UDK with Machinima Studio

Converting Terrain with Models
1) Find the terrain map using the ADT Map Previewer.
2) Export with Machinima Studio.

3) Run the 3DS Max script on the export directory.
– Make sure the OBJ import options have “Import as single mesh” selected.
4) Copy the toolbox folder to the output directory.
5) Run convert_full_wow_scene_to_udk.bat
Import the textures into the UDK. Save.
Import the ASE files into the UDK. Save.
6) Copy and paste the output file (located in t3d_output) into the UDK.
– Make sure you use “Paste” not “Paste Here”.
– All textures should all have the “mse_” prefix.
How things look at this point.

Fixing the Alpha Materials
1) Reimport the materials with “mse” and “alpha” in the name with the following settings. Note: There are 5 options being changed from their default settings.
2) Recompile the materials. [Pic]

Creating a Ground Material
A ground material will need to be manually created.
– Import the alpha maps and set the Compression Settings to TC_Displacementmap. [Pic]
– The “Texture Preview” tab in Machinima Studio will show you the textures the terrain uses. [Pic]

Adding WMOs
1) Use Machinima Studio to export the WMOs only.

2) Run the 3DS Max script on the export directory.
3) Copy the toolbox folder to the output directory.
4) Run convert_wmos_from_wow_scene.bat
Import the textures into the UDK. Save.
Import the ASE files into the UDK. Save.
5) Copy and paste the output file (located in t3d_output) into the UDK.

Optional Fixes
– With all the models selected, right click the scale tool and select “relative scale”. Set everything to 35. [Pic]
– Turn on terrain collision (so you can walk around). [Pic]
– You may want to hide some materials (such as “glow” effects). You can do this by creating an invisible material.
– To add additional map elements such as ground detail, water, fog, or particles see WoW Style Level Design in UDK.
– Some dynamic models may not be converted with this method (mailboxes, some signs, etc).
– Some meshes such as the fog in Orgrimmar’s Cleft of Shadow will need a custom material to enable rotation.

Output Example #1
Output Example #2

The Basics of WoW Machinima

Making WoW machinima is one of the easiest ways to start making machinima. Most WoW machinima makers use three main tools.

WoW Model Viewer – A tool for viewing WoW models and animations. Can also be used for chroma keying and exporting assets.
Fraps – Fraps is by far the best solution for capturing game footage. There are other alternatives out there, but Fraps will give you the highest quality.
Sony Vegas Pro – An easy to learn and powerful video editor.

While Fraps is a pretty straightforward program, there’s a few things you should know:
– Fraps will use a lot of hard drive space, so make sure you have plenty of free space available.
– If you have multiple hard drives, recording footage to a separate drive may provide a slight performance increase.
– Make sure “Hide mouse cursor in video” is selected under the Movies settings.
– Your frame rate should match the settings in your video editor.

Sony Vegas
The number of settings in Vegas may seem confusing, but using the presets are a pretty safe bet.
– For project settings, I use the 1080 24p preset.
– When rendering, I use the WMV 720-24p preset.
– Use shift-click to move multiple clips.
– To copy effects from one clip to another: Right-click and “Copy” the first clip. Right-click the second clip and select “Paste Event Attributes”.

WoW Model Viewer
– If you have the extra hard drive space, consider making a copy of your WoW directory. This way a WoW update won’t break your WoW Model Viewer.
– Use a solid green or blue background.

Chroma Keying
Putting everything together requires the use of something called “chroma keying“. This is the process of using a green or blue background that can be removed by your video editor.

1) Start Fraps.
2) Open up WoW Model Viewer and select a solid blue or green background (View > Background Color). The colors you want to use are circled.

3) Select the character you wish to use, then record an animation with Fraps.

4) Drag the clip into the Vegas timeline.
5) Place a background image or video underneath.
– Make sure your background shot matches the angle of the character.

6) Select the tab that says “Video FX”. From the menu on the left select “Chroma Keyer”. Drag the “Pure Green Screen” preset onto your character clip.

At this point you’re ready to render (File > Render As).

This is a very basic example which should hopefully get you started. There are many more effects and settings to improve the quality. The best way to learn is just to experiment with different settings.

Problems and Fixes
1) Sony Vegas is giving me an “Unrecognized frame format” error.
– This is a bug related to Fraps footage that contains audio. You can find a workaround for it here.
2) What is causing animation blur?
– Animation blur may be related to using different frame rates between Fraps and your video editor. Make sure they are both the same.

Helpful Links
WoW Model Viewer Forums – A forum dedicated to WoW Model Viewer and WoW machinima production.
WoW Insider Moviewatch – A blog dedicated to posting WoW machinimas every weekday.
Warcraft Movies – A large database of WoW movies.
Guide to Better Compositing with WoW
WoW compositing before/after examples

WoW Machinima Tool – A tool for adding visual effects within the WoW game client.
Machinima Studio – A tool which can browse and export WoW assets.

New Tools Section

Over the years I’ve worked on a lot of small little tools to help with machinima creation. Some of these are web-based and I’ve created a tools section to share them with anyone who may need them.

I’ve been working on a lot of other conversion tools which are currently a big mess of PHP and Windows batch files (a strange combination I know). I hope to be able to recreate those in a stand alone GUI once I learn a little C++, although that may take some time. Regardless, I plan to start posting some examples of the things I’ve been working on so stay tuned.

Noesis Tutorial

Noesis is a tool for extracting game assets from a number of games including Duke Nukem Forever and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.1) Download and run Noesis.exe.
2) Open the game content and locate the .dat files.

3) Double click on a .dat file and you will be prompted to extract it.

4) After the extract is finished, you can browse and preview the .msh files.
– Note: You may be prompted to select .skl or .def files, you can click cancel to these messages.

5) The model can now be exported to a number of formats (File > Export).
– Most models will not export with textures, you will need to manually find and export them.

Another Noesis Tutorial

Converting Starcraft 2 Props to UDK

  1. Export files using the SC2 Archive Browser. Models are in M3 format, textures are in DDS format.
    1. Make sure to add your SC2 texture directory to 3DS Max by going to Customize > Configure User Paths prior to importing models.
    2. Most of the background environments can be found in StoryModeSets > Terran.
  2. Import the M3 model files into 3DS Max using, which is a slightly modified version of this plugin. [Pic] Make sure is in your 3DS Max plugins folder prior to this.
    1. Some scenes will have multiple M3 files (name_00.m3, name_01.m3, etc). They can take up to 3 minutes to import.
    2. If you are importing multiple m3 files of the same name, you will need to rename the meshes after everything is imported (Tools > Rename Objects). [Pic]
  3. Select everything and scale by 250%.
  4. Clear the extra UV channels.
    1. Some models have emissive textures and will need a second UV channel.
  5. Export all the meshes in ASE format to a new directory.
  6. Export the Summary Info file in 3DS Max (File > Properties > Summary info. Press the “Save to File” button). Save as summary_info.txt to the new directory.
  7. Copy the toolbox folder to the new directory.
    1. Optional: Run copy_m3_textures.bat to copy *all* textures (normal, light map, etc).
  8. Run convert_sc2_models_to_udk.bat.
  9. Import the textures into UDK.
  10. Save the package.
  11. Import the ASE files into UDK.
  12. Save the package.
  13. Import t3doutput.t3d into UDK.
    1. Alpha materials will have to be manually fixed in UDK.

Output Example #1

Helpful Links
SC2 Model Previews

This tutorial has been updated 1/28/16.

Tutorials Coming (for real this time)

A long time ago I mentioned I was working on tutorials. I never gave up on them, I just wasn’t happy with how they were coming out.

You see I’m not an expert in making movies by any means. Often times I’ll know what I want to do, but not how to accomplish it. I’ve spend a lot of time learning and taking notes, then trying to turn those notes into tutorials both for my own sake, and for the benefit of anyone else who wants to learn from my experience. Most tutorials are aimed at animators or 3D artists, but my only interest is to make movies, so I like to take shortcuts wherever possible to cut down on the production time. I wouldn’t consider them finished, as I’m always changing and rewriting things as I learn new techniques, but hopefully they will still be of use to someone.

I’ll be releasing what I have very soon, and hopefully other people will join me in the pursuit of furthering this medium.

In other news, I attended Blizzcon this year where I got to see a lot of old friends, and meet some new ones. I had a really great time and will definitely be going next year!

Ripping Gamecube Models with 3D Ripper DX

Ripping Gamecube models with 3D Ripper DX is similar to ripping models from other games.

In addition to 3DS Max, you will need:
Dolphin Emulator [Download]
3D Ripper DX

– I recommend “dolphin 3.0-226 32-bit” and 3D Ripper DX 1.8.1 (this is the combination I use).
– This will only work with a 32 bit version of Dolphin Emulator.
– Resizing the window may give you problems.
– I’ve only tested this with one game, so your results may vary.

Start 3D Ripper DX and select the Dolphin EXE. Hit the launch button.

Once the Dolphin EXE launches, press the open button and select the game file.

If everything worked you should now see a “Ready to capture” message in the top left.

Play through the game until you reach a point you are ready to capture. Use the assigned capture key (F12 by default).

When importing into 3DS Max, make sure you uncheck “Ignore if rendertarget width does not match backbuffer”.

Example Output #1

Alternate Tutorial

Big List of Useful Programs and Websites

People often ask what programs I use to create machinima. The answer to that depends on what you want to do, but here’s a big list of programs I use. I’ve included a number of download mirrors, but more current versions may be available on the main site.

Youtube Downloader HD
MysticThumbs [Download x86] [Download x64]
FastPictureViewer – Allows TGA thumnails.
AutoIt – Allows you to automate tedious processes. AutoIt commands.
Virtual Dub – A small program which is useful for converting video.

Model Exporting
Umodel [Download]
3D Ripper DX
GameAssassin [Download]
Xbox Backup Creator – Used to open and extract Xbox files. [Download]
wxRipper – Used to open and extract Xbox files. [Download]
Noesis [Download]
Dolphin Emulator [Download]

World of Warcraft
WoW Model Viewer [Download]
Machinima Studio
MPQ Editor
WoW Model Exporter [Download]
WoW Machinima Tool – A tool for adding visual effects within the WoW game client.

3DS Max Plugins and Scripts
SMD Importer [Download]
SMD Exporter [Download]
Starcraft 2 M3 Plugin [Download]
WoW M2 Import [Download]
Batch Preview Maker [Download]

XVI32 – A free hex editor. [Download]

Source Engine Tools
Crafty – A Valve map viewer and file browser, with export capabilities. [Download]
VTFEdit – A tool to view and convert Valve VTF files. [Download]
GCFScape – Allows you to browse and extract files from Valve packages (GCF, VPK, BSP, PAK). [Download]
MDLDecompiler – A tool to decompile valve MDL files into SMD format. [Download]
VTA Apply – Allows you to extract VTA animations from SMD model files. [Download]
GUIStudioMDL – Used to compile QC files. [Download]
Source SDK
MDLTextureInfo [Download]
BSPSource A map decompiler for Source games. [Download]
HLLib – Command line tool to extract content from Valve package files. [Download]
Propper – Propper allows you to compile VMF brush data as an SMD file.
VMEX – VMEX is a map decompiler for Source games.

Video Editing
Sony Vegas Pro – Easy to learn and powerful. The most popular choice for machinima makers.
Adobe After Effects
Adobe Premiere Pro – Works well with the other Adobe programs (After Effects, Photoshop).
Final Cut Pro – Very popular among indie film makers. Mac only.
Avid – Avid is the industry standard editor. Any Hollywood movie you’ve seen was likely edited on this.

Garry’s Mod Addons
Better Camera [Download]
Moving Camera [Download]
NPC Scene [Download]
TF2 Machinima NPCs [Download]

Useful Websites
Xentax – A game research forum. Contains lots of information about file formats and game data.
Voice Acting Alliance – A community dedicated to voice acting.
MachiniFeed – An RSS feed of machinima blogs and related sites.
Freesound – A huge collection of free sound effects.
Video Copilot – Video tutorials for Adobe After Effects.
8bitcollective – A collection of royalty free 8-bit music.
Video Copilot – The absolute best After Effects tutorials.