#SL Animation Changes

Avastar in Blender - Image by Machinimatrix

In January of this year Laurent Bechir filed a user story in the SL JIRA, STORM-1803. The JIRA item points to Machinimatrix’s post on Second Life’s animation format. The animation format controls what we can upload into SL. In a way this user story is a feature request.

Oddly it is the Biovision Hierarchy (BVH) file format used for uploading that restricts much of what we can do with animations in Second Life. Internally SL uses an .anim type file format that allows more animation controls than BVH.

Some of the things an ANIM file allows are:

  • Different animation priorities per-joint
  • Keyframed animation control of eyes!
  • Variable length joint offsets per frame (allowing cartoon-like “stretchy” bones)
  • Keyframed rotation and repositioning of attachments (which meshes can weight to; to use as new child bones  )
  • Client Side scaling of attachments and default mesh
  • ANIM files are text files

Improving animation in SL is not about rebuilding the animation system we have, it is about how to get the information into Second Life. Oz Linden thought this file upload addition to SL was a good idea (see the JIRA). As of February 6 Oz has ok’ed shipping the code for inclusion in the SL Viewer. (Referene: opensource-dev Digest, Vol 25, Issue 4)

Some Third Party Viewers are said to have this ability to upload ANIM files. Gaia in her blog article (link above) refers to patched viewers with the ability. The Firestorm 3.3.0 (24880) seems to only allow BVH files when you select single file upload. If you select BULK upload and use *.* for all files you can upload animation files with the ANIM extension.

The viewer has to see the ANIM file extent for the correct uploader to kick in. So, name your file correctly.


Blender has a load of animation tools and features. Machinimatrix has a program named Avastar (US$22) to assist with exporting ANIM files. The documents for the program explain how to use many of Blender’s features. Even if you don’t purchase Avastar, the online documents explain many of Blender’s features and animation concepts. Plus, if I understand correctly, the Avastar tools simplify some of the tasks in Blender.

It is not absolutely necessary to use Avastar to make your animations. Blender has a manual that explains how Blender works for making animation. See Manual: Blender Animation. (ver 2.6)


The change to the SL Viewer is working its way through QA. I’m not sure if SLV 3.3.0 has the ability to upload ANIM files. Eventually it will. This will affect what we can do with hand crafted and motion capture animation.

9 thoughts on “#SL Animation Changes

  1. Thanks for the info Nalates – those extra features should make animations in SL even more interesting.

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  3. I’m not for LL spending any time at all on this. I don’t find any of it useful at all. I’d rather LL spend their precious time on arbitrary custom bones that you can also attach to your avatar. The anim file format give a couple of bonus features that only an extremely limited amount of avatars would even use at all. It seems like a huge waste of time compared to creating a custom bone system, not to replace the SL skeleton, but to add to it.

    • Well… you’re one voice. Your opinion is understandable. However, the feature opens another aspect of creation for SL. It requires almost no work on the Lab’s side to implement it, which makes it a likely to happen addition. So, while I would like to see a new modifiable skeleton available in SL those changes will be complex, which means ‘not any time soon.’ So, I’ll take what I can get now.

      • Personally, I think this is the whole problem. Why do what is easy, only to get an extremely limited improvement, if any at all. Why not take the bull by it’s horns and do what is really needed to seriously compete with the market. Easy means you are lazy or don’t believe in your product enough to spend the time. That said, it would be easy to fix all the existing animation bugs, yet here we sit 5 years later with only a few more comments on those bugs. To add anim files without actually fixing the real problems would seriously piss me off. We are tallking serious animation bugs that have been ignored for over 5 years.

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