Not So Easy Method
This method is more work, but you learn more. We will export a custom shape, which is more complex now than I expected. I had to run down a number of loose ends. We will get it into Blender and add rigging and vertex weights. You will be able to pose it and rig mesh clothes to it. While the Easy Method above results in a similar file and the exact same capabilities, it doesn’t teach you all this process will.
Exporting SL Avatar Mesh/Shape
Some of us will want to make custom clothes for our avatar, to do that we need to export our shape. Others will want to export the default shape because their OCD makes them be extra sure they have it exactly right. Whatever the reason some us will want to export shapes for use in Blender or Photoshop.
Linden Lab Viewers
The some LL Viewers are currently shape ‘export’ broken. Versions; 3.3.2, and the 3.3.3 Development viewers all have the problem. The shape export function doesn’t work.
VWR-23983 – “Appearance to XML” not creating a XML file on my computer. Sometime in early 2011 the feature stopped working in Linden Lab viewers. I’ve updated and re-opened the JIRA bug report. If you are using a viewer with the problem, please jump over to the JIRA and click WATCH. (Vote doesn’t count. This is an old JIRA item so you can see it.) There may also be some updated information on the problem.
JIRA STORM-1828 fixes the problem. In the fix the file name and location changed. You will find the file named and in:
LL Viewer version 3.3.1 does work. You will have to try it to know if your viewer version works.
This function is not currently working in some Third Party Viewers (TPV). They will likely get that corrected… some day. Let them know in Their JIRA’s if you run into the problem.
If you use a viewer with the function working, you will be bummed to know Blender doesn’t have an XML import feature for Second Life files. There are two tools in the SL Market Place that are third party created Blender add-ons that allow one to import shape XML files into Blender.
AFAIK, these are it. I think Avastar has better licensing, but both work and WIZ has good reviews. So, it is possible to go this route and get a custom avatar shape into Blender.
UPDATE Oct. 2012: The Mesh Deformer as currently designed will allow the use of an exported XML shape as the base shape for a rigged mesh object.
UPDATE: See: Second Life Shape Export – Not all XML file exports are the same. Nor are all the imports of XML files. Plus there are mistakes in the OBJ file exports from viewers. – 2013 April
Third Party Viewers
Some third Party viewers have an export feature that will export a shape as a Wavefront OBJ file. This is ideal because Blender has an import feature for that format. But, there is a problem. The feature does not work with the new V3 code. So most newer TPV’s currently lack the feature.
You can find it in Phoenix 1.5.2 (1185) – Download Page. I suggest you get this copy as soon as possible and save it. I doubt the Lab will ever block it from the grid. But the Phoenix team might stop publishing it.
The current Firestorm 4.0.1 (27000) and Phoenix 1.6.0 (1600) and 1.6.1 (1691) do not have the feature. According to the Firestorm JIRA they plan to add the feature to Firestorm. Since it is a seldom used feature I suspect there are many features ahead of it in the priority queue.
FIRE-1727 – Meshes & Morphs – Ability to export avatar shapes. There is voting in the FS/PH JIRA. You must login to vote or comment.
Update Oct 2012: This item is still showing as Unresolved with only 14 votes. Please visit the site, sign up/in and vote for the feature.
Making a Blender File
Regardless of where the mesh comes from the easiest way to make a working Blender file is to add the avatar mesh to the file made in the Easy Method. For this example using an exported avatar mesh makes following along in this example easy.
You are going to need an updated add-on for Blender named Bone Weight Copy. There is a custom Weight Copy add-on modified by Gaia Clary just for Second Life. I highly recommend you get it. Someday it may be built into Blender. But, for now (Oct 2012) it isn’t. See Bone Weight Copy add-on download.
UPDATE: As of version 2.66a Blender has a better Weight Transfer feature. However, it does not add the missing bones I discuss here. Some say the add-on Bone Weight Copy script we have been using does not work with 2.66a. So, in 2.66a you will need to manually add the missing bones before exporting. But, we now have more options for the weight transfer task. See Weight Copy Blender 2.66a for more information.
So, at this point we need these things:
- Working copy of Blender 2.63a
- The file made in the Easy Method.
- The Bone Weight Copy Add-on from Gaia. (only for Blender pre 2.66a)
- An Avatar Mesh w/Vertex Weighting