Today I see Avastar® has a new test version out. Gaia appears to have had it out since Dec. 8th. For whatever reason I am just seeing it show up in Feedly today. Since the announcement of Fitted Mesh Gaia Clary has been updating Avastar and figuring out how to work with the new Fitted Mesh options. Since the Fitted Mesh announcement in November there have been a dozen or so updates to Avastar as they add Fitted Mesh support.
Until now the releases were simply called test versions, which since they were released to users might be considered Beta versions too. The current version is: avastar-1-1-931_blender-2-64.zip. Update: 12/22 – now avastar-1-1-934_blender-2-64.zip. This release is called a beta version in the announcement: Avastar-1-1 (beta). Gaia says they plan for this to be the version that goes to final release. So, in the newer SL terminology we might consider this more of a release candidate than a beta version.
Gaia points out this update works with Blender 2.65 and up and is anticipated to work with 2.7. The current Blender release is version 2.69, released Oct 31, 2013. (Blender download) Installing via the ZIP file is by far the best way to install Blender, as it allows you to have multiple versions installed and run any of them at any time without conflict.
There are several additions and changes in this version. They are:
Automatic UV Rebaking
This is a complex explanation of what the Sl Viewer is doing with the SL Avatar and UV Maps. It is best explained by a video Gaia made. See: Better UVMaps on YouTube or watch it above. But, please watch it.
See video above.
Consider the Show Bones panel below. The buttons for Weight, Animate, and Retarget are presets for selecting which bones to show. The Basis and Deform and other buttons in the lower portion of the panel are for manually selecting which bones to show. On Gaia’s page she explains what the ‘presets’ show.
Clicking the ‘-’ in a small circle to the left of ‘Weight’ will hide/collapse the Torso to Deform manual selection list of bones-to-display and turn the ‘-’ into a ‘+’.
Reorganized Bone Groups
Gaia’s blog page explains the changes made in this version. One of those changes made a couple of test versions back is renaming bones… We have the ‘standard’ bones we have been using for animation and rigging. But, there are also the collision bones, which we will now be using for rigging. Plus numerous other bones make up the SL Avatar. Trying to keep these names straight as to which bones is for what can get complicated and increase the learning curve for those new to SL.
Gaia is pointing this naming problem out in her sort of release notes. Of the 130 bones in the SL Avatar we only have a subset available to us for animation and rigging.
The 26 bones we normally use for animation and rigging are now named: Basis. Update: 12/22 – now SL Base. I am not sure that is the best choice. Basic might have been better. But, I am not sure either of those would give users an intuitive understanding of that is meant. Also, there might be a nuanced meaning from Basis that I’m missing.
The collision bones used in Liquid Mesh and the new collision bones added for Fitted Mesh now have to be dealt with in some way.
So, a new group Deform is added that includes, according to Gaia, “This bone group contains all bones that have the “Deforming” flag set and thus take part in animating the mesh. The Deforming Flag can be set manually set for each bone in the Bone properties window.”
From what Gaia says and a bit of my playing around, it is apparent that the Deform group is dynamic, it changes which bones are included in the group depending on which bones you choose to use for your rigging.
Shape Slider Support
This section is import for those considering use of the collision bones and the making of fitted mesh clothes. It provides an excellent method for testing your weighting of clothes.
Fitted Mesh Support
Avastar has been updated to use the latest information supplied by Linden Lab for Fitted Mesh. That includes 7 new collision bones. Gaia has also added “Classic weighting” and “Fitted mesh weighting” as presets for those making clothes. There is also a newer type of Weight Copy for dealing with weighting your clothes.
Gaia explains how this works on her blog page announcing the new version. A handy feature of the Fitted preset is it adds weights for some of the new collision bones; PEC, HANDLE, BACK and BUTT.
Update: 12/22 – I’m probably doing something wrong, but on my 32-bit machine I can’t seem to get this panel to display as shown in the announcement. All I ever see is the Detach from Avatar button. If you too are running into this problem let me know.
Update: 12/22 – I was doing it wrong. You do not see the Classic or Fitted rigging modes until AFTER you freeze your mesh.
I won’t take time to explain this. If you have been using Avastar you know how this tool is used. The change in this version is you have the option to keep or discard the original shape.
If you have ever downloaded one of the primitive SL Avatar files you know they come as over a dozen individual parts. Not just the three we normally see; head, upper body, and lower body. The edge of each part and unwrapping guides has been considered a seam. That has been changed in this latest release to eliminate those seems that are generally useless for unwrapping UVMaps. For instance a wrist seam is of little use.
Also, for some tasks one needs to pin the seams of maps before making adjustments. The edges of head, upper, and lower were not all seams. Now Avastar marks those as seems and saves several steps in some processes.
Retargeting is about importing animations from various sources and applying them to the SL Avatar in Blender for future import to SL.
The changes in this version eliminate some of the repetitive steps of the process of importing animations, specifically the scaling issue. This version now has a Match Scale button.
You won’t see any new feature here nor are you likely to notice the change in Blender. If you are having problems with eyes and some other parts of the avatar, you will likely notice your creations working better in Second Life.
Gaia lists other improvements. I think basically they come down to better wording in tool tips and better clean up when removing Avastar stuff from the exported meshes.
Upside Down aSpine Bone
There is a known bug. The aSpine bone is upside down in this version’s avatar. I’ve run into some problems playing with animations for the avatar in Blender. I suspect this is related. But, from what I understand, which is not that much when it comes to animations, in general it is not a problem for most animation efforts. Hopefully someone more into animations will comment.
I am guessing that the Lindens and Gaia will pretty much have Fitted Mesh nailed down in January or February. I am thinking this version gets us pretty much to where we need to be to start making Fitted Mesh clothes.
If you are looking at an easy way to make Fitted Mesh clothes, I suggest you start with Avastar. It can reduce your learning curve and save you a load of tedious work required when using Blender without Avastar.
If you haven’t guessed, I am a fan of Avastar and Gaia’s video tutorials. I think Avastar is one of the best purchases I have made.
Update: The details in this release are highly fluid. This article was only a day old and I have already updated it.