Blender + ManuelBastioniLAB to UE4 workflow

I’ve recently struggled more than usual to get this to work, so I’ll store it for later reference.
My sources are this great Youtube video and this post on the Unreal Engine forums.

Initial Setup

First thing to do is to correct a “feature” in Blender, the FBX export plugin adds a root on top of our armature root. That could create problems when exporting to UE4.

Python script and where to modify it

Under Blender/2.78/scripts/addons/io_scene_fbx/ edit the file named You need to find the following section.

elif ob_obj.type == 'EMPTY' or ob_obj.type == 'ARMATURE':
empty_key = data_empties[ob_obj]
connections.append((b"OO", get_fbx_uuid_from_key(empty_key), ob_obj.fbx_uuid, None))

And comment it like so

#elif ob_obj.type == 'EMPTY' or ob_obj.type == 'ARMATURE':
#empty_key = data_empties[ob_obj]
#connections.append((b"OO", get_fbx_uuid_from_key(empty_key), ob_obj.fbx_uuid, None))

Then, download Manuel Bastioni’s plugin from here, unzip it under Blender/2.78/scripts/addons/ and activate the plugin under File|User Preferences|Add-ons|, also make sure to save your settings so you won’t have to do this step again.

Blender Addon Settings

Creating a new character

On a fresh Blender file, delete the cube and set the scene units to centimeter (Metric and 0.01 unit scale).

Then, click on the ManuelBastioniLAB tab, select a preset of your liking and click on Init Character.

Configure the character as your will, the only setting that is important here is inside the Pose Tools section, where you should select the t-pose.

However, before finalizing, you need to delete the modifiers except for the armature (DO NOT APPLY ANY OF THEM).

Make sure it looks more or less like this.

Now we can click on finalize. I like to clean things up as well, and delete all cameras and lamps.

The issue that needs to be corrected now is that our character is too small, measuring only a few centimeters, so we need to scale it by 100 or so. Select everything and hit S then type 100 and press Enter. You can adjust to a correct zoom level with the Home key.

This scaling needs to be applied to the object, otherwise we will have bone weight issues in UE4. You do this by pressing Ctrl+A and selecting Apply Rotation and Scale.

We are now ready to export our character to an FBX formatted file. These are the export settings that work for me, but YMMV.

Under UE4, these are the import settings that work for me. Using this process I don’t get any errors.

Open up the newly created skeleton. There is a section called Retarget Manager where you need to select the Humanoid Rig and make sure you assign each node to its corresponding bone in your skeleton. You should do this for your source and your target skeletons. Also, make sure everything is saved.

Now, find the element that you want to retarget, right click on it and select Retarget Anim Assets|Duplicate Anim Assets and Retarget.

Fill the menu as you prefer, making sure you select your target skeleton (the one we just imported) and placing the files under our desired folder. Once everything is ready hit Retarget.

A new beginning

Looks like I am going to have some time to do my own thing, finally. Maybe it is a good time to retake some old forgotten projects. For a very long time, I’ve wanted to make videogames. Not just as a hobby, but as a profession. I’m a huge fan of indie games as you can see from my Steam library here. Now with SteamOS and smatphone games it seems like there’s a lot of changes in the videogame industry. You don’t need to have a team of 100+ people working together to create the next hit game, it just seems like game development is going back to its roots, where people created little gems, on their own, with a lot of talent and tons of imagination.

Limbo, one of the best games I’ve ever played

Now, I’m a hardcore techie, so I’m not going to be using any popular engines like Unity or Ogre. I did contribute to Leadwerks being ported to Linux on Kickstarter, but I don’t think I’ll be using it.

I don’t intend on reinventing the wheel though, so I will be using a great number of open source libraries. This is a list of technologies that I might probably be using :

  • C/C++
  • Lua, for scripting purposes
  • Simple DirectMedia Layer (SDL), by the great icculus, the cross-platform equivalent of DirectX, handles images, audio, net, …
  • OpenGL, the cross-platform of Direct3D
  • OpenAL, the audio equivalent to OpenGL
  • Assimp, the Asset Import Library, a library used to import 3D models, bones and animations
  • Audacity, audio editor
  • zlib, probably, for compression purposes
  • Boost, because it just rocks
  • LMMS, to produce music. I’m actually going to give this a shot! Needless to say, I have no idea what i’m doing.
  • Blender, 3D model creation
  • Makehuman, quick and easy character creation
  • Git, version control
  • CMake, the most flexible build system I can think of
  • Valgrind, the analysis tools that have taught me so much about programming
  • GCC/GDB the GNU compiler and debugger

Other than this, I will give a shot to LLVM, as I keep hearing more and more about it, but I’ve never actually tried it. And I have no idea what I could use for creating sound effects.

Eventually, I might write a second part to this post, where I will aacknowledge how wrong I was about many choices I make here. There is one thing I know for sure though, and it’s that, at the very least, I will get more knowledge from this experience.

darktable, a photo workflow software for Linux users

As I’m a Linux user I was looking for a decent substitute for Adobe Lightroom. I recently discovered a viable alternative called darktable. I decided to give it a try, as, even if I managed to work with the excellent UFRaw, it took me way too long to get things done, as the user interface wasn’t really suitable for fast workflow.

Darktable seems to be a project that has been going on for two years now, but I have to admit I had never heard of it until recently. I only found out about it because I looked for an alternative to Lightroom in The Linux Alternative Project, and so I decided to give it a go.

My first impressions were excellent, the interface is very similar to LightRoom’s and the program is agile even on an underpowered computer. The program seems to use libraw, meaning it instantly supports RAW formats from an overwhelming number of manufacturers.

After some hours spent editing, I’ve discovered a few weak points with it though; the interface can be a bit difficult to understand at first, and it would be particularly uncomfortable to navigate using a touchpad. Some of the extra tools are difficult to find and are not properly documented, but I still have to admire the effort put into documenting most features, something where most open source programs lag behind.

I’m hoping that, as this program keeps getting better and better, it won’t be long until it comes included in all major Linux distro repositories. It is, in my opinion, crucial to make it more easily available for it to get the attention it deserves.