Abranimations is a well-known brand of avatar animations in several virtual worlds, including Second Life, IMVU, and Sansar. Jim Clark of Edinburgh, Scotland (better known by his avatar name, Abramelin Wolfe) is the creator behind the Abranimations brand.
Abramelin Wolfe has been profiled by the documentary filmmaker Draxtor Despres twice: once in Second Life (in 2013) and a second time in Sansar (in 2019):
Well, Abramelin Wolfe has finally brought his dance animations into Sinespace! Here’s a link to his brand-new store on the Sinespace Shop, where he has dozens and dozens of dance animations available for sale for only 50 Gold each (and some dances can also be bought for 5,000 Silver):
And here’s a quick sample, a 7-second video courtesy of Sinespace user Alicia, dancing her heart out at the Welcome Centre (thanks, Alicia!):
Earlier this week, I interviewed Abramelin Wolfe via text chat about the launch of his Abranimations brand in Sinespace:
How did you get started in creating animations and other content for virtual worlds? Please tell us a bit of your background.
I first found my way into Virtual Worlds in 2004 when I Joined Second Life. At the time I was working as a freelance website developer. I played Second Life for fun and enjoyed using my prior programming experience to create fun toys and gadgets. I had no expectations of it making any money, I just loved the creative outlet it provided. I can’t remember exactly when, but at some stage I found it was making a substantial part of my monthly income so I dedicated more time to it. When I first joined SL I played a lot with particles and tried making various vehicles, furniture and I made a magic staff for my avatar (who was a wizard at the time). I found myself wanting to learn all the tools SL had so before long figured I’d try animating too. I started with Poser which was recommended by LL at the time. For a while I created animations using that. A bit later I decided to invest in a relatively cheap inertial mocap system which was how I got into mocap. Today I primarily use an optical motion capture system that is much more precise.
What platforms have you made animations for?
What hardware and software tools do you use to create animations today? Have there been significant changes in the tools you used since you started doing this?
I create most animations now using an OptiTrack mocap (motion capture) system to record trained actors & dancers. I use the system software to clean up the raw optical data and then perform further cleanup and final processing in Autodesk MotionBuilder. My first animations back in 2004 were made using Poser. I used it a lot for quite a few years. I liked Poser, but it was not very good for motion capture data cleanup. I moved to use MotionBuilder which is built for this purpose. There is a dramatic difference in quality and realism in mocap over keyframed animation. However it is very expensive (equipment, studio space, dance hire, software etc.) and it can be very time consuming recording and cleaning up the data to a high standard. If I want a quick animation and am not worried so much about realism I will still keyframe animate by hand. We also make lots of other content today, my wife works with me now too. As well as helping with the mocap studio she is an artist and makes all our avatars and other characters.
Could you briefly outline the steps involved in creating an animation from scratch (not too technical, just a general overview that my blog readers could understand easily).
I first decide what animation I want to make. This could be a specific dance or something else. I’ll research and refine a shot list and then hire a dancer or actor that is able to perform the motions. In the studio we suit them up in a black lycra suit with reflective markers stuck to it and record them with special mocap cameras. The mocap system records the markers as dots moving in 3D space and the software processes this to generate a moving skeleton from it. The resulting data tends to need a lot of post-shoot work to fix various problems. Once the optical data is clean I export it from the system and import it into MotionBuilder for further cleanup and processing of the skeletal data. There are various issues at this stage too that also need fixing. Once the animation is free of errors and is processed to look as intended I transfer the data onto the final skeleton used by the end platform. If it all looks good I’ll then upload the animation onto the end platform and hopfully it works!
What advice would you give to people who want to create content in Sinespace and are just starting out?
Well Sinespace is based on Unity, so the first thing I’d say is download a copy of Unity! There’s loads of tutorials online that can be helpful in learning just about every game engine and software application. Don’t be put off by any initial daunting feelings, some software can seem pretty formidable when you first open it up. But if you persevere eventually everything falls into place. Finally, never think something is too hard or impossible even if other people tell you so, just give it a go, and have fun!