UE4 AnimMontage

Overview

AnimMontages (or just Montages for short) are a multipurpose tool that allows for a wide variety of animation effects, primarily related to exposing animation controls within code or Blueprint. It can also be used to create a wide variety of animation effects including intelligent loops of animation, logic-based animation switching, root motion handling, and much more.

AnimMontages are animation assets that can be created and exist within the Content Browser. These assets can then be plugged directly into the AnimGraph in run-time and you can modify any state of it. For example, you can jump to different sections or you can re-link different sections. This is mostly for code driven animations or one-off animations such as melee attacks, allowing you to control triggers, stop when you want, or change state (looping or non-looping) between (see the image below).

Montage_Screen2.png

The image above is a melee attack with 3 sections [start, loop, and end]. When the player left-clicks, it triggers the start section by default when you ask to play the montage. Now the middle section is set to loop. When the start is done, it will transition to loop, and will loop there forever. If the player lets the mouse button go, it will stop, but you do not want to stop right away since the animation will pop in the middle of the loop. You would like to relink the loop to the end, where it will then transition out to the end and finish the animation.

Some additional uses for Montages include:

  • The ability to play an animation from within an AnimBlueprint's EventGraph.

  • Chaining together a complex sequence of animations that you want to think of as a single animation.

  • Looping only a specific portion of animation or animations based on code or Blueprint script.

  • Handling event-based switching of multiple animations based on code or Blueprint script.

  • Proper handling of Root Motion for your characters.

  • The ability to assign complex animation sequences to named slots that can be switched between in code or Blueprints.

  • Precise switching between various AnimSequences based on code or Blueprint script.

So, as you can see, there are a lot of different things you can do with Montages. This can easily make Montages seem overwhelming as a system. However, if you really boil it down, the key point of Montages is to expose animation controls to code or Blueprints. Nearly everything else the system can do follows from that single point.

An example of an Animation Montage applied to a character can also be seen on the Animation Content Examples page under section 1.5.

System Caveats

There are a few details to keep in mind regarding AnimMontages:

  • Only one Montage can play back at a time. If you start playing a second one, it will stop the first.

  • At this time, root motion is replicated across the server. However the AnimMontage is not. That means that users utilizing root motion will need to make sure they are replicating the state of the AnimMontage across the network. (Position, play rate, etc.).

Montage Properties

The following is a breakdown of the AnimMontage asset properties. These are available in Persona when looking at a Montage, and can also be accessed by right-clicking on a Montage within the Content Browser and choosing Properties from the context menu.

MontageProperties.png

Montage Properties

Montage

Blend In Time This is an amount of time at the beginning of Montage playback during which the character will blend in from its current pose.
Blend Out Time This is an amount of time at the end of Montage playback during which the character will blend back to its original pose.

Root Motion

Enable Root Motion Translation Enables handling of root motion translation, cancelling out any translation applied to the root so that it can then be applied back to the character's collision capsule. Please see 根骨骼运动 for more details.
Enable Root Motion Rotation Enables handling of root motion rotation, cancelling out any rotation applied to the root so that it can then be applied back to the character's collision capsule. Please see 根骨骼运动 for more details.

Additive Settings

Preview Base Pose Sets a base preview pose used for additive Blend Spaces.

Animation

Rate Scale A multiplier value for how fast the Montage will play back. Default is 1.0.
Skeleton Contains the skeleton associated with this Montage. Cannot be changed in the editor.

Montage UI

When looking at a Montage in Persona, it is useful to know what each area is and what it does:

MontageUI.png

  1. Montage Area

  2. Sections Area

  3. Notifies Area

  4. Curves Area

Montage Area

The Montage Area breaks down like so:

MontageArea.png

  1. Section Track - Shows any Sections that have been defined for this Montage. Sections can be dragged to different positions along the timeline with the left mouse button.

  2. Slot Track - Shows the current Slot, along with the Slot name on the right. This Slot may be filled with as many animations as you desire; they will be played back in order. Notice that multiple animations will have alternating positions in the Slot Track - top, then bottom, then top again, and so on. This is to help you differentiate between different animations.

  3. Branch Point Track - Shows any Branch Points that have been defined for this Montage. Branch Points can be dragged to different positions along the timeline with the left mouse button.

You may have as many Slot Tracks as you like within a single Montage, each with their own name and containing their own unique animations. However, you may only have one Section Track and one Branch Point track for each Montage.

Sections

Montage Sections provide a way to break a Slot up into multiple portions of animation. Each Section has a name and location in the Slot's timeline. Using the name, you can either jump directly to a particular Section or queue it to play next, when the current segment is complete. In Blueprint, you can query the current Section, jump to a Section, or set the next Section that will play.

It may help to think of Sections like songs on a music playlist, with Slots being the albums. Just like with many modern media players, you can choose which song will play next when the current one finishes, or just jump to the one you want to hear right now.

Sections are created by right-clicking on the Section track and choosing New Montage Section.

Slots

Within a Montage, a Slot is just a single track that can hold any number of animations. You can name this Slot, and then blend to those specific animations by calling the Slot name. A great example is having a character with a weapon reload animation. You may have different versions of the reload for when the player is standing, crouching, and lying prone. So long as all 3 of the animations used the same timing, you could place each one within a separate Slot in your Montage; the Slots could be named StandingCrouching, and Prone. In your Animation Blueprint's AnimGraph, you can use the Slot node to determine which one you want to play based on your character's current state. When they are standing, you can use the result of the animation in the Standing Slot. When they are prone, you can see the result of the ProneSlot.

It is an important point to keep in mind that although much of your Montage control will take place in the Animation Blueprint's Event Graph, Slots are actually handled within the Anim Graph. This is done by way of the Slot node, which simply takes in the name for a Slot. By positioning this node at a strategic point along your AnimGraph's execution, you can have multiple Montages that utilize the same Slot name.

Branch Points

Branch Points allow you to create events that coincide with animation playback. These Branch Point Events can be used in code or Blueprint to cause other things to happen, but specifically, Branch Points are useful for switching to other animation Sections within a Montage.

If you are already familiar with Animation Notifies, you may notice a strong similarity between the two systems, as they both expose events that can be leveraged in script. The key difference is that Notifies are asynchronous, while Branch Points are synchronous. What this means to the end user is that Branch Points come with a much higher degree of precision for where they will take place along the animation timeline.

High precision is important when you need to jump to a specific animation at a very precise moment in time. While you could use a Notify to do the same job, the asynchronous nature of Notifies means that the Notify Event could be fired at the incorrect animation frame, which can lead to hitches and jumps in your motion.

Due to their synchronous nature and the precision resulting from it, Branch Points are more performance expensive than Notifies. You should only use them when an event must be fired at a precise moment along the animation timeline, such as jumping directly to another animation that matches up frame-to-frame. If being off by a frame - or some percentage of one - is not important, you should use Notifies instead.

Sections Area

The Sections area is where you can establish relationships between the Sections you define in the Montage Area. For instance, you may want a certain Section of animation - or group of Sections - to play in a specific sequence, or even loop.

SectionsArea.png

  1. Create Default and Clear Buttons - Create Default creates default associations between all Sections, stringing them together one after the other. Clear wipes out all associations.

  2. Section Buttons - In this area, you will see a button for each of the Sections you define in the Montage area. By choosing an existing Section and then clicking the one of these buttons, you associate the Section for that button with the selected track. For instance, in the image above, we have associated Swing2 with Swing1. The order actually goes Swing1Swing2, and then Swing1 again, which causes a loop. See the Looping section below for details.

  3. Section Association Tracks - This is where you can visualize and preview the relationships between animation Sections. By clicking on the Preview buttons, you can see the result of each individual track, or click the Preview All Sections button and see all Sections play back one after the other.

Looping

Sections can be set up to loop indefinitely, which is extremely useful for any action that you need to repeat. By associating the same Section more than once in a Section Association Track, you cause that association to run in a loop. The section will turn blue to show this. As an example, consider an animation in which a character is reloading a shotgun, one shell at a time. You could take just the section in which the character inserts a shell, and loop it. Then, by using Notifies, you could create Notify Events in Blueprint that increment the ammo count each time the animation plays through. Once that count reaches a set number (full ammo), you could then switch to an animation of the character closing the receiver and returning to idle.

Notifies Area

NotifiesArea.png

动画通知(简称AnimNotifies或通知)使得动画相关的程序员可以设置在动画序列的特定点处发生的事件。通知通常用于这样的特效,比如走动时的脚步声、跑动动画或在动画中产生一个粒子特效。然而,它有很多种不同的用途,因为您可以使用自定义的通知类型来扩展该系统,从而满足任何类型游戏的需求。

For more information, see 动画通知 (通知).

Curves Area

CurvesArea.png

曲线提供了在动画正在播放过程中改变材质参数或顶点变形目标的方法。 其工作流程非常简单,只需要您简单地指定您要修改的资源(一个材质或顶点变形目标),相应地命名该曲线,然后调整动画播放期间的关键帧的值。

For more information, see 动画曲线.

Montage Practical Example

In this example, we want to have a character that can freely run in all directions, with an attack animation that only plays on the upper body. This attack will have multiple animations that could take place during its course. This is a perfect way to show the assembly of a Montage, as well as how to control it in the Event Graph and blend into it within the AnimGraph.

However, there are few things we have set up in advance:

  • We already have a State Machine defining locomotion. This is just like the one used in the Third Person Project Template.

  • We have several animations provided by an artist that we would like to string together to make the Montage.

  • We have created a Character Blueprint Class that we can get input information from.

    • For this example: an IsAttacking Boolean that is set to TRUE when the Left Mouse Button is pressed and set to FALSE when it is released. CharacterBlueprint.png

Creating the Montage

Making a Montage is as easy as right-clicking in the Content Browser and choosing Animation > Animation Montage. You can alsoright-click on an existing Animation Sequence and choose Create Montage from the context menu. This will automatically create a new Montage with the selected AnimSequence already set up in the default Slot.

MakeMontage.png

Montage Setup

Our first order of business was to name our Slot. We only need one in this Montage, and since we want our attack to only affect the upper body, the name Upper Body seemed perfect. We then drag/dropped the animations we would need into this slot. The animations we have do the following:

  • Right-to-left hammer swing

  • Left-to-right hammer swing

  • Go from the end of the right-to-left swing back to Idle

  • Go from the end of the left-to-right swing back to Idle

The two swinging animations both end on the same pose as the other begins. This means that the two animations can play back to back in a loop and the character will seamlessly swing the hammer back and forth.

While order is not extremely important, having the first two animations at the beginning and back to back will simplify things later.

MontageSetup.png

Section Creation

Our next step is to section out the animations in our Montage so that we can query them and call them up when needed in our Blueprint code. This is as easy as right-clicking and choosing Add New Montage Section while clicking on the Section Track at the top of the Montage Area.

We used fairly straightforward names for each Section. Note that we replaced the Default section that came along with the Montage (made a new one and deleted the Default by right-clicking and choosing Delete Montage Section). You can drag these Sections along the Section Track if you need to, and you will notice that they snap a bit at the boundary between two animation segments when you release the mouse. Use this to your advantage.

AddNewSections.png

Defining Section Relationships

Now that our Sections are created, we can now define any special relationships between them using the Sections Area. For instance, we can define a relationship between the Swing1 and Swing2 sections so that they play back to back in a loop. This is very useful for us. We start by clicking the Clear button to wipe out any default relationships. Then it is just a matter of selecting the track with Swing1 in it, and clicking the green button labeled Swing2 near the top of the Sections Area. This will remove the Swing2 track and add Swing2 to the Swing1 track.

Swing2Track.png

If we repeat the process, clicking the new Swing2 segment and then clicking the Swing1 button, the system detects that you are creating a loop and the track turns blue. This means that the Swing1 and Swing2 segments are considered a looping Section. They will play back to back, repeating indefinitely.

LoopingTracks.png

Setting Up Branch Points

We will now set up some Branch Points to test whether to continue with the loop or jump to one of two possible endings for our attack animation. All we have to do is right-click in the Branch Point Track and choose New Branch Point. We chose the names Swing_1_Endand Swing_2_End for our Branch Points. We also zoomed very closely in with the mouse wheel to make sure that each one fires right at the last possible moment of its corresponding section. This means it is placed very slightly to the left of the border between the two.

BranchPointsSetUp.png

A similar system could be set up in which you use Notifies instead of Branch Points, but they would need to fire a little earlier along the timeline, and your Animation Blueprint Event Graph would be queuing the appropriate ending animation using the Montage Set Next Section node, rather than doing a direct switch with the Montage Jump to Section node, as we will be doing. Doing it with Notifies would be slightly cheaper on performance, as Notifies are asynchronous. Our example is academic, but we wanted to make sure to mention the other method, as well.

Setting Up the AnimGraph

At this point, our Montage is all set up. We now need to establish our AnimGraph so that it can read in the result of our Montage. This is a pretty simple process, but it does cause us to have to think carefully about how we proceed. Our AnimGraph starts off looking something like this, where we are only seeing the result of our State Machine:

StateMachineResult.png

We only want the Montage to play back from the Spine_01 bone (the waist) up, so we will be using a Layered Blend per Bone node. We add a Blend Pose to it set the weight to 1. We also associate this Blend Pose with Spine_01 in the properties for the node. We then bring in aSlot node and set it to UpperBody, the name of our slot. But now we run into a problem:

SlotAndBlend.png

The Slot node needs a Source connection to fall back on once the Montage is done playing. Without it, the character will return to the T-pose from the waist up after the Montage completes. However, we cannot connect the State Machine to both the Base Pose of the Layered Blend per Bone as well as the Source for the Slot node. The solution? Use a Cache node! We can store the result of the State Machine into a Cache node, and then create Cached Pose nodes to connect to both our required inputs. This is somewhat similar to storing the result of the State Machine into a variable so you can use it in multiple places. For this example, we named the Cache LocoCache.

CachedLocomotion.png

Our AnimGraph is done. As soon as the UpperBody Slot node receives data from any AnimMontage (you can use any Montage, so long as it has a Slot named UpperBody), it will blend it in. As soon as it is no longer receiving data, it will fall back on the result of the State Machine.

Setting Up the Event Graph

Our Event Graph setup is very basic. Using the Event Blueprint Update Animation node and dragging off the out pin of a Get Player Character node, we can Cast To our Character Blueprint (MyCharacter in this example) to access the variables and functions from that Blueprint (see Blueprint Communications for more info on communicating between Blueprints).

Click for full view

The first thing we do is check if the IsAttacking variable from our Character Blueprint is TRUE and if it is, we then check if the Montage is already playing. If the Montage is playing, we do not want to play it again; however if it is not playing, then we play the Montage. This prevents the system from restarting the animation in the middle of playback, which would look bad.

Dragging off the IsAttacking node which extends from the Cast To node, we see if the mouse button is still down, and if not, we jump to the appropriate ending animation, depending on which half of the loop is playing. Creating the Branch Point Events is done by right-clickingand choosing the appropriate event under Add Montage Branching Point Event.

EndLoopEventGraph.png

And that is it! If we compile, we will now see that the character continues to swing as long as the mouse button is down, and performs an intelligent end animation when the mouse button is released!

Click to watch playback

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