Integrating with UE4 - Mannequin Workflow

By Etienne BESCHET

In this tutorial we'll cover how to import and prepare the UE4 Mannequin to animate in akeytsu. We'll then show you how to export it back into UE4 engine and preview your animations.

Full tutorial video in video follows with important written notes underneath. Go to YouTube for quick access to video chapters

Import UE4 Mannequin into akeytsu

  • Locate default Mannequin in UE4 Content Browser in Content\Mannequin\Character\Mesh
  • Right-click SK_Mannequin and choose Export in Asset Actions
  • Export as FBX in a dedicated folder
  • Make sure to check Force Front XAxis in Export settings
  • Load FBX file into akeytsu (Click akeytsu icon then go to Import)

RESET UE4 Mannequin

  • Make sure you are in Rigging Mode (TAB key to switch between Rigging and Animation Mode)
  • Delete default character node
  • Select all joints through Picker and activate Compensate scale in Properties dialog
  • In Bind Pose, rotate Mannequin to face the right direction. Press O to switch Spinner to Rotation Mode to do that and make sure Pivot Edition Mode is turned off. You can use that in combiantion with the Discrete Transformation Mode option in Spinner. Discrete step value can be changed in Spinner preferences.
  • Check Transform panel, you should now see Y rotation channel at 0. X rotation channel (first in the list) should still be at -90.
  • To reset  X rotation value, activate Pivot Rotation Mode in Bind Pose. Spinner is greyed out but Transform channels can still be edited. Type in 0 in the X rotation channel in the Transform dialog. This should reset the channel value without moving your Mannequin.
  • To add IK chains select upperarm joint (whichever side) and control select hand joint (same side) an hit the IK icon in the Rig Atelier. Hit Mirror Button in Skin Atelier to mirror IK controller
  • Repeat the same process to create RF controls for legs. Select thigh (whichever side) and ball joints (same side) and hit the Reverse Foot buttong in Rig Atelier. Mirror  through the Mirror button in Skin Atelier.
  • Adding IK and RF controls will ensure retargeted animations are pixel perfect later on

Create UE4 Mannequin duplicate

  • In Tree right-click SK_Mannequin and choose Duplicate Hierarchy
  • Rename duplicate SK_Mannequin_Anim . This one will be further modified and used to create animations. SK_Mannequin will later be used as a bridge object that you will retarget animations on to and send over to UE4.
  • You can right-click SK_Mannequin in Tree and choose Hide hierarchy
  • In Tree Remove IKs and RFs from SK_Mannequin_Anim

Prepare UE 4 Mannequin duplicate for animation

  • First extract the mesh (see video at 04:45), reset transforms and Skin Bind Mesh to Skin (in Paint & Check)
  • Display Skeleton with NUMPAD 4
  • Unparent both clavicles
  • Select Spine and Pelvis, press NUMPAD 6 and Auto-orient your joints through Rig Atelier
  • Adjust Joint orientations if needed and reparent clavicles
  • To flip orientations from one side to the other, select half-skeleton in Picker and hit the Mirror Values button in the Transform dialog
  • Create IK and RF controls respectively for arms and legs a explained before.
  • You can hit TAB to switch over to Animation mode and create some clips with this modified Mannequin

Retarget animations on original UE4 Mannequin

  • Once you have created your animations on SK_Mannequin_Anim, right click the original SK_Mannequin in Treee and choose Show hierarchy if you've hidden it before
  • In AnimBank click the Retargeting button and retarget from SK_Mannequin_Anim to SK_Mannequin. This will ensure that you preserve UE4 rotates when exporting from akeytsU.
  • You should see no difference when playing your animation on one or the other character (SK_Mannequin or SK_Mannequin_Anim)

Save & Export

  • Make sure you save before export
  • Select retargeted SK_Mannequin in Tree, press CTRL + E to bring up Export settings and choose Export Selection with the below settings
  • Save over SK_Mannequin.fbx to reload it back into UE4

Import Mannequin back into UE4

  • Switch over to UE4 and right-click Character folder in Content Browser to Import Asset
  • Import back updated SK_mannequin.fbx. In seetings, make sure to set UE4_Mannequin_Skeleton as Skeleton ad assign SK_Mannequin_PhysicsAsset for Physicis Asset if needed. Also make sure Force Front XAxis in Miscellaneous is left unchecked.
  • Import file (you can disregard the error messages)
  • You can double-click imported animations to watch a preview animations. They should automatically be added to th e Animation list for the Mannequin.
  • Move your animations in the relevant folder if needed

Preview animations in UE4 VIEWPORT

  • To preview in viewport choose SImulate mode in Play options
  • Drag and drop animations in viewport and Play

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