Animate Characters In Unity with UMotion

Functional, Practical, and Easy-To-Use

  • UMotion allows you to animate characters directly in Unity
  • Create new animations, edit existing animations, and much more
  • All animation types supported
  • Pause your game and animate on the spot

I picked up UMotion recently on the Unity Asset Store. Animating a character directly within Unity is a feature people have asked for. UMotion is the answer to that request. I wanted to share my personal experience as I’ve been using UMotion for my own projects.

My first impression of the asset was that it’s mostly for making small tweaks or making small test animations when you don’t want to keep exporting/importing between Unity and the 3D modelling software of your choice (probably Blender or Maya). Surely animating within a game-engine can’t be anywhere near what 3D modelling software offers right? I’ve had some experience animating and after some time with this asset I can attest that UMotion will add a lot to your project. Whether it is the right choice for you will ultimately come down to your goals.

Learning to animate with any software has a fairly steep learning curve and there’s no exception with UMotion. There are plenty of gizmos, panels and buttons to figure out. Thankfully, the author has created both a clean UI and a series of fantastic Youtube tutorials. Some of these videos guide beginners through its multi-layered UI. Others cover more advanced parts of animation.

uMotionFire.gif

My first attempt at a firing animation with UMotion. This took no more than 20 minutes thanks to the creator’s YouTube tutorials.

Probably my favorite feature is the ability to animate while playing a Timeline cutscene in your game. Getting a feel for things such as object scale, actor placement, post-processing, and everything else in your scene makes animating more intuitive. Say you have a character who needs to pick up a weapon while another event happens and you want it all synced up. Well you can easily do this thanks to UMotion. If you do want to fine tune that prototype animation in a 3D modelling software then it’s as simple as exporting (FBX export is currently Windows only). Furthermore, you can also see what the animation will look like with the exact perspective of the scene camera (see firing animation above – the bottom window shows the game view). If you are animating in 3D external software then you’d have to recreate the game perspective, whereas here you can simply keep a split view between the scene and game windows. Very useful.

Another great feature is the ability to edit existing animations. Whether you want to modify an animation to fit your project or to fix a broken one both can be done here. For example, take a broken animation from the infamous Carnegie-Mellon University mocap library and fix all of the issues using key features such as mirror posing. Say you import a sitting animation but the character is not aligned with your bench model. Open up UMotion and you can apply changes without exporting or importing anything. That is a convenient feature.

UMotionBefore

Before – imported mocap animation is broken

UMotionAfter

After – Using UMotion, the broken animation can be improved thanks to features such as mirror posing

 

Another cool feature is animating custom prefabs. Working with multiple assets together such as an arms model plus gun model right in Unity is a simple feat. Exporting all of those assets means a potential struggle of working with different file formats and overall a more complicated workflow.

UMotioncustomprefab.png

One advantage of animating in Unity is animating custom prefabs. Here the arm model and gun model are easily animated together.

 

The author has released a free version of the asset UMotion Community. This version is somewhat limited in that you lose these features:

  • importing mocap and 3rd party animations
  • IK: Drag a body part where you want it (IK) instead of rotating each individual joints to get the same result (FK).
  • child-of constraint: parenting an object (e.g., having a character hold an object)
  • animation layers: add a layer on top of an existing animation and then simply add keys where you want changes
  • converting animations to IK

If you plan on using UMotion for a project then it would be difficult to live without these features; however, this should be enough to get a feel of the quality before considering a purchase.

UMotionPauseAndEdit.jpg

Pause your project while in play mode and edit an animation on the spot.

Changes / Improvements

If you take a look at the progress it has made since its creation, you can see just how much momentum this asset has. Weekly patches since release. New features frequently added. Many added features started off as suggestions and were consequently added. The author maintains an official support page where you can ask for help.

All of the various tools are customizable, including options such as bone size (or hiding specific bones for an improved view). Furthermore, hotkeys improve workflow by speeding up some of the more tedious elements of animation. Did I mention they were customizable? I will say that so far I found the default settings to be very optimal and I have had to configure very little.

What’s The Catch?

Well… there really isn’t one as far as I can tell. UMotion certainly isn’t a complete replacement for 3D modelling software. For example, there is no way to skin a mesh and more exotic features are not included; however, as mentioned above there are many advantages you get with animating in Unity. Whether it is right for you ultimately depends on your needs.


UMotion is a powerful tool with much to offer. There is not one single feature that won me over, but an overall strong package of well put together tools. Create new animations, edit existing ones, synchronize an animation with an object in your scene all while staying inside your Unity project. You can even pause the game and animate on the spot. UMotion has seen improved usability thanks to a competent and receptive author. If your project requires animation in any capacity then this asset might just take you to the next level. 

RatingCircle10


Links

UMotion Community (free)

UMotion Pro

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