Thursday, July 29th, 2021 Posted by Jim Thacker

Nekki ships Cascadeur 2021.2

Nekki has released Cascadeur 2021.2, the latest version of its unusual physics-based animation software.

The update – the second commercial Early Access release of the software – adds a Graph Editor, a new toolset for tweening character poses, and an experimental new Spline IK system.

Create animations based on real-world physics, aided by machine-learning-based tools
Originally developed for use in Nekki’s own mobile title like Shadow Fight 3, Cascadeur is intended as an artist-friendly way to animate characters and creatures.

Unlike conventional animation tools, it encourages users to focus on physical properties like a character’s trajectory, angular momentum and fulcrum points like ground contacts.

Once the key poses in a move are established, the software – the name means ‘stuntman’ in French – generates a plausible-looking motion connecting them.

Even the process of generating key poses can be partially automated, via a machine-learning-trained system that tracks critical joints in a characters’ body: the neck, hips, wrists and ankles.

When one joint is repositioned manually, the software adjusts the positions of the others to match.

As well as its physics- and machine-learning-based systems, Cascadeur includes a range of more conventional rigging and animation tools, and exports to other DCC software in Collada and FBX formats.

We covered the software in detail when it was first released in closed beta in 2019, so check out our original story for more information about Cascadeur’s core toolsets.

Animation: new Graph Editor and tools for tweening poses
To that, Cascadeur 2021.2 adds a number of long-awaited features for editing animations.

The biggest is the new Graph Editor, which makes it possible to adjust individual animation channels by manipulating curves on a graph, as in most conventional DCC applications.

The update also adds Tween Machine: a new toolset for blending between two positions of a scene object – for example, to generate breakdown poses for a character.

The system, which replaces Cascadeur’s old Filter system, makes it possible to tween an object’s position, rotation and scale, on any combination of co-ordinate axes, with a choice of three interpolation types.

It is also now possible to cut and paste data, both in Tween Machine itself, and in the software’s Interval Edit mode, speeding up the animation editing process.

Rigging: experimental new Spline IK system for rigging tails, ropes and chains
Changes to the rigging tools include an experimental new Spline IK system for rigging long chains of joints, like creatures’ tails, props like ropes, or dangling clothing.

In addition, the semi-automated Quick Rigging Tool now includes templates compatible with Blender’s standard rigs, DAZ 3D’s Gen8 characters, the UE4 sample character and Mixamo’s default character.

Updates to the AutoPhysics system
AutoPhysics, the new toolset introduced in Cascadeur 2021.1 for generating a physically accurate version of an existing animation, has also been updated.

Changes include the option to use a group of Point Controllers as a single fulcrum point, intended for use on character rigs with more complex foot set-ups.

The update also improves the quality of results on animations in which a character remains in contact with the ground at all times, and improves the speed of the solve.

Smaller workflow improvements
Other features include a new direction controller for the AutoPosing system, making it possible to specify the direction in which the character should face after posing.

It is also now possible to display symmetry planes in the viewport when mirroring character rigs.

Pricing and system requirements
Cascadeur 2021.2 is available for Windows 7+ and Ubuntu 16.04+ Linux. A macOS version is planned, but isn’t due for release until at least 2022.

The software is free to individuals or teams with revenue under $100,000/year, although animation export is capped at 300 frames per scene and 120 joints per scene.

Pro subscriptions have a standard price of $300/year, and remove export restrictions. Business subscriptions, which also ensure priority support, cost $1,000/year.

In both cases, after having subscribed for a year, users can continue using the software as a perpetual licence, even if they later cancel their subscription.

At the time of writing, subscriptions are available at a 50% early access discount.

Read a full list of new features in Cascadeur 2021.2 in the online release notes

Download the free edition of Cascadeur from Nekki’s product website