Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021 Posted by Jim Thacker

Ragdoll Dynamics adds real-time physics to your Maya rigs

Ragdoll Dynamics has released Ragdoll Dynamics 1.0, a neat new real-time physics solver for Maya.

It enables animators to work with live physics in their character rigs, generating realistic secondary motion for anything from mechanical assemblies to cloth, hair and muscles inside the Maya viewport.

Developed by professional VFX artists, for VFX artists and animators
Ragdoll Dynamics has a good pedigree: developer Marcus Ottosson was previously lead creature FX TD at Framestore, and has also worked for The Mill and Goodbye Kansas Studios.

The software’s precursor, real-time Maya physics system WeightShift, was used at Framestore and Weta Digital, before being bought by Epic Games last year.

The new plugin has also generated some pretty impressive testimonials on Ragdoll Dynamics’ website during its closed beta phase, from artists working in VFX, CG animation and game development.

Electric Theatre Collective lead animator Andras Ormos describes it as “the most artist-friendly dynamics tool made for animators: fast, easy to set up and the simulations look great”.

So what does Ragdoll Dynamics do that’s so great?
Ragdoll Dynamics enables animators to work directly with live physics in their character rigs.

The plugin is intended to generate realistic secondary motion more quickly than via keyframe animation, but more controllably than with conventional simulation tools.

Marcus Ottosson describes it as similar to Maya’s native nCloth and nHair solvers, “except that it works on transforms rather than points [so] anything with a translate and rotate channel can be simulated.”

Generate real-time secondary motion for cloth, hair and muscle inside Maya’s viewport
Users can assign physics properties to any part of a standard Maya rig, making it possible to keyframe the overall motion of a character or vehicle, and have Ragdoll Dynamics add secondary motion automatically.

It can be used to simulate hair, cloth, and even muscle dynamics, as shown in the video above.

Control options include Push, Pull and Turbulence forces, and Point, Orient and Parent constraints.

Fast, deterministic and integrable into studio pipelines
Unlike conventional simulation tools, Ragdoll Dynamics is deterministic, so “every playthrough is identical to the last, even on different machines and operating systems”.

According to Ottosson, the plugin’s collision detection and constraint system are “stable and accurate enough to produce mathematical models”.

It’s also fast, with calculations taking “0-5 ms/frame”, making it possible work at 30fps, even on complex rigs.

The plugin supports Maya’s new Cached Playback system, and its solvers can be run over separate processor threads with Maya’s native parallel evaluation.

For pipeline integration, Unlimited licences of Ragdoll Dynamics provide a Python API and the option to export data in JSON format.

That makes it possible to use Maya and Ragdoll Dynamics to author physics scenes for other game engines and DCC applications, including Blender, MotionBuilder, Unity, Unreal Engine.

Pricing and system requiements
Ragdoll Dynamics is available as a Maya module for Windows 10 or CentOS 7.0+ Linux.

The add-on is officially still in early access, although the main aim of the early access period is to develop proper documentation and tutorials, not to add new features.

For commercial use, Complete licences provide access to the interactive tools, but not multi-threading or the Python API. They cost £499 (around $694) for a node-locked licence; £750 ($1,043) for a floating licence.

An Unimited licence costs £1,200 ($1,670) for a node-locked licence; £1,950 ($2,714) for a floating licence. Monthly rental is also available. You can find a complete pricing breakdown here.

If you want to try the plugin before you buy, you can download a free 30-day trial.

Read more about Ragdoll Dynamics for Maya on the product website

Find more information about Ragdoll Dynamics workflow in the online documentation

Watch video walkthroughs on using Ragdoll Dynamics on YouTube