Wednesday, November 24th, 2021 Posted by Jim Thacker

Nekki ships Cascadeur 2021.3

Nekki has released Cascadeur 2021.3, the latest version of its unusual physics-based animation software.

The update – the third commercial Early Access release – adds a new Animation Cycles system for creating looping animations, and a Secondary Motion setting in the AutoPhysics 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.

New Animation Cycles system seamlessly loops any movement of a character
New features in Cascadeur 2021.3 include Animation Cycles: a new toolset for looping animations.

It converts any interval selected on the timeline into a endless loop, so as well as walk cycles, it can be used to create looping motions for any part of a character’s body.

Cycles can be edited after they have been created, making it possible to add, move or remove keyframes – or to repose the character entirely – and have Cascadeur update the cycle automatically.

Animation Cycles is not currently compatible with Cascadeur’s Track Stretching Mode, but Nekki says that it plans to expand the toolset in future releases.

New Secondary Motion setting for fine tuning AutoPhysics
In addition, Cascadeur’s AutoPhysics system gets a new Secondary Motion setting.

Introduced in Cascadeur 2021.1, AutoPhysics automatically generates a physically accurate version of an existing animation, providing a quick way to refine a rough blocking animation.

Enabling the Secondary Motion setting gives users finer control over… well, secondary motion, providing parameters to control how far trailing body parts like limbs follow through after a character moves.

It’s something that’s easiest to understand by seeing it in motion, which you can do in the video above.

Improvements to rigging, posing and animation workflow
The release also updates Cascadeur’s rigging, character posing and animation toolsets.

The software’s advanced Rigging Tool has been reworked to make it possible to create or edit a character rig in the middle of the animation process.

It also now integrates the previously separate Root Constraint and Spline IK system.

The AI-trained AutoPosing system, which generates key poses for a character semi-automatically, now generates better foot contacts with the ground, and also now supports Trajectories.

In addition, users can now undo and redo selection of keyframes and tracks in the animation timeline. You can find a full list of changes via the links at the foot of the story.

Pricing and system requirements
Cascadeur 2021.3 is available for Windows 7+ and Ubuntu 20.04+ 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 an overview of the new features in Cascadeur 2021.3 on Nekki’s blog

Read a full list of new features in Cascadeur 2021.3 in the online changelog