Unreal Animation Tools
If you are just starting out in unreal as an animation Artist, there are a few terms and Techniques to breakdown. Let's start by understanding the animation editors and Tools.
Skeleton Editor: This editor is in charge of the bone controls in your rig. This is where you can find the joint hierarchy.
The Skeletal Mesh Editor: This is where you can swap out character meshes, and edit the mesh that is attached to your skeleton.
Animation Editor: This is where you can create your animated assets, and edit them.
The Animation Blueprint Editor: This is where you can create your custom blueprints to blend your animations together, and create specific movements.
The Physics Assets Editor: This one is a tricky one, and can be a bit confusing. But overall, this editor is used for creating the collisions in your physical mesh on your skeleton.
There are more specific uses for these editors but , we'll break them down each later.
The overall animation system in unreal exists to combine both pre-made animated sequences, and also to create custom ones. Then the system is designed to blend the two together to add movements to your video game character. The system is designed around skeletal based deformation, and morphed based vertex deformation.
The Animation system also contains a system called an Animation Montage this allows you to break down your animations into a period of 3 sequences. Beginning animation, Middle animation, and End animation. You can remove, reload, and re-arrange these animated sequences together in the montage to create a series of set movements for your characters. In this Montage you can also control your animations by using Blueprints of C++ code. Replicated animation grouped together are called events. You can load these events to the montage to play.
The animation system also supports Morph targets. Morph targets are complex, and they can accomplish quite a lot in unreal. To summarize: they are used to take the starting state of a mesh and the individual states of the changing meshes, and combine them together. This will create an animation of sorts. For example if your mesh was a face. The starting state of the face could be one is frowning, and then the end state be it smiling. Read up on Morph Targets Here:
Another cool part about Unreal's animation system is that the animation data/ animation sequence is placed on the skeleton on the character. So multiple character meshes can share the same animations.
Animation notifications are also useful. Using this option in unreal you can set up sound effects to play at certain times in your animation, or certain events.
Blend spaces help blend you character's animations. For example, if you wanted your character to start out walking , and then end up in a brisk run. Then get tired, and walk again. You can access Blend spaces in the animation blueprints.
The Skeletal controls, controls movement across the skeleton. This also controls the bones and the bone hierarchy in the skeleton.