January 11, 2012

Last week I started working on a small, yet powerful visualization tool for animations or more generally spoken for any multi-body simulations. It is based on skeletal animation and magic and is called MeshUp!.

The frames for the skeleton are defined in a JSON file (thanks to jsoncpp this was relatively easy to implement). In the same file meshes can be attached to the frames (e.g. some random monkey head to the “Head” frame, etc.) and are then moved with the head bone.

The meshes themselves are Wavefront OBJ files that can be exported by nearly every 3d content creation package. I wrote the importer in about 2 hours which surprised me. I feared that to be a lot more of a hassle.

Furthermore it finally made me play around with Quaternions a bit more. Turns out that they are not as hard and are actually quite efficient. Before that I used some matrix calculations for the rotations but with the Quaternions I basically have the same usage but about 10% performance gain (not that it would matter, but it surprised me a little). The biggest problems I had, was that in my computer animation reference book a formula for a conversion had a typo. Thanks to test driven development this was easy to debug and will not occur in the future! Yay!

Oh, also it is coordinate system agnostic. Meaning you can use whatever angle convention you like! ZYX Euler? Sure! YZX Euler? Why not? Just define the proper coordinate system and rotation order in the model file and that’s it!

I published MeshUp! at bitbucket account. You can download the source at:

So far I havent’t decided on a license. Any suggestions?