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A Beginner's Guide to Animation Modding in Blender - A Tutorial for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Updates

Update 3 4mo
  • - StudioSB build has been updated courtesy of SSBUCarlos and SMG to fix compression issues that caused skeletal, material, and visual animation issues
Update 2 1y Update 1 1y

How to animate and import your very own custom attack in Blender!


1: Getting Started
This tutorial will guide you through making your very own custom Smash animation! You don't need much Blender experience to get through this guide, but actually animating the move you want takes a lot of practice and time. Your first animation might not look perfect, but that's ok! There are plenty of tutorials on animating with Blender you can pull from. In this tutorial, I'll be animating a custom down aerial attack for Roy.  I'll be using 2.8 for this tutorial, as its UI is more user friendly, but Blender 2.79 can directly import Smash Ultimate's model formats with the scripts down below. .smd animations exported from StudioSB won't work in Blender, so you can either export animations as .seanim or if using 2.79, import directly. 

1.1: Tools
Before we can get started, we're gonna need a few things. 
This modified build of StudioSB by Ploaj that fixes material and visual animation spazzing by SSBUCarlos.

.numdlb/.nuanmb Importer Scripts by RandomTalkingBush 

 Blender Source Tools by Valve (Don't unzip this, to install go to Edit>User Prefrences>Add-ons>Install from File/Install

SEANIM tools for Blender (You'll need this for Blender 2.8, since 2.8 does not support the Smash Ultimate scripts.)

CrossArc by Ploaj

Your data.arc dumped from UMM 

2: Dumping Assets
Now that we have all our necessary tools, we're ready to dump. Since I'm animating Roy, I want to extract his model and motion folder from CrossArc. Open your data.arc in CrossArc and look for the fighter folder, which contains all the fighter assets. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/62URJdp

2.1: Opening in StudioSB
Since we have all our assets, we need to now open them in StudioSB. Import the model and desired animation in StudioSB. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/CTIScSs

2.2: Exporting to Blender
With the model and animation, now we can export our files to Blender. To export the model, go to File>Export Scene to File. Choose .smd as your format. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/pLwPoY7

To export your animation, go to File>Export Animation to File. Choose .seanim  for the format if you are using Blender 2.8. If you are using Blender 2.79, you can directly import .nuanmb animations into Blender. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/qTXdGin

Now that we have everything we need, it's time to animate!

3. Animation Workflow
Import your.smd model first into Blender, then the animation you want to edit. It will be sideways, but no worries! We can fix this by going into Pose Mode and changing the Rotation X to 90 degrees in the Object Properties tab. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/vC4WA7h

3.1: Animation
Okay, now that we're all set up, it's time to actually animate! This is where it gets tricky. Go into the animation tab and click on Pose under your skeleton in the Scene Collection. Then select all of your objects in the scene by pressing A in the scene collection. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/28hdG2x

3.2: Keyframing
You'll notice as soon as we did that a bunch of dots suddenly appeared in the Dope Sheet. Those dots are called Keyframes, and they store information for bone transformations in each frame. They're how we can animate our model! Animation is made up of poses, and keyframing is what allows those poses to be strung together to create an animation. 

Now here's the tricky part. Using these keyframes, we're going to create an animation out of poses. 
The animation I will be making for Roy's down air consists of 4 main components: windup, the swing, the cooldown, and the return to fall animation. So what I'm going to start with is the wind up. 

The Wind-Up
I want the wind up to end on frame 14, so I'm going to pose Roy into a wind up position at Frame 14. 
I'm also deleting frames 1-13, leaving me with only frames 0 and 14. This is because Blender will actually animate the transitions for you! Make sure to press the record button next to play if you want Blender to automatically animate between keyframes, though. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/DHmNgQk

I want the pose to convey as much power and stress as possible, because he's winding up for a big slash, so I make him tense up pretty hard to build up power and momentum. 

The Slash
Next, I'm going to animate the slash. This is trickier to get right because it requires more keyframing. 
What I'm going to do is place 4 poses: one on frame 15, 18, 19, and 30. I want the attack to start on frame 15, and end on frame 30. Frames 18 and 19 are there to help guide Blender to get the animation looking more exact to what you want. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/T26TLdZ
Frame 15: The Start

https://imgur.com/gallery/YPGo40C
Frame 19: The Middle

https://imgur.com/gallery/gyVKWLT
Frame 30: The Finish

The Cooldown
A big, wide arcing slash like that doesn't just end instantly. There's a cooldown period where Roy has to recover from the slash because of the momentum of the sword. So, to animate this we want to have Roy hold that pose for 10 frames before bringing him back to the fall animation. 

Now this is pretty difficult, as we can't just have him hold a static pose for 10 frames. We need to add detail as well as keyframing. The trick I've found with this is to duplicate the first frame of the cooldown, add it to where you want it to end, and animate the details from there. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/8ozvOMf

It resembles the starting frame somewhat because he's holding a pose, but to make it look realistic I gave it some realistic details like adding sway, cloth animation, and variation to make it look somewhat shaky as in real life, you can't stand perfectly still. This is where the practice comes in. I find it helpful to use references; you can even use yourself as a reference! Making the pose yourself (if possible) can really help you understand how momentum, feel, and how far the character should bend will look. 

The Return
Now, to make it blend seamlessly into his fall animation, I took the pose from the first frame of his fall animation and spliced it into the last frame of my new down air animation. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/Cskr074

This frame is very important! It makes the transition back to his fall animation look natural. This is the easiest part to animate, as keyframing does most of the work, but you still need to make it look realistic. I've made Roy turn his body and use his knee to push himself into this pose because you have to use momentum to turn in the air. 

4. Importing
Now that my animation is finished, I have to bake it to the skeleton and rerotate it back to its original orientation. Select all the objects in the scene again and set the value in Object Properties back to 0 like I showed you earlier. 

To bake your animation, go to
https://imgur.com/gallery/f8fPXle

Use these settings for baking:
https://imgur.com/gallery/qm4vHwA

Blender will fill in the Start and End Frames for you automatically, but your start frame is usually 0. 
Now that our animation is finally finished we can export it to .smd. Note that Blender will not let you export your animation without configuring it in Scene Properties, so be sure to set where you want it to export! Export only the animation by clicking the indicated parameter. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/662TgsF

4.1: Importing into StudioSB
Now that we have our .smd animation, we can import it back into StudioSB! Open up your model again if you haven't already and go to File>Import>Animation Into Scene.
https://imgur.com/gallery/HLBtEkW

Now all that's left to do is compress it into a .nuanmb file!

4.2: Compression
Compression is pretty simple, just go to File>Export Animation to file and rename your animation to whatever.nuanmb. 
https://imgur.com/gallery/AO3sywB

Upon clicking save, you'll be prompted to specify your compression settings. Compression affects how the animation will look. If your animation gets too compressed, it will start to look jank, so stick with the default value and scale it if you need to get it smaller. 

And we're done! Now we have our very own custom animation in Smash! 

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  • lawso2one9 avatar
    lawso2one9 Joined 1y ago
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    1mo
    What's the reason for baking?
    Bananite
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  • Texthead avatar
    Texthead username pic Joined 1y ago
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    3mo 3mo
    My model came out upside down. Is it necessary to rotate it 180 degrees or can I animate it upside down? Also how do I create custom camera anims for things such as Final Smashes and ending anims?
    What have I done...
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  • kalomaze avatar
    kalomaze Joined 5y ago
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    4mo 4mo
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  • Vantablaq avatar
    Vantablaq Joined 3y ago
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    7mo
    Appreciate the guide, but can anyone actually successfully follow this guide and mod in their own custom animation? I spent much trial and error to find out why my animations just won't work right in game. The only thing I've managed is to make a shield pose, and it seems to only work because I put one pose, with no real changing animation in between the active frames. My animations deform on every frame they are active. I even tried to simply use an animation file from smash itself and run it through the process and even that won't work. Is StudioSB not compressing right? Everything looks fine until I test it in game, so I'm thinking StudioSB is to blame. An update to this guide would be really appreciated.
    Bananite
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  • oshy avatar
    oshy Joined 11mo ago
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    11mo
    thanks for the great tutorial :) do we need to compress with smashpad to get the anim working? the original export from studiosb didnt work so i tried smashpad and it said the file couldnt be compressed :/
    Bananite
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  • How do you put textures on the model in studio sb? I can only put the skeleton on...
    I'm tired of being horny.
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  • whenever i export the files for motion, no matter which character it is, arc crashes
    Bananite
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  • i cant find the extracted files and extracting motion crashes crossarc

    edit: mines working now!
    Bananite
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  • WannaBeDev avatar
    WannaBeDev Joined 3y ago
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    1y
    when I try to bake with your settings, I get an error. It says that pose and object baking are disabled. using Blender 2.81
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    Mantra
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  • PRFKA avatar
    PRFKA Joined 1y ago
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    1y
    When i install my mod it says that the compression failed

    help please !
    Bananite
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