Blender 3.0 will ship with a new Pose Library system. It is the first practical extension of the Asset Browser, also introduced in Blender 3.0. This blog post will show off the new system, and compare it with the existing pose library. Basic Principles of Assets in Blender To give a quick overview of assets […]
Blender 3.0 will ship with a new Pose Library system. It is the first practical extension of the Asset Browser, also introduced in Blender 3.0. This blog post will show off the new system, and compare it with the existing pose library.
To give a quick overview of assets in Blender: an asset is “a data-block with meaning”. Data blocks, like Objects, Meshes, Materials, Actions, and even entire Scenes, can be marked as an “asset”. In Blender’s preferences, any directory can be added as an asset library. Any asset that is stored in a blend file in such a directory will be available to you in the Asset Browser. The asset system has been described in the Asset Manager blog post, so please read that for more details.
In the case of the Pose Library, every pose asset is its own Action. This makes it possible to give each pose its own thumbnail and tag it with the appropriate character(s) etc. When applying a pose asset, the Action is loaded from its blend file and applied to the current Armature. If there are any bones selected, it is only applied to these bones; otherwise the entire pose is applied. After the work is done, the Action is removed from memory again, so it won’t show in Blender’s regular Action select boxes.
Blender will continue to work the same as before, meaning that it will only write to the blend file you are working on. This makes things predictable, and gives you ultimate control over what goes into which blend file. Of course it is sometimes easier to just write a pose to some other file without ever closing the current one. There is some functionality for that, so keep reading this blog post to find out.
The pose library file is just a blend file with Actions marked as Asset. This means that it can contain other data as well, so you can link in a character from some other blend file to render your previews. Or you can go the other way, and keep all your data in a single file: the scene, the character, the animation, and all the poses as well. How you organise your assets is up to you. Blender will not make such decisions for you.
Of course the new system has several advantages over the old pose library system:
Of course there are also limitations to the new pose library system, as the version shipped in Blender 3.0 will only be the minimal viable product. These limitations will be lifted in the future.
Below you’ll find seven videos in which Sybren showcases the pose library. Two ways to use the pose library are shown:
Furthermore, various ways to put new poses into the pose library are shown:
The Pose Library can be used directly from the asset browser. When switching the browser to Animations, it will show poses from the active library. The filter bar at the top can be used to search for specific poses.
Click the Apply Pose Library Pose button (this label may change at some point) to apply the pose to the character. If there are any bones selected, the pose will be applied only to those bones. This makes it possible to create a “finger guns” pose by applying a fist pose to the hand, and then an “open hand” pose for only the index finger and thumb. Double-clicking a pose will also apply it.
The Blend Pose Library Pose button (this label may also change at some point) allows you to gradually blend a pose from the library into the character’s pose. Click the button, then move the mouse left/right to determine the desired blend. While blending, you can use the Tab key to toggle between the original and the blended pose. As usual in Blender, left-click or press Enter to confirm; right-click or press Escape to cancel the operator.
The Flip Pose checkbox will mirror the pose from left to right and vice versa. This makes it possible, for example, to apply a left-hand pose to the right hand, reducing the number of poses you have to put into the library. This can of course also be applied for asymmetrical facial expressions that depend on the camera angle.
Finally, the Select and Deselect buttons (de)select the bones that are used in the pose. This can be used to create a selection set, or simply to remind yourself what was part of the pose and what wasn’t.
The right-hand panel (toggle it with the N key) has a Pose Library panel in the Animations tab. Contrary to the Asset Browser, which can be used for different asset types and also for some asset management tasks, this panel is dedicated to applying poses. This means that it can allow faster interaction.
Click on a pose to apply it. A single click is enough. You can also select a pose via the cursor keys. This allows for fast exploration of the poses, to directly see the result on the active character. Of course the Flip Pose checkbox is available here as well — it works the same as described in the previous section.
Drag the pose thumbnail, left to right, to blend it into the current pose. Just release the mouse button to confirm.
To search for poses, hover your mouse over the poses, then press Ctrl+F and type a search query. This will filter the poses to match what you typed.
To create a pose in the library from the Action Editor, pose the character, select the relevant bones, and click the Create Pose Asset button. This will create the new pose Action, which will contain keys for the current value of each bone’s location, rotation, scale, and bendy-bone properties.
The created Action is assigned to the armature. This makes it possible to inspect which bones are included and to tweak anything. In that respect, it’s an Action like any other, and you can add or remove keys as usual. Just make sure that the keys are all on the same frame, in order to keep this a “pose” instead of an “animation snippet”; the latter isn’t supported at the moment.
The Create Pose Asset button automatically marks the Action as Asset. Not only does this make it available in the pose library, it will also act as a fake user to ensure the Action isn’t lost after you unassign it from the armature.
The Create Pose Asset button is also available in the 3D View side panel. This button acts almost the same as the one in the Action Editor, except for one thing: it will not assign the newly created Action. Doing so would be invisible, as the pose doesn’t change and the name of the current Action is not shown in the viewport. The pose asset can still be renamed in the Asset Browser. There you can also click the Assign Action button to explicitly assign the selected pose asset as the armature’s active Action.
Animators eat and breathe time, so there is a fair chance that you already have some poses lined up on the timeline. Creating a pose asset from existing animation is pretty much the same as described above, with a few subtle differences:
As described in the introduction, Blender only writes data to the currently open blend file. To copy a pose from some other file into a pose library file, see the following steps:
Sometimes it’s handy to have a few different background colours or camera angles for your poses. Many facial poses are made with a specific camera angle in mind. In the above video:
Both make it possible to choose a specific frame to pick the background colour and camera angle. Pose the character, click the Create Pose Asset button, and the pose Action will be keyed on the current frame. This means it’s easy to edit the pose and refresh its preview icon, because you know exactly which frame it was originally created on.
The preview images are rendered with the active Scene camera. This approach was preferred over rendering a specific 3D Viewport for two main reasons:
The preview images are rendered using the Workbench Engine. Switch the scene to use that as render engine, and you’ll see various options to influence the look. Select a pose asset and press the Generate Preview button to re-render the preview icon with the current settings.
You can also animate settings, such as the background colour, light positions and intensities, etc. Use this to your advantage!
This blog post gives a good overview of the current functionality of the new pose library system, and already hinted at some future improvements such as support for animation snippets. The most important next step will be improvements to the organisation of assets. We have some ideas for richer tagging, dynamic folders that automatically show poses with a certain name or tag, and other ways to categorise assets. Also the user interface for blending poses should see some improvements, similar to the recent improvements to the Pose Breakdowner. Finally, it would be great to have a way to automatically convert old-style pose libraries to the new system. This could be a great task for new developers!