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Rendering animations

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Going further with developing, I finally began to think about how to render animated meshes... My question is quite simple indeed... what's the best way to manage animations for gaming? In a 2D game, animations are a set of frames, so I thought to do the same thing in my engine... an animated object should be a set of meshes (with its position/rotation), and every frame (if needed) I should render the next frame (the next mesh)... then I thought about skeletons... I suppose a skeleton is used to "create" animations, but it's not a good idea to create an engine that calculates animations in real-time (for gaming purpose...). So, is it correct to implement animations as set of frames? Is this the only choice?

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indeed, all animations break down into a set of frames this applies to both skeletal and mesh based animations.

The mesh based system is basically as you described it, each animation is a series of key frames and based on teh time elapsed you show the correct frame (or the interpolated results between two frames in most cases so smooth out the animations).

Skeletal animation is a bit more complicated. The skeleton is used to define the animations and the mesh is attached to it like a skin, so that as the skeleton moves the various bones adjust the position of the skin vertices. They tend to have a series of fixed animations as well (for example see Doom3 or HL2), however things like IK can be used to adapt the animations to the enviroment

edit: oh yeah, and as its not strictly an OGL question over to game programming it goes...

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