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OpenGL - Skeletal Animation - Good Format?

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Hey guys, excuse the lengthy intro... I think it's useful to you, if not then I'm sorry. I've been working on a small project where I load a few meshes in as a kind of level and I've even got basic keyframe animations for some simple objects in this world. My problem is that I would like to create a player character who can manipulate items (pick them up, put them down, etc...) and I would also like to allow the player to wear items like a vest or a hat, and to hold items like a crowbar or an axe. I plan to have several player models so that would mean that I would need them all animated... while doing this with keyframes is possible, it wouldn't be easy to update the animations for ALL POSSIBLE models in the future (at least I think so, if there is an easy way please point it out). Plus an item like a vest wouldn't be able to deform with my model unless i keyframed it and then I would have to edit several models to include every animation I think up for the end product. It would be a pain. I decided that this could be solved with skeletal animations, or so I think. If you can recommend a simpler way please do. In anycase, this leaves me with a few questions for you all, so please bear with me. Also keep in mind, i've searched this site, and the web... albiet ineffectivley. I'm getting a little impatient with myself thinking that it shouldn't be this hard. Anyway I'm hoping it wont trouble you all to help me out a bit. 1. I'm new to skeletal animation... my only interaction with it has been in modeling packages. So... Are there any good OpenGL tutorials on skeletal animation, or any demos with source code? 2. I'm new to 3d file formats, I load .obj files and convert to my own file type, so... What is a good format to use with skeletal animation (ie, contains bone information and animation information along with mesh information and material information) and where can I see a demo with source or a tutorial on how to implement said format? You know... why reinvent the wheel, i just want to make it better. 3. Although I'm sure I could play with it a bit and understand it once I get a skeletal animation system in place, and I do have a basic understanding of how it might be done... How can I attach items to certain points on the skeleton? I'm sure that an extra bone could orient the item so I'm not concerned with orientation at the moment, just attaching the darned thing. 4. If there are no online resources (which would be a tragedy...) are there any good books on the subject that includes somewhat more advanced information such as binding or attaching items like weapons and armor to a character model via skeletal means? :) Anyway... thanks for your patience and for taking the time to read throught this mess. I'm hoping you all can lend a hand because I'm stuck I'm sure many of you have been before. Thanks again.

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