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Incorporating animation/physics into rendering engine

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Hey all! I've got my multi-threaded rendering engine in a good state. I can do different types of culling (kd-/oct-tree), post-processing (render-to-surface, bloom, etc), and a basic material priority system where I sort renderables by shader, then textures, then constants. Last week I was excited about jumping into the next stage of the engine: animation! Unfortunately for me, I think too much. I plan out far in advance how I'm going to structure the engine, and then only do minor changes until it's complete. Of course, going back and refactoring it is part of the plan too. :) This time, though, I think I'm trying to bite off a little more than I understand, which leads me to the core of my problems: I have no idea where to start in my animation system. I can do rendering systems fairly well, but the animation aspect seems to elude me. Some unorganized questions follow, as they pop into my head: Are animation schemes built off of scene graphs, or are scene graphs built off of animation systems? Are the two linked? How does the rendering engine acquire data from the animation subsystem? Can the rendering engine and the animation engine be in separate threads? Can physics play a role in scripted animation? In other words, can an IKE influence a "walk" animation? For instance, can a character play the "walk" animation up the side of a hill, while the IKE ensures that its feet stay perpendicular to the hill and do not clip the hill or "float" downhill? Things that are waaay in the future, but interesting to me nonetheless: How does one render motion captured data? It would seem like there are a ton of bone key-frames to worry about. Thanks for reading all of this. I realize that this is more a design question than a programming question. I'd love to hear about how you coded your engines, how some of the other engines out there work, or any resources/books/articles on the subject. EDIT: P.S. I'm planning on using Ageia's PhysX system. I don't want to re-invent the wheel in terms of physics engines. Ageia's is mature, somewhat speedy, and it has hardware support. But incorporating this into an animation system is giving me headaches. I guess this stems from my main problem ::shrugs::

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