avatar geometry

A little over a month ago, I wrote about how various animations don’t play well when we wear high heels: The default avatar’s feet end up looking like our ankles were broken. This behaviour is observed both when we’re using the default avatar’s feet and when we’re using rigged mesh feet and / or footwear.

Back then, I theorised that this has to do with the way the “foot shaper” is created by the system, i.e., when the “foot shaper” is created, what’s performed is not a downwards (i.e. around the transverse axis of the avatar) rotation of  the ankle, but a stretch of the foot. So, to the system, your avatar still has its feet lying flat, which in turn allows it to take these unrealistic angles.

foot-shaper-ankle-downwards

As you can see, the ankle was not rotated to create the foot shaper for the high-heeled foot in the “relaxed” position (in the background). Instead, the foot was simply stretched downwards, while the articulation remained flat. Please click on the image for the full-size version.

Of course, animation and pose makers generally can’t be bothered to provide versions of their animations for avatars that are wearing high heels and for barefoot avatars; they just make all their poses and animations using a barefoot avatar model and get done with it, leaving the user to sort out the mess by themselves. And sort it out they did, usually by hiding the default avatar’s feet inside unrigged (prim-based, sculpted or mesh) shoes or feet / shoes combinations, or by employing special, localised animation overriders which locked the ankles in place.

foot-bent-badly-backwards

And here, you see the “broken ankle” effect with the Slink Mid feet on. The same problem plagues all rigged mesh feet, regardless of designer, and is also evident in rigged mesh bodies that have integral feet. Please click the picture for the full-size version.

The advent of rigged mesh, however, brought the problem back into prominence, causing people several headaches. One workaround is to rig the shoes differently, so that they’ll effectively ignore the ankle joint. But what happens if the shoe is an add-on for a set of rigged mesh feet? In that case, things are a bit different: the localised animation override method emerges as the preferred one.

One such localised animation overrider is the “Slink Ankle Lock”, which is offered free by Siddean Munro at her mainstore. You can find it above the feet vendors – unfortunately, it’s not available on the SL marketplace. Now, how does it work? You just add it to your outfit and it takes care of the rest. It’s a transparent attachment, which contains the animation override script and a high-priority animation that locks the ankles in place.

The Slink Ankle Lock

The Slink Ankle Lock offers a workaround to the “broken ankles” problem. Being effectively an animation overrider, it’s compatible with all rigged mesh footwear and feet. You can get it for free at the Slink mainstore. As always, please click on the image for the full-size version.

Now, you’ll ask… Will it work with my fitted mesh body that’s not made by Slink? Will it work with my rigged mesh feet that aren’t made by Slink? Yes, it will. And it also works with the default feet as well It’s just a very simple animation overrider, after all; no HUDs or controls to think about. The only downside is that you can’t bend your ankles forward (like we do when we crouch in RL), but I’m afraid this is a compromise we’ll have to put up with. Let’s hope LL will get the avatar skeleton right in their next-generation platform.

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-GJ

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OK, I’ll admit it; the default SL avatar has a lot of problems, many of which have been pointed out in the past. For instance, see STORM-1800 in Second Life’s JIRA, or this post by Firestorm developer Tonya Souther. We’re all painfully familiar with several of these problems. The deformation in the shoulder-blade area is horrendous, the elbows and shoulders bend really badly, your legs look like they were nearly severed from the waist when your avatar kneels or is put in the lotus position, and, when your avatar spreads its legs, it looks like you’ve lost control of your bladder and / or large intestine. You can thank me later for the mental images.

With 10-cm heels on.

My avatar, wearing 10-cm (4″) heels. I typically wear Slink’s AvEnhance Mid Female Feet. As you can see, the foot appears as it should in RL. But there’s more at work right here… Please click on the picture for the full-size version.

But let’s get back to the matter at hand, shall we? Besides the fact that, even in 2003, the SL avatar was already horrendously sub-par, it has a glaring anatomical error, which affects the way animations make the avatar look. The error is, as you’ll have guessed from the article’s title, the ankles and the way the foot shaper for high-heeled shoes is created by the system.

foot-shaper

I took off the mesh feet, the shoes, and the alpha layer to show you the “foot shaper” for the shoes I wore for this example. You’d think the avatar’s ankle articulation rotated for this look to be achieved, but that’s not the case. Please click on the picture for the full-size version.

We all know that, in real life, when we want to wear a shoe that isn’t flat, our ankle flexes downwards and is at an angle compared to its flat position. This is, of course, more obvious when we want to wear a shoe with a 10-cm (4″) heel, or a 12-cm (approx. 5″) heel, and don’t even get me started on the extremely challenging ballet heels.

foot-shaper-ankle-downwards

As I said earlier, the ankle was not rotated to create the foot shaper. Instead, the foot was simply stretched downwards, while the articulation remained flat. Please click on the image for the full-size version.

Now, the ankle can only bend downwards so much. Already when wearing a 10-cm (4″) heel (in in-world terms, this corresponds immediately with Slink’s AvEnhance Mid rigged mesh female feet). And when we wear a 12-cm (5″) heel (an in-world example of this is Slink’s AvEnhance High rigged mesh female feet), it maxes out. It’s gone as far as it can, and there’s no way it’ll bend downwards (or backwards – perhaps this would be a more appropriate term) any further. Period.

foot-bent-badly-backwards

And here, you see how bad certain poses and animations look when you’re wearing high heels, because of the anatomical error I described. It looks as if someone’s broken your ankles (perhaps using “enhanced interrogation techniques”). Please click the picture for the full-size version.

Yet, several animations have the avatar bend its ankles much further, making it look like the articulation has been broken. This looks really bad, and it’s terribly unrealistic. As I wrote earlier, I believe this has to do with the way the “foot shaper” is created by the system. When the “foot shaper” is created, what’s performed is not a downwards (i.e. around the transverse axis of the avatar) rotation of  the ankle, but a stretch of the foot. So, to the system, your avatar still has its feet lying flat, which in turn allows it to take these unrealistic angles.

Also, a degree of freedom is missing: In RL, we can flex our ankles on the longitudinal axis (how many times have you twisted your ankles because you misstepped?). In SL, we can’t. So, when we spread our avatar’s legs apart, our ankles don’t twist inwards to maintain proper contact with the ground.

I really hope LL will address this issue (and all the other issues with the default human avatar) in its next-generation virtual world platform. For SL, I think it’s just too late, because there’s too much content for the default avatar, so making significant changes now, after 11 years is pointless. To help you see what I’m talking about, I took a few snapshots using my trusty AnyPose BVH Pose Stand, and you can see them accompanying the text.

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See also:

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Shortlink: http://wp.me/p2pUmX-FK