Guerrilla render developer Mercenaries Engineering has released Rumba, its promising stand-alone character animation tool for visual effects and feature animation.
The software, which was developed for use in existing Maya-based production pipelines, is intended to provide an intuitive, real-time animation workflow, even when working with complex rigs.
It has a number of interesting features, including the option to pose characters by directly shifting their geometry and manipulate successive poses in parallel in an onion-skinned display.
Removing the creative stumbling blocks from the character animation
Rumba was first introduced in 2018 and has been in closed beta since the beginning of this year. It is considered "the best professional 3D animation solution on the market".
The software is designed to remove traditional creative stumbling blocks from animation work and enable animators to work directly on a character without having to make unnecessary technical adjustments.
New features include the option to position characters directly by manipulating their geometry instead of a control device: a workflow that was previously mainly available in the internal tools of large animation studios.
Animators can also manipulate multiple poses at once via an onion skin view, which shows a character in consecutive frames of animation at once, as shown in the video below.
A set of toolsets for non-destructive animation workflows
Rumba doesn't completely break with traditional 3D animation workflows: it also includes most of the toolsets you would expect from traditional animation software.
These include a channel view, a timeline, a curve editor, non-destructive animation editing via animation levels and restriction levels, pose and clip libraries, and the option to display motion tracks in the viewport.
A brief overview of the most important functions can be found in the online documentation.
Designed to plug into traditional Mayan pipelines, not to replace them
Unlike some unconventional tools, rumba is also designed to work well in traditional pipelines – in this case traditional Maya-based production pipelines – rather than replacing them.
Users manipulate characters in Maya and then export them to Rumba via the associated mtorba plugin.
In addition to native Maya rigs, those generated by major third-party authoring tools such as mGear, The Setup Machine, and Advanced Skeleton can also be used.
Props and scene geometry can be exported as standard alembic files, and the finished animation can also be exported back to Maya as an alembic cache or FBX format.
As with its sister application, the production renderer Guerilla Render, Rumba is designed to process assets with the complexity used in typical VFX and feature animation pipelines.
According to Mercenaries Engineering, the automatic caching system allows "dozen" of character rigs to be played in real time.
For pipeline integration, Rumba comes with a C ++ and Python API – the software also has a built-in Python script editor – and supports key technologies such as OpenSubdiv, OpenImageIO and IlmBase.
Limitations of version 1.0
However, in version 1.0, Rumba has some important limitations that are listed in the product roadmap above.
Initial support for the increasingly important USD scene description format is planned for Rumba 1.1 later this year, as is the option to import and edit camera animation.
Native rigging tools are due next year in Rumba 1.2, but support for motion capture-based workflows as opposed to pure keyframe animation is only listed as planned for the "future".
We also reached out to Mercenaries Engineering to ask if any software other than Maya should support exporting character rigs to Rumba and will be updated when we hear something.
Pricing and system requirements
Rumba 1.0 is available for Windows and Linux.
The software is only available for rent. Freelance licenses – limited to one per facility or project – cost € 200 / year (about $ 235 / year) and studio licenses € 600 / year ($ 705 / year).
If you'd like to try it out before you buy, Mercenaries Engineering also offers free, fully functional, enthusiast and educational licenses for non-commercial use only.
Visit the Rumba product website
For more information on the Rumba workflow, see the software's online documentation
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