SolidWorks and Animations

April 29, 2008 18 Comments »
SolidWorks and Animations

Animations are certainly NOT my specialty when it comes to SolidWorks.  I have created a few animations over the years but I have never really been completely satisfied with the quality of the videos I have produced.  Is it because of shortcomings in the software?  No, it is mainly my lack of time to learn all the ins and outs of creating a good animation.

One of the jobs that we are working on right now includes the creation of some animations to be placed into a PowerPoint presentation.  With this our CAD department is finally digging into the animation portion of SolidWorks and have already put out some GREAT animations.  I am also fortunate in that I have some great Blogger friends in Matt and Rob that I can bounce a few questions off of.

I thought I would pass along a few tips on how you can get some good results quickly when creating AVI files using Motion Manager.  Let’s take a step back first and review one of the big changes in SolidWorks 2008.  The SolidWorks Animator product was removed as an add-in and included (with all of it’s functionality) across the entire SolidWorks product line under what is now called Assembly Motion.

AssyMotion1 Rather than covering all the dos and don’ts on how to set up a Motion Study, what I want to focus on is some methods you can use to get good final results in your animation files.  When you select the Save Animation button,AssyMotion3 you are presented with three file options.  You can save the file in an .AVI format, which is what most users use, or you can save the  animation as a series of Targa or Bitmap images that represent each frame of the video.  If you use the image options you will need some sort of third party software to produce the images into a video.

AssyMotion2 When you use the .AVI option you have the option to use the SolidWorks Screen to produce the images for each frame of the video OR you can use PhotoWorks.  Rendering each frame of the animation can take MUCH longer than using the screen option.  Fortunately you can set up Rendering and Animation tasks to automatically run overnight using the SolidWorks Task Scheduler.  With the incredible enhancements to RealView in SolidWorks 2008, you can use the SolidWorks Screen option with RealView turned ON and get a very nice result in a fraction of the time it takes using PhotoWorks.  This was one of the things I was most excited about last year when 2008 was announced and it has proven to be a useful option in creating animations.

One of the most important settings when creating an animation file is the Frames per second (FPS) setting.  The default FPS is 7.5 which can leave the video a bit “choppy”.  The higher the FPS, the smoother the motion in the AssyMotion5 animation.  We have seen good results using 20-30 FPS.  Once you click “Save” you are presented with one last window asking you how you want to compress the video.  The default setting is “Microsoft Video 1″.  This is the safest  compression option but does NOT give the best results.  We found that shadows, faces, and edges tend to get blurred and show grids patterns and lines that should not be present.  The results can be improved with by using the Cinepak Codec that is available in all default SolidWorks installations.  Users who view the video will need to have the Cinepak Codec installed on their system.

If you have Camtasia Studio installed on your machine you can use the TechSmith Screen Capture Codec (TSCC) option.  Camtasia Studio is an absolutely awesome screen capture utility that I would say is used for a large majority of CAD vendor generated Demonstration Videos that you will find out there today.  Like the Cinepak, the TSCC codec must be installed in order to see the video.

Another setting to watch would be the Key Frame number.  Typically the lower the number the better but we have found that a Key Frame every 8 seconds tends to work very well.  Decreasing this number does not result in as dramatic of an effect on the video as increasing the FPS.

One other notable option is the Full Frames (uncompressed) option.  Since there is no video compression the resultant AVI file is HUGE!  If you play the file using most media players the file will be very choppy.  (This really confused me at first.)  This appears to be a side effect of the file size and lack of compression.  This HUGE file actually works very well if you import it into video production software such as Camtasia in that it can be used to create very nice Flash or Quicktime videos.

If you use the a codec the AVI will still in most cases upload to most video share sites.  Since I cannot share publicly the animations we are working on now for obvious reasons, I prepared a very simple sample of an animation produced using the above recommended methods.  The AVI file did successfully upload to YouTube even though it was made using the TSCC Compression.  I lost a little bit of the quality in the upload process but the smoothness of the video gets the point across.  Click below to see the video.

Stay tuned….much more to come!

Updated 4-30-08: When I initially wrote this article last night I did not realize that you have to have Camtasia Studio installed in order to use TSCC as the compression agent for the video.  I have updated the text above to reflect this.

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  • hey Ricky, very nice. I would alway use the highest quality uncompressed. Some of the video share sites, like Vimeo and Smugmug support HD, plus you can protect who sees it. so you could very easily set up a customer site for animations.

    I had a lot of trouble with the gravity setting. have you tried the other features as well?

  • hey Ricky, very nice. I would alway use the highest quality uncompressed. Some of the video share sites, like Vimeo and Smugmug support HD, plus you can protect who sees it. so you could very easily set up a customer site for animations.

    I had a lot of trouble with the gravity setting. have you tried the other features as well?

  • Hi Ricky-

    Great Tips and Tricks, thanks.

    Devon

  • Hi Ricky-

    Great Tips and Tricks, thanks.

    Devon

  • gargouri2001

    Nice write up and blog , Thanks for sharing all those good info

    best regards
    John
    http://xtupload.com

  • Hi Ricky, thanks for the tips. I am having problems producing a quality animation, here is what I have so far:

    http://www.lightmypump.com/book_shelf-assy1.avi

    it's my first one and it looks far from what I expected. It's not clear to me how I can use Camtasia to improve this, can you elaborate?

    Thanks,

    Jacques

  • Hi Jacques,

    If you have Camtasia Studio installed, you have access to the Techsmith Screencapture Codec which is available in the Video Compression popup that appears after you save the AVI file from the Motion Study. To view your video, folks would need the TSCC codec. It will allow you to produce a better quality .AVI in my opinion.

    I just posted something else related to animations tonight, so make sure you check it out.

    Ricky

  • Hi Ricky, I am not able to get a decent AVI file no matter what I do. I am not familiar with screen capture programs but I gather that I could use Camtasia to record the animation in the solidworks environment and then trim the screen and add audio using Camtasia, is that the idea?

    Tanks,

    Jacques

  • Dima

    Great Tips !!!!!!!!

  • I would alway use the highest quality uncompressed. Some of the video share sites, like Vimeo and Smugmug support HD, plus you can protect who sees it. so you could very easily set up a customer site for animations.

  • artenis

    how to render this anımation – ı mean buffered and how to tune it to our adjusted camera not stable camera- ?

  • Matteo

    This solution gets the output size from the active window size. Is there a way in SolidWorks 2009 to render the SolidWorks screen with specific a frame size and aspect ratio?
    If not, is there a way to quick render using PhotoWorks buffer (so you can set frame size and ratio) but without the photorealistic settings to get an aspect like the SolidWorks screen?
    Thanks, Matteo

  • Marco

    Hi Ricky, i have a question! How do i get under Solid works 2010 other codecs,like the Tech Smith Screen capture codec within the Video compressor?
    I have already downlowded the divx codec and installed it on my brandnew pc, but it never appeared in my video compressor.
    In the 2007 version of Solid Works, the divx player appeared in the compressor and i had no problem with it. I really dont remember how i used to make the divx codec appear within!
    Can you give me a hint, how to go about??? Thanks a lot

  • Mark S. is definitely on the right track. If you want to get a professional looking email address, Id recommend buying your name domain name, like or
    air jordan 16.5
    If its common it might be difficult to get, however, be creative and you can usually find something.

  • Excellent!, I look forward to the tutorial.
    Very good site!.

  • anwer

    hi ricky,
    i need to get a video with the object in centre position. but in my video the object lies in right corner …can be fixed???

    thanks in advance.

  • The new HQ de-compression of all standard vidoes posted in the past month has rendered the site (new vidoes only) utterly unusable for me on a wifi/cable modem.It’s not even a matter of waiting for vidoes to load, it won’t stream because there’s no compression for users on Flash 9 or lower even on a cable connection. Right now I (and I assume many other people) am getting stuttering, clear snapshots that lag the sound. When the sound ends, the rest of the video (lagged) plays normally with no sound, whether the video is HD or not.It’s good the sound quality is better, but it shouldn’t affect the video resolution on an ordinary 3-minute clip. YT seems to be using up bandwidth just because it can, by increasing the compression limits, or maybe you are more worried about criticisms from people with upper-end technology than usability issues.Apparently “the world has changed” means “$200 can buy you a new computer that is better than what you bought 3 years ago, so go do that”. Well, usability should be an issue for the rest of us – YT should have a compression mechanism.Why is YT no longer compressing standard-quality vids to allow them to stream normally? And if that’s not going to be fixed, is there a way to increase the memory allocated to Flash 9 to allow it to stream standard quality content so that the video syncs up? Or does the new HQ mechanism simply no longer allow video compression because viewers with high speed connections complained?

  • Lamar [134];Didn’t some Brit get caught living it up with his “widow” in Belize after paddling of in his kayak with the intention of never being seen (alive) again? Seriously, if moving to some nondescript Central American country on an assumed identity isn’t far enough away, what is?