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Markers form the fundamental building block of Ragdoll, to achieve Animation Capture a.k.a. "reverse motion capture".

Animation Capture

Capture your character rig, as though it was a live action actor.

Inspired by Motion Capture - Animation Capture is a new way to think about and work with physics in Maya. To learn about it, let's first understand how Motion Capture generally works.


Here is a typical data pipeline for motion capture, from real-life actor to final character animation.

# Description
1 Markers are attached to an actor
2 Markers are "captured"
3 A pointcloud is generated
4 A hierarchy of joints is generated
5 Joints drive a typical character rig
6 Rig drives final geometry for render

Each "Marker" is a dud. Nothing of any complexity. Something for the camera(s) to recognise and track as it moves through space. Once tracked, it's able to translate this Marker from a 2D image into a 3D position, and continues to do so for each Marker. The real processing to take place inside software.

Once the capture is complete, the human actor can remove the markers and go enjoy the rest of their day. The rest is up to the computer.

With 3D positions generated, software takes over to translate these points into a hierarchy; the FK joint hierarchy you may be familiar with if you've ever worked with mocap. The joint hierarchy can then be used to either drive the final geometry, or to drive a more complex character rig which in turn drives the final geometry.

Animation Capture is just like that, but in reverse. Instead of capturing a person, it captures your character rig.


# Description
1 Markers are attached to a character rig
2 Markers are "captured"
3 A rigid body is generated for each Marker
4 A hierarchy of constraints is generated to connect them
5 Simulation is recorded back onto the original character rig

Unlike motion capture, we'd like the result mapped back onto our character rig again, which is how animators iterate with physics.

Example 1 - Basics

Here's how to simulate a box.

  1. Select box
  2. Run Assign

Once you're happy with what you see..

  1. Run Record Simulation

Example 2 - Ragdoll

Here's how to setup a full Ragdoll.

1. Setup hierarchy

Select controls in the order you'd like them attached.

2. Edit shapes

Fit the shapes to your character model.

3. Record

Once your happy with the way the simulation looks, record it back onto your rig.


The Behaviour is how Ragdoll should interpret the controls you assign. Did you mean for them to remain animated, i.e. Kinematic? Or should they follow the control around, i.e. Dynamic?

The Behaviour can be set either for a whole group of markers, or each Marker individually.

Type Description
Inherit Do whatever the group is doing, or Dynamic if there is no group
Kinematic Follow the input exactly, physics need not apply
Dynamic Follow the input approximately, with some Stiffness and Damping


Follow the input exactly, no exceptions. Not even collisions.


Follow the local pose of your animation.

Pose Space

Pose matching happens in either Local or World space.

Look, it's Ragdoll Blaine!

This is an example of Worldspace Pose Stiffness. Ragdoll will try and reach the worldspace position and orientation of your rig, rather than only looking at the relative angles between each limb.

Here's another example of the difference between Local and Worldspace.

Notice how in Local space, the controls arms remain relative the torso. And with World space they instead follow the worldspace orientation of the controls.

This attribute is also animatable, and is how you can transition from animation into simulation and back again.

Here's a more complete example:

Frame Transition
100 Starts as a regular animated character
125 Transitions into physics as he jumps, for a physically-correct trajectory
155 Transitions back to animation once he rolls over on that cabinet
160 Transitions back to physics until he stands up
170 Transitions back into animation to match an exact pose
200 Partially transitions into physics, for secondary motion in the upper body as his arm is raised.

Overlap Group

Specify which markers may overlap rather than collide. This can be useful to enable dense areas of a character, like the clavicles, where there is natural overlap amongst large shapes like with the neck and spine.

Value Meaning
-1 No overlap allowed
0 Default, respects self-collision on the group (if any)
1-255 Overlap everything with the same number

An rdMarker part of a rdGroup can get an overlap group assigned procedurally, based on other members of that group. For example, in a complete ragdoll, all markers are part of the same group. So a Self Collide = On means these will all be given the same overlap group.

If it isn't in a group, then 0 is the same as -1, in that it will collide with everything.

Let's have a look at a few scenarios.

Collide with Everything

In this example, every Marker is part of the same group. The group has Self Collide = Off, which is fine for just about every Marker except the fingers. In that case, we do want self-collision, so they are given the group -1.

Respect Self Collision

In this case, we're happy with a default group of 0 since we don't need anything to self collide. Especially these clavicles that overlap significantly!

Surgical Control

Finally, for the very specific cases of wanting two or more markers to overlap. Notice how we give both the ground and 3 of the boxes an Overlap Group = 5.


Each Marker has a "material" to control how it interacts with other markers.


How much influence one Marker should have over another during contact.

Pro tip 1 - Misconception about Mass

A common misconception in physics is that Mass affects how quickly something falls to the ground. But in Ragdoll - like in real-life - mass is only relevant during interaction with another Marker and when forces are applied, like Guide Strength.

Have a look at this video of a bowling ball falling in a vacuum alongside a feather.

Pro tip 2 - Making something fall faster

So how do you make something fall faster?

  1. Decrease Scene Scale under the solver node
  2. Increase Gravity, also under the solver node

To make something "bend" faster, like an arm flexing, that would be controlled via the Guide Strength and typically what causes it to reach a given speed and then stay there is governed by the Rotate Damping. That's how much of any motion should be cancelled out, to stabilise the motion. A very fast motion would have very little damping, but then also run the risk of "overshooting". That is, of passing the point at which you wanted it to reach.



Ragdoll can automatically compute a suitable mass for each Marker, based on the volume of your shape and a density of your choosing.

In other words, big objects become heavy, small objects become light.




Enter any value, or pick one from these pre-defined ones.

Density Value Description
Cotton 0.05 Very sparse, 0.05 grams per cubic centimeter
Wood 0.2 Sparse, 0.2 grams per cubic centimeter
Flesh 1.0 Default, 1.0g/cm3
Uranium 19.0 Dense, 19.0g/cm3
Black Hole 1000.0 Very, very dense

Mass is computed based on the volume of your shape, along with a density of your choosing.


Choose between various densities either at creation-time or after creation.


The computed mass updates interactively as you change the size and type of your shape, including convex hulls!

In the Manipulator, you'll be able to not only edit the density, but preview the computed mass given the current shape volume and density you provide.




Control how much resistance should be added between two rigids rubbing against each other.



Control how much rigids should repel each other when coming into contact.


Values beyond 1.0

Here's a tip!

Bounciness can be greater than 1.0, which means they will gain energy during contact.

In practice, energy will always dissipate in some way. The most-bouncy character in the GIF above has a bounciness of 2.0, which in theory means that for every contact it should fly 200% faster away than it did coming in, and keep doing this forever.

Center of Mass

If you try and balance something on your finger, but the "center of mass" is off center, it would fall over.


It is the point at which the weight of an object is equal in all directions.

Ragdoll automatically computes this point based on what the shape looks like. For meshes, it will voxelise your geometry to figure out the physically accurate volumetric center of mass, assuming the density of the object is uniform throughout (rather than hollow or variadic, like swiss cheese).

You now override this point using the attribute Center of Mass found under the Advanced tab.

ragdollcom ragdollcom2


  • For realistic results, leave it at 0 to compute the point automatically based on the shape
  • For full control, override it

Angular Mass

In real life, if you spin a broom 180 degrees along its length; that's easy. But if you spin it 180 degrees along any other axis, like a ninja, it's considerably heavier.

The reason is something called "angular mass", also known as "moment of inertia". It's like mass, but in terms of rotation rather than position. The broom has a low angular mass along its length axis. It takes more force to affect a "heavier" axis than a lighter one which is why a broom spins more easily along its length.

This effect happens in Ragdoll too and is typically automatically computed for you based on the shape you use. If it looks like the broom, it will act like a broom.

With this release, you can now customise this for greater control of your rotations.


When would you want to do that?

  1. Your shape looks like a broom, but you want it to act like a box
  2. Your shape doesn't look like a broom, but you would like it to act like one

Or any combination in between. :) Generally, a broom or any thin shape is more easily spun along its length, so you may find stability in setting your angular mass to (1.0, 1.0, 1.0), at the expense of realism.


  • For realistic results, leave it at -1 to automatically compute the angular mass
  • For full control, override it

Last update: 2023-02-07