A Comparison of Linear Skinning Techniques for Character Animation

Character animation is the task of moving a complex, artificial character in a life-like manner. A widely used method for character animation involves embedding a simple skeleton within a character model and then animating the character by moving the underlying skeleton. The character’s skin is required to move and deform along with the skeleton. Research into this problem has resulted in a number of skinning frameworks. There has, however, been no objective attempt to compare these methods.

We compare three linear skinning frameworks that are computationally efficient enough to be used for real-time animation: Skeletal Subspace Deformation, Animation Space and Multi-Weight Enveloping. These create a correspondence between the points on a character’s skin and the underlying skeleton by means of a number of weights, with more weights providing greater flexibility. The quality of each of the three frameworks is tested by generating the skins for a number of poses for which the ideal skin is known. These generated skin meshes are then compared to the ideal skins using various mesh comparison techniques and human studies are used to determine the effect of any temporal artifacts introduced. We found that Skeletal Subspace Deformation lacks flexibility while Multi-Weight Enveloping is prone to overfitting. Animation Space consistently outperforms the other two frameworks.