Aurélien Charrier created extensive 3D Animation software Akeytsu and released through the brand name Nukeygara.
3D creation is getting more and more accessible by aspiring artist who wants to animate characters or creatures as a hobby. It also needs to be more and more productive for AAA titles or outstanding VFX in high budget films. We also note an increase of pipeline mixing 2D and 3D, and consequently more people coming from the 2D animation world who are learning 3D. For all of these cases and reasons, a specialized 3d animation software focusing its development on three simple qualities: fast, easy and fun was needed in the marketplace.
Our lead designer, founder and CEO Aurélien Charrier has graduated from a renowned 2D animation school and he created the tool to speed up the workflow. His philosophy lies in the notion of why to put away very productive features, when it serves animation in general whether it is 2D or 3D. Also it’s so important in designing new features to always think on how the artist would be feeling the most comfortable. If he/she feels not frustrated by the technology, it will lead to more productive environment.
Read more for in-depth details of revolutionary 3D Animation software, Akeytsu from Nukeygara. Julie Barrette, Business Development Executive at Nukeygara helped us for this exclusive interview.
Hi Julie. What was the striking chord to invent new software altogether?
It might sound a little odd but the idea and first fruits of Akeytsu comes from the fact that the two founders while working as Lead animator and Software developer at Eden Games on titles such as “Alone in the Dark” and “Kia: Dark lineage”, over a period of 12 years, conclude, after putting in place many additional tools in their existing software and pipeline, that a focused animation software simplifying the rigging and animation was seriously needed in the industry.
As Aurélien Charrier, the CEO of Nukeygara, was coming from 2D animation and jumped quickly into 3D animation in games creation, he immediately felt that 3D pipeline is too complex with the existing tools used by the studio and the industry in general. So the discussion started with his partner because of the pain they were feeling on a daily basis. They switched this pain and frustrations into an opportunity: designing and develop a software strictly focused on 3D animation with the needs of the animator as the central point to orient the tool design and the UI. This explains why we qualify Akeytsu as “3D Animation reinvented” and also as “Designed by Animators, for Animators”.
What was the vision for Akeystu that was missing in existing industry standard packages?
Simplicity, ergonomics and velocity.
Why to create manipulators on top of the joints, instead of simply select the skinned mesh and manipulate the models with its skeleton? That’s why, in Akeytsu you can handle FK and IK on one single skeleton and switch from one to the other in one-click.
Also, the skinning was honestly a nightmare, we made it fun and fast through a duo process in Akeytsu without making any compromise on the quality of the skinning you get, at the opposite I would say. So many things were constraining in the standard packages, just the fact to change the rigging (which is often the cases in production) of a character was stopping the animators and oblige them to wait for the modified rig to continue their animation or start over again. In Akeytsu, you have two panels – one for rigging/skinning and one for animation and you can easily go from one to another, rectifying your rigging and animate with this modified rig, without loosing so much time!
And most importantly we though the existing UI in generalist 3D animation software, were not meant for animators, not designed to facilitate the expression of their creativity – a huge work has been done with our spinner to make it smooth and efficient.
Company and software names are very much unique – Nukeygara and Akeytsu. Any philosophy behind these names?
Yes of course, it’s the result of a long cogitation.
Our software is light and agile like a dragonfly and as we loved this quick on the draw insect to represent our toolset, we’ve done research on how it was called in different languages and found Akitsu: a dragonfly in ancient Japanese language. While we were looking for this, we also found that the chrysalis, where the dragonfly grows before getting out as a butterfly and discover its surrounding environment, is called Nukegara in ancient Japanese and as we were developing keyframing tools, we thought the link between the creator Nukegara and the software Akitsu was great by changing a bit both words and unify them with a Key in the creator’s name and the creation: Nukeygara creating Akeytsu.
Which programming language is used for Akeystu? Kindly provide brief details.
- Akeytsu is developed in C++
- Only on Windows for now
- UI is handmade and does not use any UI library
- Rendering is coded through Open GL
What were your major challenges and how you tackled them?
Well, we could already say that building a new 3D animation software was a challenge by itself.
However, one of our main challenge was about the design: to propose a very innovative design, without any compromise, and a design that could be technically feasible for our development team. And we are talking here about a “2-levels design” meaning a first global design that comprehends the full software and makes it homogeneous in its globality and a specific design that can fit any specificities that requires our (very special) features. So yes, re-inventing features and integrate them into this strong design were the “starting point challenge”.
And of course, it takes a lot of time to rethink everything. If we would have to highlight some features (quite challenging for us ?), our smart IK/FK solver, our Duo Skin process or our auto Reverse Foot could be considered as the most challenging (as much in design as in development). We tackled them with taking a lot of time for designing each of them, a lot of testing (more than two years Beta period with hundreds of users) and a very talented R&D team.
Please explain ground breaking tools / techniques of Akeystu.
Yes, with pleasure, do you have a couple of hours in front of you ? Let’s summarize them:
- Light Rig & Skin – Skinning and rigging tools have been simplified to accelerate this entire process of 3D animation. Curve manipulators are no longer necessary to handle the character, as artists can now simply click on the skinned mesh to create their poses. A new duo skin feature provides intuitive duo-steps skinning, saving time without sacrificing high quality results.
- IK/FK solver – Doing away with complex manipulators, Akeytsu’s simplified process allows animators to handle IK and FK in a single skeleton.
- Spinner – Akeytsu introduces a unique 2D manipulator, allowing fast and easy rotation, translation, reverse foot and IK pole vector controls for 3D animation. It has also been designed to avoid the constant and tedious camera view adjustments required by most tools to select thin axis line on screen.
- Curveboard – Akeytsu offers a fully integrated F-curve editor directly in the 3D viewpoint, granting users the ability to animate in a single monitor.
- Cyclemaker – With Cyclemaker, animators only need to do the first part of a character’s motion cycle; Akeytsu will automate the rest. Cyclemaker also makes it so artists can modify motion on just one side, then have the software automatically modify the other.
- Stacker – Akeytsu’s stacker reworks the X-sheet, from traditional 2D keyframing to fit the 3D workflow, offering a vertical keyframe editor that works in conjunction with the timeline keyframe editor. The stacker takes into account the built-in layering system of the mixer.
How Akeytsu can fit in any existing production pipeline of a studio?
As of today, we import and export through the FBX file format, but we are working on other formats as our user base is requesting additional ones. FBX files format are exported as FBX 2014.0.0 version in Akeytsu 1.0.
The workflow is straightforward, we recommend to import the 3D models from any generalist or specialized modeling software and after importing the model, the best pipeline is to rig, skin and animate in Akeytsu (using our mirroring, it’s faster to do the skinning and rigging part in Akeytsu) and then export to the game engine or the rendering package.
Akeytsu 1.0 imports and exports the following information from FBX format: Meshes, Materials, Textures, Skeletons, Animations (No loop information, nor Key Tangent information), Skinning with weights (Smooth Skin (2) only), Characters as dummies and Hierarchy.
In addition, we also have a native file format AKT that is meant to be used from and to Akeytsu only. It also saves the main content: Meshes, Materials, Textures, Skeletons, Multi-layers (override mode) Animations (Loop info and Key Tangent information), Skinning with weights (Rigid Skinning (1) and Smooth Skin (2)), Characters and Hierarchy (including dummies). It also ensures conservation of Akeytsu internal information like IK, Reverse Foot, Check Mode pose, Views, Cameras and File preferences.
Kindly share production credentials and awards / accolades.
Yes, we have early adopters, using Akeytsu since the beginning of our Beta period, almost two years ago, such as Hyperkinetic Studios who are developing “Epic Tavern”. Or another great game development studio in Germany called Daedalic Entertainment who has released among many other titles “The Long Journey Home”.
Of course, as we are based in France we also have great studios like Parallel Studio or RyseUp Studios using Akeytsu and we see increasing adoption from VFX studios like EsenFX Studios or episodic TVs in Japan where we have tons of users because it’s a traditional animation country and maybe they feel confident with our name.
Akeytsu has been nominated as the “Top Innovative and Game changing 3D Technology” at the latest Paris Image Digital Summit, but the most important for us are the fabulous feedbacks we are receiving from several thousands of users, this is the by far the best Award you can have as a software editor. The testimonials we receive are quite incredible, specifically for the time freelancers or studios are saving with Akeytsu and the pleasure they have with the software, as one of them said: Wow, Animating is fun again!
Why the latest edition is limited to only Windows OS?
It was a choice when Akeytsu development started in 2013 because most of our first target users were working on Windows OS. But it’s in our plan to release a multi-platform version of Akeytsu by 2019.
Kindly share your future plans.
Well, among our different ideas based on our user requests, we are currently working on blend shapes in Akeytsu. It is quite exciting because it will be a new component perfectly blended with our toolset. As always, our goal is to make it the most easy and intuitive process. We can already say we will bring a very nice workflow for facial animation ?.
Another awaited feature is the object dynamical link (knows as Space switching) to allow and facilitate object parenting in Akeytsu. Custom cameras are on the list too and much more that we cannot reveal at this point.
The Virtual Assist thanks Julie Barrette for providing such a great interview, with huge gamut of knowledge on Akeytsu, the focused software for 3D Animation. We wish entire technical and management team of Nukeygara a mammoth success ahead.