AT-AT 3D Model Point Rig in Hitfilm


I am trying to set up a 3D AT-AT model from Star Wars to walk like in the movies. How do I do this? I have the animation groups set up, but how can I use point layers to parent all the parts to? I have tried putting them at the joints but it would take forever to animate the rotation and the piston part on the foot wouldn't work...

Any help or suggestions? 



  • Ok, so you've set up the animation groups correctly? If so, Create a brand new Composite Shot, drag in the AT-AT.  Open the AT-AT layer on the timeline, then open the Models tab you should see every seperate animation group listed as a "seperate model." Next to each group you'll see a parenting dialog. In short, you can parent each animation group to its own point.

    Now it's a matter of building up a point rig, and, for an AT-AT, that will be tedious. I would start by creating a "AT-AT Move Point" and line that up with the center of the AT-AT. Then move this point down to ground level. That way, when you move the entire model, it centers off the feet. If you have a ground plane, parenting Move Point to Ground Plane and setting Move Point position to 0,0,0 will place the AT-At in the center of the Ground Plane, feet on the ground. Scaling Move Point will scale the AT-AT around its feet so it stays locked to the ground.

    In fact, create a plane, add a grid effect, make it 3D and move it to become a ground plane. You'll need it later. 

    Now create points for the "hips" of each leg ("FL HIP," "FR HIP," "RL HIP,""RR HIP." Front-Left, Front-Right, Rear-Left, Rear-Right.) position them at the joints and parent these to Move Point. A Neck Pivot should be created, positioned, and parented to Move Point.

    Create and position "Knee" points and parent knees to the relevant Hips (FL KNEE parents to FL HIP, etc..) . Create "Ankle" points and parent to relevant Knees. Maybe there's a head pivot? Parent that to neck. 

    You say the foot piston won't work? Those aren't their own animation groups? If they can be animation groups, parent feet to ankles.

    Now in the AT-AT layer, open the Models tab and parent animation groups to the correct points.

    While you're here, open Materials for the AT-AT layer and make certain shadows and ambient occlusion are set how you want. 

    Now go to the Media Panel, right-click the Composite Shot with the AT-AT and SAVE COMPOSITE SHOT. I recommend saving it to the same folder the model is stored in. I recommend saving at "AT-AT STANDING." Now your rigged model can import into any project by importing the Composite Shot. Rigging is a pain. Rig once, save, reuse forever (do this with all your 3D models... If you spend an hour tweaking materials and rigs, saving the Composite Shot means you never do that again! Abd it keeps models consistent between projects.)

    Now, after that hard work, the bad news... Hitfilm is primarily a Compositing and VFX program. It's Editor is getting better (and in HF 2017 there are a lot of improvements), but still lags behind other NLEs. It's 3D model capabilities are a nice bonus, but Hitfilm isn't really a 3D model animation program. Hitfilm is great for spaceships, since that's moving a simple object in 3D space and Animation groups are good for simple sub-movements--doors, tires, propellers, rotors, etc, but not really suitable for complex character animation (and moving an AT-AT is like moving a 4-legged animal. An AT-AT is a "character").

    There is no IK, no mesh deformation, no tools to assist in animation in Hitfilm other than manual point keyframeing.

    You'll have to work "center-out," starting with Move point, then Hips, Knees, Ankles, with Feet last. Bottom line is hours of tedious keyframing, with lots of corrections along the way. Fortunately, AT-ATs don't have vertical motion of the body as it walks, so you won't have to adjust for that. 

    An AT-AT steps with a front leg first, then the opposite rear leg. Then the hips rotate, pulling the body forward. Then the other two legs move. 

    So. Animate the first leg stepping forward, then the second leg stepping forward. These will just be rotation keys on the correct axis for each key. Then adjust Move point for the distance moved for this half step (the start key should be "Smooth" the end key "Constant") . Animate all legs to keep feet locked in position on the ground. This will suck. This will be where the foot piston group is needed. 

    Repeat for the opposite two legs. Tweak this single step of all four legs until it looks good. Just one step.... We're just worried about the legs for a single cycle of all four legs. 

    Once that works, Save the Composite Shot ("AT-AT WALK CYCLE").

    It's rare in a Star Wars film to see an AT-AT for long enough to complete a full walk cycle. One step should be enough. For a longer version, copy and paste all your leg keyframes for as many steps as you need. Create "Move" keys for each step (you can't copy/paste those, but each step is the same distance. It won't take long. Again, first key of a Move adjust is Smooth interpolation, the second is Constant Interpolation) 

    Save the Composite Shot (Walk Cycle) again. 

    Now your walking AT-AT is ready to drop into a scene. Now you can worry about the head. Head is easy. 

    All that said, for REBELLION the AT-AT would have been animated in a full 3D program and saved out as either an Alembic or FBX file (FBX is HFP 2017 only), imported to Hitfilm with existing animation built in. Blender is a free 3D program that can export Alembic. DAZ Studio is a free animation program with an $80 add-on to export Alembic. 

  • Wow, thanks for the tips...

    On Hitfilm's post for REBELLION they said that they are going to make an At-At tutorial for Pro 2017, and include the 3D model. So should I wait for that, or try the steps you listed? Also the foot pistons do have animation groups but I don't know how to set them up for the two parts to go in and out of each other. Anyway, thanks for the help!


  • Oh, for the last two parts of the foot piston, it's again a matter of separating the animation groups and moving the point into position, and parenting. 

    I think with REBELLION FxHome said they "might" include the AT-AT model? Either way that tutorial won't be out until some time in January, I think. I would say do your own animation now. If you get it to work A) you'll learn a lot about rigging in Hitfilm, B) it will be YOUR animation, not reusing someone else's, and  C) if I am correct and they animated in a 3D package and exported Alembic, you'll get what they give you and it'll be what it is. With your own rig, you can change it up. 

    And if it's way too annoying to animate the walk without foot drift, then eventually the tutorial AT-AT will be available as a backup. :-) 

  • @Triem23 You have stated before that most of your posts are via your phone. Please don't tell me you typed this all out that way! This is a great, very detailed, written out instruction on how to rig and animate a 3D model. Thanks man!

  • @HitfilmSensei yup. Phone.

    Eventually, I'll do the tutorial, but I'll be rigging a Dalek. Like so:

    Of course Daleks don't have legs. An AT-AT walk cycle animated in Hitfilm is truly a major task and a real challenge. 


  • @Triem23 Wow! Hopefully, you have talk to text, or if not, at least a really good carpal tunnel doctor! :)

  • @HitfilmSensei bit of both? 

  • @Triem23 It is still a really great explanation. I have copied it and put it in my personal lessons folder for later reference. Thanks again for such a detailed writing.

  • @HitfilmSensei sweet! And thanks. 

  • Here is a short test of what I have so far...

    It still needs help with a more realistic walking animation. Any help?

    Also @Triem23 what do you mean by the first keyframe being smooth and the second constant? Do you mean the key frame where the leg moves up set to smooth and when it sets back down to constant?

  • @ZCC_Productions ; Wow!  That is impressive.  I wouldn't even attempt articulated motion in HF because it is so cumbersome.    That makes me want to give a go again.

    Triem23 is right about importing your model and adding Alembic from a bonafide  3D package such as Blender (free).  But even then, you'll have some of the same issues that are present in your test.  Namely, making the feet stick while the CG of the model is still moving.   If you can crack that with HF you will have many worshiping at your feet.

  • Thanks @Stargazer54 ;

    I will continue to try to improve this...

  • That does look pretty good.

    I've always thought the AT-AT walked like an Elephant. The legs on the same side are closely sequenced. A short video for movement ideas.

  • That's some deep research @NormanPCN ;)

  • Google is your friend. "Elephant gait". Second item in search. If I did not get something first page my deep research would have stopped.

    Anyway I was going to add. Elephants are graceful in movement. An AT-AT should probably be clunky and lumbering. 

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited December 2016

    @NormanPCN this is a compilation of clips from Empire put together by an animator as walk reference. It does show an AT-AT moves via alternating sides as described above.

    ZCC Impressive... Most impressive... That's amazing  for an overnight draft. For criticism, all I have is it's a touch fast for a walker, but that's a simple matter of stretching keyframe durations out. Otherwise, just some finessing to keep the feet from sliding, but you did a great job aligning to the ground--feet aren't floating or burrowing, so that's the hardest part! 

    Yes, you have the correct meaning for the smooth and constant keys. I can obviously see you've done that.

    Otherwise use the YouTube clip above as reference seeing what the actual Walkers do will guide animation. For example, I was wrong when I said the body just slid along. There's actually a bit of dip and sway. You can probably get away without it, mind you. 

    Great work! This is only going to improve as you refine it.

    Seriously, I would probably have tried to animate this in Blender and export Alembic rather than animate directly in Hitfilm. And I'm the guy who just wrote the book on how to do it! 

    edited December 2016

    I guess some of the weird movements come from the fact that the original AT AT are basically stop motion compared to controlled frame by frame in animation software today.

    @ZCC_Productions That looks awesome! =)


  • edited December 2016

    @Triem23  Saves me putting the Blu-ray in. To my eye, they do walk like Elephants. That movement may be like many 4 legged creatures. Elephants come to mind because of their size.

    At 0:28 I can see the right front leg move forward and sequenced shortly after by the right rear.

    Another thing I was thinking. The AT-AT visually are really more akin to a Camel or Giraffe. Very long legs for their size. But I digress.


  • I never really thought of Star Wars and Henry Mancini together until this thread.

  • @Aladdin4d hahaha.

    @JoshDaviesCEO Alembic exports from Blender is for wusses*. 100% Hitfilm, bay-bee! ;-) 

    *except anything organic or requiring mesh deformation, in which case, yeah, Alembic. 

  • Wow thanks for the support!

    I will continue to upload the progress...

    I am using a video I found online of an AT-AT walk cycle for reference, although the free model I found isn't perfect for animating, I am making it work.


  • Okay! Here is the second test!

    It is slower, improved walking  animation, and the little piston things connecting the feet and shins are animated to stick together instead of splitting in the middle. 

    I might post another video if you want from more of a front view is it looks a bit better from the  front.

    Hope you like it!

  • Damn, that's looking good! It's a much better walking speed, and you fixed the foot drift. So that's basically ready to go! Keep this shot as your "taking last step and stopping" rig and make a duplicate. Copy your animation  keys for steps two, three, four, five, etc and do the adjustments on your master move point for the "keep walking" version. In fact, I would make this longer version a full 30 seconds, or even longer! That way, if you're doing a scene with several AT-ATs, you load the long version then duplicate it in the animation timeline. Then you can offset the duplicates to use different bits of the animation for each walker for some quick variety!

    Just drag in duplicate embedded composites and set em to 3D unrolled. You'll have one layer per walker and can quickly drag each one where needed in 3D space without worrying about messing up the point rig. Then slide them on the timeline to offset animation! 

    This is good "lazy" workflow. Take the time to build something long and detailed once as a template  so you can reuse it forever. 

  • Thanks @Triem23!

    I will try duplicating the keyframes and doing what you said next...

    Maybe the next upload will be a few walkers walking and shooting in an actual scene with a projected landscape and camera move.

    Do you know how to make some particle dust clouds under the feet when they step down? That would add to the shot along with a camera shake...


  • @ZCC_Productions That is awesome!  Excellent job.

  • Sure!

    In the same shot as your walk cycle comp create a new 3D point (Dust Point) and a particle sim layer. Make the emitter shape a circle and set trajectory to disc. Attach the emitter to Dust Point. In the Shape controls check "Boundary." Move Dust Point to be below the first foot impact and adjust the orientation of the emitter and the radius until it's parallel to the ground and just a touch larger than the foot. Also, move the particle layer in time so that its first frame lines up with the foot impact. Your AT-AT and particle layers should be in 3D Unrolled mode so the particles interact correctly with the model (If you're in HFP 2017 you might leave these layers in 2D mode and use the Depth Matte effect instead).

    Set particle appearance to use one of the smoke or dust presets. Don't worry about color yet--you'll worry about that later. Velocity you'll have to adjust till it looks right. Lifetime you'll have to adjust till it looks right, but I'm thinking 5-10 seconds might be good....

    You'll need to adjust particles per second so that you have a nice amount of particles spawning on a single frame, and keyframe the "active" property of the emitter so that this emitter is only emitting particles for one or two frames.

    In the Lifetime panel you'll want to adjust opacity so that your particles start off as fairly translucent, then fade to transparent. You'll want to adjust the scale of the particles so they start smaller and get bigger as they disperse and fade. You'll want to adjust the speed of the particles so they start moving quickly, then slow to a stop as air resistance halts the dust.

    For this emitter we don't want the particles to respond to forces, but we do want it to respond to deflectors.

    So add a deflector and set that to use your ground plane. Check the infinite plane checkbox, because....

    Now--we're not using forces for this emitter, but what if you wanted to have the dust blow in a certain direction to simulate wind? In the movement controls for the particle system you'll see an "Acceleration" value. Try changing that--maybe try a value of 5,0,0. This is 5 x and 0 y/z. You'll see the dust start to blow in a certain direction like there's a bit of wind without using forces!

    Oh, once you're happy with that emitter, duplicate it. Change the trajectory to CONE, and adjust the cone orientation so it's shooting up. Adjust the radius to something like 90 or so.  For this emitter up the particles per second a bit, drop the scale a bit, and go into the Lifetime panel and remove the existing graphs for scale and opacity.

    For this second emitter, make the particle system respond to forces, then add a force. By default a new force pulls down to be gravity. Adjust the strength to taste.

    So the first emitter should be pushing dust out--this is the dust blown by air displacement rushing out from under the AT-ATs foot. The second emitter should be throwing dust in the air which settles back to the ground. This is the impact dust. You might consider copying the impact emitter and giving it a narrower cone radius, maybe 10? And a bit less velocity. Depending on ther terrain, you might want to have a cone emitter but setting the particle texture to something like stone or concrete debris. in this case you don't want any opacity or scale keyframes, since these would be any rocks getting kicked up .

    Now right click this particle layer and Create 3D Preset. It's ready to get added into any shot you want....

    For each step--well, it's up to you if you want to use different instances of the particle layer, or if you want to use the same particle layer, but keyfrmae the Dust Point from location to location and keyframe the emitters to "puff" on each step. Either works.

    Once you've added your environment layers you can worry about particle color. You'd do particle color by going into the lifetime panel and setting up a color gradient. set the gradient type to random, them sample a few colors from the ground you're actually using. (in retrospect, set up the gradient on first setup, then it's ready to go and you only have to sample colors._

    The neat thing about this particle sim is you'll be able to use it with just a little adjustment for other things. For example, AT-AT- fire... Hey, this same impact emitter is now the dust and debris kicked up by blaster fire! Tweak the particle seeds a bit and maybe the other values. Rotate the emitters so they aren't facing the exact same as the footsteps, or something. Pop a stock footage explosion in the center for the fireball and let the particle sim do the dust and debris! Rotate the emitters to be vertical, and they're wall impacts.


  • Wow thanks @Triem23 ;

    I will have a go at it! And for the explosion from the lasers I could use the free stock footage Hitfilm gave out for Christmas!

  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator
    edited December 2016

    You could. It you want to get fancy, take an explosion into its own Composite Shot and shrink it down. Make this Composite about 500px wide by 1000px high and scale the explosion to fit. Adjust the position of the explosion so its "ground level" is at the center of the screen.  Put a black plane below and an adjustment layer above with a Demult effect. Maybe some glow after the Demult. Proxy this and bring it into your main comp and use it as a video texture source in the particle explosion layer. You'll use a point emitter aligned with the same point as the circle emitters. Set trajectory to cone, radius to 0 and check Billboard, if needed. Set of the Active property and Particles per Second to spawn one fireball. This will put your fireball in the middle of the dust where it's occluded properly with the dust and debris without worrying about comping multiple layers. 

    This HF2U tutorial shows how to set up a video layer as a particle texture:

    Optionally you could use multiple fireball particles (give them velocity) to create a bigger explosion. That could look like this (although this is a "zero-G"  space explosion).

    You could also forgo the stock explosion and use built in textures. In the below example things are set up mostly as described above, but a circle emitter is spewing mobile emitters which are spawning cloud particles in flamey colors and dust particles. This version would need a few tweaks to fit into a scene (too much color on the dust, but it was showing more clearly what is actually happening), but it's 100% procedural Hitfilm.

  • Hey @Triem23

    I am following your particle steps for the dust. I think that I'm pretty happy so far with the first part with the disc trajectory, but the cone one is causing some confusion...

    What is it supposed to look like? An actual cone shape or is that just the trajectory, because currently it is just a ring shooting up from the foot...

    How high is the impact dust supposed to shoot up? What do you recommend for the force strength and particle mass?

    And is the non impact dust (disc trajectory) supposed to rise quite high?

    Thanks for all your help!

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