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Feb 23, 2021

The Sandbox - How VoxEdit works

In this article, I want to present a full explanation of this software

The mission

This month, I have the opportunity to work with a new software called VoxEdit to create a series of characters and assets. In this article, I want to present a full explanation of this software—what it is for and how it works—and share my opinion about it.

Resources

  • VoxEdit

VoxEdit, what is it?

VoxEdit is software designed to create, rig and animate custom voxel models. As of the moment I'm writing this, the software is in a beta release, starting from January 31, 2020.

The software was developed by The Sandbox, a platform enabling users to sell voxels and gaming experiences on the Blockchain.

While there are still areas where this software can be improved, it serves as an excellent starting point for creating voxel models, given its simple and user-friendly interface. Some features can be particularly helpful to new users.

In this article, I aim to discuss about the different interfaces available and share what I’ve found to be the best approach for creating full humanoid characters.

VoxEdit, the modeler

Once you open the program, you’ll encounter an interface showcasing all the options this software provides.

In this first article, I’ll focus solely on discussing the modeler and the animator features.

The Sandbox interface menu

The Sandbox program interface

So without further ado, let's begin. Once you click the modeler panel, you’ll find small menu where you can access the most recent models that you’ve created, create a new asset and access a tutorial that explains the basic controls of this software.

Once you create a new asset or open one you’ve created before, you’ll find yourself in the modeler interface.

The Sandbox tools

To explain the different tools, I’ve divided the interface into parts based on their position and functionality:

1 → Top part or tools related to the viewer

2 → Tools to create voxels

3 → Tools to create color palettes

4 → Viewer

While it may seem overwhelming at first, these easier are much easier to use than you might think. In the viewer part, you can observe the model in perspective or ortographic view. Additionally, you can view the voxel as a pixelated image.

Viewer voxel pixelated image

Tools related to the viewer

Top part or tools related to the viewer

From left to right, the tools are as follows:

  • The home button
  • Save button
  • Duplicates the number of voxels
  • Reduces the number of voxels by half
  • Cut the unused space on the voxels
  • This trio of tools rotates the model around the axis, red for X, green for Y and blue for Z

Head pumpkin voxel gif

  • Inverts the model along the axis
  • Acivates symmetry mode, allowing you to work on both sides simultaneously. This mode is incremental, enabling you to activate all three axes at once to work on all four corners simultaneously.
  • Adjust the density of voxels, allowing you to choose the density you want in each axis.
  • Allows you to view the "wireframe" of the model in different ways: each voxel individually, a mix between faces and voxels, or just the faces.

Wireframe tool voxels

The last button serves as a focus button, allowing you to center the camera on the model.

Tools to create Voxels

Tools to create Voxels

This set of tools is divided in several parts, including different modes for the tools, methods for applying voxels, a color picker and a pivot. From top to bottom:

Mode tools

  • Select tool: allows you to select voxels and move them
  • Add voxels
  • Paint voxels
  • Erase voxels

Tools for Voxels

  • Pencil: adds one voxel at a time
  • Line: adds voxels to create a straight line
  • Area: adds/paints/erases voxels in a selected area
  • Face: adds/paints/erases voxels on a face
  • By color: adds/paints/erases voxels in an area with the same color

Color Picker

  • Allows you to pick the color of the model without having to go to the palette. You can activate this tool by clicking the “Alt” button.

Pivot

  • Allows you to move the pivot to a different part of the model.

Tools color palette

Colur tool palette

One of the best features, in my opinion, of this software is the color palette.

In the first part, you can select the color you want, and you can also paste the code to get the color. This part is pretty standard and similar to color pickers found in software like Photoshop and other similar tools.

However, the interesting part comes from the menu below (the three stripes icon), where you can store the different colors you use in the model. You can change colors from there, as well as save and load color palettes.

For example, when creating a humanoid character composed by several parts, you will need the same palette to work with consistency.

This feature allows you to save the color palette and load it for the next part, ensuring uniformity across the model.

VoxEdit, the animator

In comparision with the modeler part, the animator has fewer tools available, which in some aspects can make it more challenging to understand.

However, let’s start from the beginning. When you click on the animator in VoxEdit, you’ll encounter a start page that looks very similar to the modeler’s start page. However, here, instead of tutorials, we have templates with pre-made animations. We’ll discuss this in more detail later on.

Project animation menu

If we create a new project, we can find the following tools:

Project animation menu

To explain the different tools here, I’ve also divided the interface into different sections:

1 → Top part or tools related to the skeleton

2 → The rigging section

3 → Timeline and animations

4 → Library, where you can see all the models within the same folders as the animator. You can also import other VXm models, which creates a copy of the model in the folder.

Tools related to the rig or skeleton

Rig tools skeleton

From left to right:

  • The home button to return to the main page
  • Save button
  • Select the model part you are interested in
  • Move the selected part of the model
  • Rotate the selected part
  • Two tools to choose between moving only the model or the bone. This is important becasue if you have selected the model, you only move the selected model, but if you move bone, you move the selected bone and its children
  • This button allows you to view the skeleton

Rig skeleton

  • Allows you to see the boundaries of the voxels that you have created and imported into the scene
  • Inverse kinematics
  • Focuses the models in your scene

Rig

Rig menu The Sandbox

In this section, you can view the rig. When starting a new project, you only have the root bone. To create a new bone, click on the three dots menu.

This menu allows you to create a child node, rename the node and duplicate or delete the node.

Rig menu The Sandbox

Once you have the rig created, you can add a model from the library by dragging the model onto the bone. Once this is done, you can access a very useful button: the pencil that appears on the model.

This button allows you to access the modeler window and make adjustments to the model directly from the animator.

After making adjustments to the model, we can return to the animator window by clicking on the home button in the modeler window.

Timeline and animations

Timeline tool

From this window, we can create the animations. Here, the different bones we created are displayed, along with the keyframes. It's important to note that the animation is always recording, so if you’re still creating the rig, avoid moving the timeline because doing so will create a keyframe.

Once you have the fully animated model, you can create a new animation by selecting the menu from the current animation, then choosing “New animation”. From this menu, we can select and change the animation as desired.

Timeline menu

In the “Template” section,  you can find a set of pre-made animations. However, the controls for the animation are deactivated, meaning you cannot directly modify them.

VoxEdit, a pipeline

Once these two parts are explained, I'm going to propose one of the possible pipelines to create your own characters.

For that purpose, first, I'll explain how the characters work here. The characters are composed of nine essential parts:

  • Head
  • Chest
  • Hips
  • Legs x2
  • Forelegs x2
  • Feet x2
  • Arms x2
  • Forearms x2
  • Hands x2

Once you have defined the parts, here comes the essential part where the pipeline divides into two sections. You can either create the parts from the modeler and then import them into the animator, or open the template and edit the models from the animator.

The first method has several disanvantages. For example, you can't control the proportions of the different parts of the models. So, when you import them into the animator template to use the animations, the parts may not fit properly.

Model proportions

If you decide to create a new animation scene and you don't have pre-made animations, you’ll need to create them from scratch.

Therefore, if your objective is to create humanoid models, I would recommend opening a template and editing each piece of the model from the pencil button, as we explained in the animator section.

New animation template

The proportions are already set, and the animations work with the model. However, the downside is that you move the parts rather than rotating them, and you cannot edit the animations to customize them for your model.

Animations work with the model

Conclusion

All in all, this software is really easy to use and has some great features, such as the connection between the animator and the modeler, as well as the color palette.

However, there is still room for improvement. The software can be a bit slow, and the lack of keyboard shortcuts can be  umconfortable (e.g., there is no “CTRL+S” for saving; you can only save by clicking the save button). These may seem like small issues, but they can slow down your workflow, making the modeling process a bit cumbersome.

Final avatar animated
Avatars
The Sandbox
Voxedit
Laura Usón
Creative Art Director

Passionate about videogames, movies and creatures. Artist by day and superhero at night.

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