I am not interested in using easy libraries like assimp which will import collada files with ease to get skeleton animation done.

I wanna know what is the minimal requirement to get the animation done.

What I understand is that a bone is a 3*3 rotation matrix which is associated with each group of vertex.

We have to augment it with the model matrix to animate anything

How would I play a sequential animation with my existing bone system.

What's the workflow to process the bones. Sending bones through Uniform block is slow but I would consider doing it.

What's the simplest file format to store rig and animation data. Collada is unnecessarily advanced and complex.

Or how would I write my own file format for animation.

I am using blender to model and rig. How would I even manage to get an exporter for my format in blender


1 Answer 1


Those are 3 questions:

  1. How to implement a simple skeletal animation in OpenGL
  2. What is the simplest file format to store skeletal structure and animation data
  3. How to import from Blender to OpenGL

I will focus on the main question and just add notes for the 2 others:

How to implement a simple skeletal animation in OpenGL

An simple skeletal require:

  • A simple bone could be a transformation matrix. Which apply a rotation and translation.
  • A bone apply to a set of vertexes
  • A bone effect on a specific vertex is weighted between 0 and 1. To avoid strange effect on articulations.

A very simple way to solve that in OpenGL is:

  • Every frame, update and save in an uniform vector each bones transformation matrix, ordered so a leaf is always after a root.
  • Each vertex in the VBO contain, not only its position and normal, but also a list of weights of the size of the bone vector.
  • In the vertex shader, for each bone, weight the bone matrix and apply it. So unrelated bones will multiply by the identity matrix, and relevant will have a real effect.
  • Several optimizations are possible

Short answer about file formats:

There are plenty of file-formats which accept bones, and to suggest one or another depends mostly of your specific requirements. I suggest you to look for:

  • Support bones, at the complexity you want.
  • Is not over-complex neither missing important features.
  • The format is documented and, ideally, standardized.

Blender native format is, however, generally not a good idea: the format is not formally defined, so it is difficult to implement an exporter (except by just copying the loading code).

Creating your own format is possible and quite easy: You may create a script in blender to export and load it in your application.


Requirement of data for a "correct" skeletal file format:

  • Bone hierarchy
  • Affected vertex per bone, or
  • Bones influence range, or weight per vertex.
  • Articulation axes, and angular limitations to every one
  • Animation of bones:
    • Allows several animations (e.g. one for walking, another for jumping...)
    • Definition of bone movement per animation.
    • Timing for the animation.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Considering that your question is very broad, I did my answer also very broad (does not make sense to extends technics that you will maybe not like). Tell me, or ask a new question if you want more details on a specific topic. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ What are the minimal components of skeletal animation file format \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 16:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @YashwanthCB: Added some hints, but some more complex animations could require far much. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Robotic animation is enough for me \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 16, 2016 at 16:40

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