I’ve been working with a principle called Vertex Animation Textures lately. In essense this is about using texture maps to drive animation of a non dynamic number of mesh entities in a 3D scene.
I used the Houdini Game Development Tools that allow you to export a set of packed geometries into said images. The package also comes with a unity shader, that reads those textures and applies the transformation on vertex level.
So I created a houdini POP sim based on some a bit terrible but free motion capture animation I found on TurboSquid. It too a not unnerving amount of fiddling with packed transforms to make it all work and stick, but once it all was in Unity, it was fairly straightforward to work.
I’ve to say, it’s a pretty neat trick to get some very complex animation of a LOT of moving parts into real-time rendering at pretty much the cost of an additional two texture lookups.
I played with this for a while with the outcome of a short piece about all the money in the word.