Someone school me on 3D character animation


I would like to develop a 3D engine. With some research and studying, I’ll be able to handle the geometry and physics etc.

However one thing I don’t have the first idea about is 3D models and animation. How they are created, how they are imported, and how “canned” animation is processed in a 3D world.

I’d appreciate it if someone with experience of 3D character animation could give me a quick run through.

Obviously it’s going to be radically different to 2D animation, ie sprite sheets etc.

Now from seeing 3D model files that are imported into 3D engines like PV3D, they are just vertices, then you obviously have seperate textures to map on within flash.

But what about character animation? Obviously that’s going to be just numbers too, that instruct the polygons where to go, frame by frame.

Which shouldn’t be too difficult to do in flash, but how about creating and storing the frames of movement data? Would this be done in a 3D modelling program? IE manually tweening your model a few frames at a time and then exporting the coordinates of the points?

Also, can anyone recommend a decent 3D program to start out? Something that wouldn’t be too hard to knock up some basic 3D models in.