Working with animations in Skyrim

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This is a simple workflow for working with animations in Skyrim. Basic 3d modeling tool competency is assumed. This tutorial will extract animations from Skyrim, modify them in 3ds max or a similar editor, and export then back into Skyrim. This tutorial does not cover use of 3d modeling tools, or actually making the desired animations.

Extracting animations from Skyrim

  1. Get a BSA Unpacker. Some choices include Fallout Mod Manager, or you could do a search on
  2. Open up "Skyrim - Animations.bsa".
  3. Browse to the actors\characters folder, select everything in there, and extract to a temporary folder. Make sure the directory structure is intact.
  5. Go grab Havok Command Line Tools 1.4. Install this preferably in the same folder as your temporary folder with the animations.
  6. Make a new temporary subfolder (i.e. "anim-out") in the temporary folder you used above. The resulting folder structure looks something like this:
  8. Open up a command prompt in that directory and type (change "anim-out" to your temporary subfolder):
    hkxcmd exportkf "skeleton.hkx" "animations" "anim-out"
  10. Now the files should be ready to load into 3ds max.

Animations in 3ds max

This example will use 3ds max 2012. Really, you can use any version you want.

  1. Import a skeleton.nif. You may have to use your BSA unpacker again, this time on "Skyrim - meshes.bsa", to obtain that file.
  2. Not sure how much the settings matter here, but be sure "import skeleton" is checked.
  4. Import a .kf file that you just extracted. This demo will use "1hm_attackleft.kf". Make sure all boxes are checked in the import dialog.
  5. Edit your animation. Covering animating is beyond the scope of this tutorial, and frankly enough I'm not an artist.
  7. Be sure to have proper "note" blocks for your animations, which are visible under Graph Editors > Track View - Dope Sheet. You may wish to refer to previous TES tutorials for this.
  9. When finished, export the animation. Make sure to use these EXACT settings as shown below.

Exporting animations to Skyrim

  1. Open up your animation in NifSkope to make sure it's not empty, etc:
  3. Open up a command prompt in that directory and type (where "test" is the name of your animation):
    hkxcmd convertkf "skeleton.hkx" "test.kf" "test.hkx"
  5. Put your animation back into the Data folder under the appropriate directory. Try it out in game!


  1. You may see missing nodes (such as the one shown above). I don't know at this time what effect that will have in game.
  2. Certain animations (notably the paired killmoves) will NOT work with the converter, as explained by SaidenStorm. There is currently no fix for this.


  1. The Hologram, for his excellent Havok Command Line tools.
  2. The NifTools team.
  3. Autodesk.
  4. Bethesda, for an awesome game.


You may contact the author of this tutorial for questions or comments. Note that response times may be delayed.