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iClone Animation Pipeline review

By Jahirul Amin

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Date Added: 13th November 2013

Here, you can also fix any issues you have from the motion by using the Edit Motion Layer tool. This allows you to work on top of the motion clip to make any necessary changes. The Human IK technology allows you to pull on a body part and the rest comes along with it, for the most part. It's nice to see this integrated and it allows for fixes to happen thick and fast.

At this stage, I was already seeing the awesomeness that was iClone, and the possibilities of what could be done in the package seemed fantastic. If you want to create 3D storyboards, do pre-viz or just tell a short tale with the default assets, you could do so with ease. But what if I want to bring my own character into iClone – can that be done? And if so, is it a clean, simple process? Well, the answer to that question is an easy yes – as long as you have iClone 3DXchange installed...

Taking a Maya asset into 3DXchange to sync up for iClone

The first thing you will need to do is pop over to your 3D package and create a character, give it a skeleton suitable for mo-cap data, envelope it and then export it out as an FBX file. Load it into iClone 3DXchange and you should be able to very easily sync up your character rig to the iClone Characterization Profile.

Once this is done, send the file to iClone and off you go. All the animation clips that you would apply to any default asset can be applied to your character. Within a matter of minutes, you can have your character walking, dancing or trying to punch someone's lights out. The same motion editing tools will also work just fine on the asset that you've brought into iClone. As well as body motion, you can also apply facial motion or set the face up using morph/blend shapes. The amount of flexibility just shows how much effort and thought has gone into the package.

Adding a walk clip to our newly imported character

Using the Edit Motion Layer to fix any intersection issues

With the model moving to your every command and with a set in place, it's a case of setting up the lighting and the cameras. Just a quick mention regarding the creation of sets and project environments: the manner in which you will create them is similar to creating the Actors. Start with a default environment from the Content Manager and then customize with assets from the Set tab.

Again, there is a huge variety of props to help fill a scene to meet your needs and more from the Reallusion Marketplace. With all in place, you may want to change the lighting in your animation. iClone has two tabs that help you control lighting conditions.

The first is Atmosphere and it is here that you can drop some Dynamic IBL lighting templates into the scene to add some believability, or play with the Toon Shader templates to create a more unique stylized look. You can play with Ambient Occlusion, Fog and also the Exposure of the HDR image to name a few of the settings available.

Over to the Light tab and you can add directional lights into your scene, again with a multitude of settings to create your perfect lighting scenario. Another useful tab is the Effect tab that allows you to make some global changes to the scene, such as adding Lens Blur or a Color Filter.

It's important to remember that we are looking at the final product in iClone, so having these settings available to make it look as good as can be is essential. Should you decide though that you would like to render the final images from another package such as mental ray or V-Ray, you can. Simply take the assets through iClone 3DXchange and import into Maya, 3ds Max, Unity or any other package as an FBX file. It's great to see that iClone is working alongside other packages and fitting in to other pipelines so effectively.

Creating a set and adding some water effects

So that brings us to setting up the cameras to create the final output, for video or a still image. iClone has a default set of camera lenses up for grabs, perfect for anyone doing previsualization work and needing to match the digital camera to a real-world camera. You can also play with Depth of Field, which is a nice touch. Being able to focus the camera on an object or an area allows the director to lead the eye of the audience to where he or she would like them to look. This is another nice touch here that budding storytellers will no doubt take full advantage of.

But iClone does not stop there. It does rigid and soft body dynamics, audio lip-sync, and you can even hook it up to a Kinect Motion Capture System, act out the movements and record them on to your avatar. Unfortunately, I did not get to try this out myself as I do not own a Kinect camera (this does give me reason to invest in one, though).

"All in all, I think iClone is a fantastic package"

For those wanting to get into iClone, Reallusion has released plenty of video tutorials on their site as well as on their YouTube page, so you should be up and running in no time.

Taking advantage of the rigid and soft body physics in iClone 5.5

System requirements

Minimum System Requirements:
* Pentium4 2GHz
* 2GB free hard disk space
* Display Resolution: 1024 x 768
* Color Depth: True Color (32-bit)
* Graphics Card*: Support for DirectX 9.0c and Shader Model 3.0
* Video Memory: 256MB RAM

Recommended System Requirements:
(iClone will have better performance in below recommended environment)
* Dual core CPU or higher
* 2GB RAM or higher recommended
* 2GB free hard disk space or higher recommended
* Display Resolution: 1024 x 768 or higher
* Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce 8 Series or higher /ATI HD 3000 Series or higher
* Video Memory: 512MB RAM or higher recommended
* Video card compatible with Pixel Shader 3.0 recommended for optimized visual performance

Additional Requirements:
* 3-button mouse
* DirectX 9 and WMEncoder 9 are required for WMV exporting
* Internet connection required for online activation
* Stereo devices and player are required for viewing contents with stereo vision

Operating System:
* Windows 7 /Windows Vista /Windows XP (With Service Pack 2 or later)
* Support for 32-bit and 64-bit operating system.

Related links

iClone Animation Pipeline
Try iClone 4 for free
iClone 5.5 30-day free trial
Reallusion Content Store
Reallusion Marketplace
Free iClone tutorials
Reallusion on YouTube
The Egg (iClone Machinima)

To see more by Jahirul Amin, check out Beginner's Guide to Character Creation in Maya
and 3ds Max Projects

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