The contest video (www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxKSS_BBPBg), which shows what can be done with iClone, is impressive, but probably quite intimidating for people new to 3D animation. That being said, iClone (
www.reallusion.com/iclone/event/2015-contest/index.html) is an easy way to get into "serious" 3D animation without requiring prior experience. iClone lets the beginning animator avoid the typical CGI modeling hassles and get on with the fun part. iClone ships with a massive content library, much of which is further customizable.
If using tools like Maya and 3ds Max are like growing your own food and making your own bread, then using iClone is like walking into your kitchen and making a sandwich from ready-made ingredients.
Setting up scenes and animating characters is a blast, but how do you acquire custom characters, motions, and props for iClone without modeling?
CHARACTERS FOR YOUR PROJECT
The first step of acquiring custom characters for use in iClone is to simply use iClone itself to create them. iClone has character creation tools baked in – from the get-go, you can certainly create almost any kind of human like figure you like. You can map yours or anyone's face photos to a character's head and customize the dimensions of the face. This is not modeling, this is fun.
Once you figure out the iClone clothing system ("lowers" for pants and skirts, "uppers" for sweaters, trench coats, shirts, and the like), you can very simply customize the clothing textures using any paint/photo software.
But perhaps you need a character that can't be easily modeled within iClone? First off, hit the Reallusion Marketplace and browse through hundreds of characters designed by the Reallusion community. These designers have created lots of new characters for re-use, usually costing only a few dollars apiece. Clothing is also available for most human characters at similarly low prices. And there are hundreds of freebies available.
OK, maybe you still can't find the character you need. Since iClone allows FBX characters to be imported using the 3DXchange program, there are other ways to acquire custom characters while avoiding any serious modeling.
My favorite online character resource is www.Mixamo.com. This site has lots of pre-rigged FBX characters for almost any gaming or animation engine. While the basic price per character is about $20, there are also plenty of free characters on the Mixamo website.
Here is a Mixamo character being converted in 3Dxchange:
Here is the Mixamo character in iClone after conversion:
Another (freemium) option for creating game characters is DAZ Studio, which can be downloaded free on the company website (www.daz3d.com/shop). I used DAZ to create a character that was difficult to model in iClone because of his body proportions. I had never used DAZ before, but it didn't take long to arrive at a reasonable starting point for my character.
Once the character was modeled in DAZ, I imported him into iClone and then made further adjustments to his skin, gave him wings and horns, and attached particle effects to various parts of his body. I even textured his skin with animated video clips of fire and embers.
PROPS AND SCENERY FOR YOUR PROJECT
iClone ships with plenty of props for assembling scenery and environments, but maybe you want to avoid using the built-in stock content. Once again, visit the Reallusion Marketplace to find hundreds of inexpensive or free props made by the community.
If you can't find what you want there, try SketchUp 3D Warehouse. This site hosts thousands upon thousands of free community-made SketchUp models ranging from furniture to weapons to vehicles. Use Reallusion's 3Dxchange to convert them to iClone-usable props. Once they've been brought into iClone, you may have further texture customization options. Using 3D Warehouse enables you to create an enormous library of props for no cost – using 3Dxchange to convert them.
For creating naturalistic geography, you may want to try Bryce Personal Learning Edition (www.bryce3d.co.uk) – also made by DAZ – and it's free. I used Bryce to create specific types of geological features, like mountains, cave walls, and islands. These objects can be exported out of Bryce and into your iClone content library using 3Dxchange.
MOTIONS FOR YOUR PROJECT
Lastly, you will probably need motions for your characters. Again, iClone comes with timesaving animation tools for basic walk/run cycles and idling for characters to walk along paths and terrain; the built-in content library contains many pre-programmed motions that you can assign to characters.
For greater precision, iClone also allows you to further keyframe most aspects of your character's motions and reuse them. The motion keyframing tools range from facial animation controls to controls for each individual finger and toe. The different motion tools can be "baked" together and tweaked. In addition, iClone 5 and later versions of iClone 6 support motion capture using the Microsoft Kinect device.
iClone also features an array of physically based tools and props. The content library includes building construction elements that will break apart when struck, and iClone provides a physics-based simulator so that you can create reasonably accurate cloth effects, and soft and rigid physics effects.
If you need to go outside of iClone's tool set to find your motions, once again try the Reallusion Marketplace, where developers are selling packages of particular motions that may save you animation time. For example, you can purchase motions for sword-fighting, combat, martial arts, shooting guns and arrows, and gymnastics. Again, you will find many freebie motions at the Marketplace.
Newbies to animation will find it easiest to create finished scenes by working entirely inside iClone, and learning to customize the built-in characters and props.
Intermediate animators will want to include Reallusion's 3Dxchange into the mix, to start amassing content from 3D Warehouse, and to explore the Reallusion’s Marketplace.
More advanced animators should consider integrating other tools such as DAZ, or Mixamo, or Bryce into the iClone pipeline.
See my iClone tutorial for Absolute Beginners to Animation: https://youtu.be/g6wgmbPlolU?list=PL3CB1BDF9954BC09E
Visit my YouTube channel for iClone ideas: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL3CB1BDF9954BC09E
Jason J Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.jasonjbrown.com) lives in Toronto.
Game Character Animation Contest
Reallusion and Polycount
have kicked off the 2015 Game Character Animation Contest, providing 3D artists and game developers with a chance to win over $5,000 in cash, 3D software, and 3D content prizes.
Sponsored by PolyCount, Allegorithmic, Indigo, Renderosity, and DAZ3D, the contest will award prizes in the following categories:
Best Character Animation
– Create a 30-second animation sequence.
Best One-Minute Movie
– Animate and render a minimum of one-minute of animation; such as an action sequence, short-narrative or your own original game trailer.
Best Use of iClone
– Submissions including the use of iClone will be eligible for a special prize package. Artists need to show how they used iClone in their PolyCount submission thread to qualify.
Reallusion is providing a free 45 days of iClone Animation Pipeline PRO for all contest entrants that are new to Reallusion or interested in exploring the capabilities of iClone. The iClone Animation Pipeline can import and export 3D models and animations for Maya, Max, Unity, Unreal, C4D, Blender and more.
The contest closes June 10. See www.reallusion.com/to/2015-contest/pr.asp for more details.