The Winner of Reallusion's Animation@Work Contest is...

Jimmy the Superhero
by Gary Pye.
Reallusion announced the winners of their Animation@Work contest this week. I was fortunate enough to take away one of the three Best Video prizes up for grabs with my promotional video for my new Animation 4 Business Premium Service. I'm now the proud owner of a copy of Magix Movie Edit 2014 Premium Edition software.

Whilst I was obviously hoping for the major prize, there are indeed a lot of talented CrazyTalk Animator users out there. Watch the Competition, winner announcement video for a good cross section and preview of all the winning entries. I did pretty well considering I only started learning CTA2 properly last December.

Whilst there were many great entries I was very happy to see the winner, Garry Pye, won with a very funny video about Superhero Training. Regular readers and viewers of my work will know that Superheroes is a recurring theme.

Gary is also a fellow Aussie and creates content packs for CTA that you can purchase for use in your own animations. He was featured on Reallusion TV last April. He's basically at the same point that I aspire to be with his CTA work.

Personally I liked his winning entry so much I thought I'd feature the full version here for my and your enjoyment.

You can see all the winning videos in full along with judges comments on the Reallusion Forum.

Learning Reallusion's iClone 5: Part 2 - Avatar Creation and Facial Puppet Motion

Today I decided to run through the next two of Reallusion's iClone 5, Quick Fix Tutorials, How to create my own character and How to create a talking character. Both tutorial videos are very short so click the links if you'd like to watch them.

BTW: If you haven't read Part 1 in this series, it's not critical but you will see my first iClone scene and will be able to read how it was constructed.

As mentioned previously this series is my experiences of learning iClone and is not intended as a tutorial. If that's what you're looking for then I'd recommend you watch the tutorial videos I'm using as a basis for these blog posts.

Creating My Own Character

Photo of me used as the
basis of my iClone Avatar.
As someone who casts myself into a lot of my own videos it's always useful having an avatar character that represents me. So that's what I decided to create.

Initially I started with a photo of me that was well lit but my face was not directly facing the camera. Although you can still get reasonable results I wasn't happy with the character I produced.

I began again by sitting in front of a window and getting as close as possible with my laptop's webcam and taking a photo. Producing the image you can see above.

From there it's just a case of adding a character to the iClone stage then running through the face fitting process - which is not that different to CrazyTalk Animator's Morph Face Fitting process.

Face fitting process.
Once that was done, Reallusion's tutorial demonstrated a few of the settings you can adjust to give your character a unique look and also showed you how to add hair.

I decided to go all out, after adding some hair that was as close to mine as I could find, I decided to really tweak all the facial settings to see how close of a likeness I could get.

I was very impressed with just how much iClone allows you to fine tune the face structure. Everything from the width of the nose to brow angle, cheek puffiness and more can be adjusted. I think I didn't do too bad (see image below)...

TET Avatar.
Obviously it's not exactly like me (the harsh lighting doesn't help) but I feel it's a good representation.

Making My Character Talk

The second tutorial on making your character talk seemed like deja vu. iClone's voice adding and character puppeteering system is virtually the same as CrazyTalk Animator 2.

The only trouble I had was my laptop computer not being able to keep up with the real time puppeteering. This could be problematic in the future but I do know there are things you can adjust to try and improve the real time performance.

Anyhow I found a short bit of my own voice I had recorded for someone else's animation quite a while ago and loaded that into iClone. The auto lip sync kicked in so that all I had to do was a bit of minor head movement and blinks to make the character feel more alive.

I then struggled through some settings for making the camera pan around my character to create the animation below. The camera pan isn't that smooth because I haven't really learnt that bit yet but it does the job. Watch the final video below. It's very basic with just the default lighting settings.

Overall I'm happy with what I achieved. A character like this can be made very quickly. Easily inside 30 minutes, probably less if you're not tweaking every little detail like I did.

I'm looking forward to adding some full body animation in future tutorials.

Learning Reallusion's iClone 5: Part 1 - Creating a Scene

With iClone 6 (check out the embeded video at the bottom of this post) currently in development and me having bought iClone 5.51 in December of last year I thought it was time to start learning the software. Especially now that my confidence with Reallusion's CrazyTalk Animator 2 is much higher and in a more stable place.

Note that if you've found this post expecting tutorials, I'm sorry, you won't find them here. This is my journey and experience of learning iClone 5.5 for anyone who may be interested in buying the software but aren't sure if it's going to be too hard to learn. This will probably turn into a series of articles as I'm writing it during my process of learning and not after the fact. I can only write about what I've learned.

If you do have iClone 5.51 and want to follow along I'll be working my way through iClone 5's series of Quick Fix starter videos.

From Reallusion's website: iClone 5.51 is a real-time 3D animation tool with digital actors, environments, visual effects, drag & drop editing, powerful physics and Microsoft Kinect-ready motion capture; designed for rapid production, creative education and cost-effective pre-visualization.

What that means is, just like CrazyTalk Animator, it comes with existing content (and a market place that you can buy more content from) that you can either use as is or modify as much as you need. If you really want to you can even bring in 3D models made entirely from scratch in other third party software.

Watch the video below to really get a feel for what iClone can do.

Personally if you're a fan of 2D animation but would like to dabble in 3D I'd highly recommend iClone as the perfect companion to CrazyTalk Animator 2 (which is, of course, focuses on 2D animation).

Not only are the user interfaces very similarly laid out - learn CTA2 first so iClone will seem less complex - but you can drag and drop motion files from iClone directly onto your characters in CTA2. Something I found very useful when I needed a character in CTA2 to dig a hole with a shovel. I saved a lot of time just by buying an Occupations iClone Motion Content pack.

But I digress, getting onto learning iClone, I began with How to set up a scene. Watch the video at the link if you want to run through the tutorial. Here's the scene I set up, after watching the video to see if I could remember everything I learned.

My first iClone 5 scene.
Although my scene is made up entirely of existing content I wanted to explain a little about what that means. Otherwise you may get the impression that all I did was drag and drop things into place - which I did, but there's more to it than that.

Unedited Combat Zone Stage.
The city scene its self is a war ravaged environment that looks like the image on the right when you first add it to the stage. Notice that there is no water at the end of the central road.

To begin getting the scene to look like my image I had to add in the orange sky.

Next I added in the water which, at first, flooded the entire scene prompting, a change in setting so it would only fill the area at the end of the road.

I wanted the scene to look like it had stood in ruin for a long time so I added an appropriate looking tree and placed it on the road its self and surrounded it with grass.

Next I placed the monster into the scene. Originally he was quite small so I scaled him up to make the image seem like perhaps he had something to do with all the damage.

Finally I adjusted the lighting and shadow settings and changed the light from a white light to something more orange to match the light that would be cast from an orange sky.

Admittedly, all this is not complex. It's merely a case of adding things and adjusting settings but what I want to emphasize is that all of it is about creative choices. That's the real strength of iClone. It lets you concentrate less on the technical side of creating a 3D environment and more on the creative side of how things will look.

My last creative choice was moving the camera around to take a good picture for this blog post. iClone lets you take a snap shot of any angle of your scene with just one click.

When you see the scene animated the water is rippling automatically and the leaves on the tree blow in the breeze. Though I didn't include video of the scene here because I couldn't add any animation to the monster. Usually you can just drag a motion file onto the character and it'll add that motion to the character but for some reason, not this particular character. I'll look into that more later.

I'll leave it there for now. The next tutorial is about how to make your own character which I will most certainly write a post about. In the meantime enjoy the video below which is a preview into what's coming in iClone 6.

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