Review: Reallusion's CrazyTalk Animator 3 - Taking a Step Back to Move Forward

GRRR Dog by TET.
Can I animate this guy in
CrazyTalk Animator 3?
CrazyTalk Animator 3's bold claim is 'The One-for-all 2D Animation'. Does it deliver? Could it be your 'go to' 2D animation tool of choice? Before I explore those questions I feel a bit of backstory is necessary.

I've been using Reallusion's CrazyTalk Animator since its original incarnation that promised quick and easy, 2D animation creation. An idea that was relative depending on what kind of animation you wanted to do. Since my focus has largely been on original character animation my experience with CTA is relative to that.

If you wanted to create animated characters from your original artwork, quick and easy didn't really describe the time and effort involved. There was a lot of preparation and considerable time spent rigging its G1 characters.

CTA2's Multi-Angle G2 Characters.
CrazyTalk Animator 2, introduced G2, multi-angle characters, with the revolutionary technique of being animated like 3D characters in 3D space. You could even apply 3D character motions to them from iClone, Reallusion's Flagship 3D animation studio.

However G2 characters upped the complexity of character creation from scratch so much that, even those of us who bothered to learn the detailed process, still struggled with the time and effort just to produce a single character.

It was tedious work. So much so that I've personally never managed to complete a single G2 character in its entirety – and believe me I gave it a really good try (Read about my G2 Monkey and Cat Character to see how much I tried). Once you've drawn more than 50 or so hand gestures the last thing you want to do is draw 50 plus mouth movements, nose movements, eyebrow movements etc.

When an all new upgrade of CrazyTalk Animator was announced, users were desperately hoping Reallusion would do something to make G2 character creation quicker and simpler. Multi-angle characters are a great idea, it was just far too hard to bring your own characters to life.

When the work-in-progress videos came out for CrazyTalk Animator 3 some amazing new features were shown including; Elastic motions, Motion curve libraries, an animated component designer and new motion libraries for humans and animals to name a few. For character creation it was a return to single angle characters that initially left many scratching their heads. The new G3 characters wasn't what we were expecting. It seemed like a step back to G1 characters. Watch the first Work in Progress video below.



However, once you start studying the potential of the G3 range of characters you realize that Reallusion has shifted their focus back to 2D animation in order to move forward. As a result I think CrazyTalk Animator 3 is, hands down, the best version of this software to date.

G3 characters are single angle characters like the original G1 characters but, thanks to the new flexible bone system, offer exceedingly more functionality. Initially it looks like a step backwards and a rejection of G2, multi-angle characters. However, on closer inspection, it's a giant leap forward, with completely new styles and types of character designs to play with.

G2+ Character using the new Facial Morphing System.
G3 characters come in five different types; Human, Animals, Spine, Wings and Free bone.

Additionally there is the updated G2+ characters that use the new, G3 facial morphing system, drastically reducing the number of sprites you need to draw for a G2 multi-angle character's face.

Watch the video below for a complete walk through of all of CTA3's character types.



The defining characteristic of G3 characters is that they are raster image based, using hi-res PNG files, animated through a bone structure combined with a wire mesh. Together they control how the image is distorted when the bones are moved around.

The result is a far more flexible character creation system allowing you to start developing an animated character simply by selecting a character template and importing your own single image into the template. Adjust the bone structure to match and you're ready to start animating.

Freebone characters can have simple or complex bone structures.
Shown here is the underlying mesh that helps determine how
my dog character image is deformed when the bones move.

If you need the character to be more complex, you can break it up into layered components completely inside CTA3, using masks (similar to the G1 character composer in the original CTA). You even have options to add one of three types of custom heads; morph, sprite and the new G3 facial morphing system head.

Separating the front right leg onto its
own layer using masks.

During character creation, CTA3 is now better integrated with your preferred raster image editor (such as Photoshop). Clicking a dedicated button allows you to easily edit a body component externally, with the component automatically updating inside CTA3 when you save it.

What's most impressive about the G3 characters is that they are so easy to create. There's still a fair amount of work that goes into a fully rigged G3 character but it's the kind of work you could do in a day or two, depending on the detail of your images. The G3 characters alone make animating with CTA3 easy, quick and most importantly, fun.

Below is a looping animation of my dog I created using the freebone character. It's pretty rough and has a few issues but certainly demonstrates how fluid G3 characters are and how easy it now is to animate four legged characters. This entire animation only took a few hours of tweaking - most of that was key framing the running motion. The character its self took less than thirty minutes and is just a single image being manipulated by the bone and mesh structure.


via GIPHY
CTA3's Freebone character rigging makes an
animation like this very easy to achieve.

If G3 characters was the only improvement I would've been happy but with all the additional new features like Elastic motions and Motion curve libraries, which really bring your animated props alive with cartoon flair, on top of existing features such a auto lip syncing, morph based heads and the facial puppet system, Reallusion have created, potentially, a one-for-all 2D animation studio. Watch the video below to see more of the new features in action.



It seems like Reallusion have really sat down and said, what can we do to make CrazyTalk Animator 3 not just the best tool for 2D animation but also one of the quickest and easiest to work with?

I feel they have delivered. Whilst there is still quite a learning curve for someone who's never used CrazyTalk Animator at all, I think the basics could be learned, easily, inside a weekend. Constructing a simple G3 character from scratch could be learned inside an hour.

If you're not an artist or animator you can still create great looking animations by using only purchased content such as characters, props, scenes and motion libraries. If you want to go completely into your own imagination you can animate pretty much anything and everything entirely from scratch too. Just break out your favorite image editor and start drawing. Import your character drawing into a G3 template and you could have your character animated and moving around a scene within the hour.

CrazyTalk Animator 3 is for all levels of 2D animators. It's the kind of software that you can get up and running quickly and then really start to push what can be done with it as your confidence grows.

Don't believe me? Why not download a Free Trial for Windows or Mac and spend a weekend with it. See how quickly you can animate your first G3 character.

I'm looking forward to working with CTA3 more, and really exploring the new features in the weeks and months ahead. Every time I fire up CTA3 I'm now thinking 'what could I animate today?' because I know animating a character is no longer a major commitment of time and effort. It's finally possible to try character animation with CTA3 just to see where it goes.

I have a few character projects from past iterations that I will be upgrading to the new G3 system. As I do I'll show you the difference between the versions in future posts along with showcasing more of CTA3's other fantastic new features.

10 comments:

  1. Great review David. I actually feel more motivated to try this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would certainly encourage you to give it a try. This is the best and easiest to use version of CrazyTalk Animator yet.

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  2. I have used CTA PRO, CTA2 AND ICLONE5 successfully and found CTA AND ICLONE5 VERY GOOD AND EASY. UNFORTUNATELY CTA3 (Standard v.) takes minutes to load and I cannot seem to find a way to construct my own characters. Can we also pls have a more appealing dog character as the frontispiece of CTA3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've found the video tutorials for CTA3 explains how to create the new G3 characters very well. I haven't had any trouble learning the process.

      I'm not sure why you're asking me about the dog. I don't work for Reallusion or have any real influence over how they present their products.

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    2. What is that video? I have never done this but bought CTA3 pipeline version.

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    3. You'll find all the video tutorials for CTA3 in the Learning Centre [ click here ].

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  3. You seem to know what you are doing, David Arandle, so I will ask you. For the past year or so, I've been working on a comic story of my own design, and recently I decided I wanted to try animating a short clip of it to see how it turned out. The characters need to be as human-like as possible, and quite often the scenes take place in real-world environments. What software would you recommend to animate this? (Free preferably but I am open to buying some too.) Any input is appreciated!

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    Replies
    1. If you want to stick with free software then Synfig studio is my top pick for 2D animation. It does have a bit of a learning curve but you can get professional results with it.

      If you want something with automatic lip syncing then CrazyTalk Animator 3 (Pro or Pipeline versions - stay away from the standard version) is your next choice.

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    2. Thank you! I looked at Synfig at first, then wasn't sure about it. I'm going to try that to start. One question I do have about all these programs I've seen, how does one take a hand-drawn sketch and put it into one of these programs? I have not been able to find a video from anyone that accurately says how to do this. Is it even possible?

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    3. The dog you see in this post is my own hand drawn art (by that I mean drawn by me on paper and outlined in black ink on paper).

      The best way to get your sketches onto a computer is to use a flatbed scanner (of the variety usually found on multi-function printers).

      The next best option is to photograph it with a digital camera - the camera on most smart phones is good enough for art that will be animated.

      Once you've scanned or photographed your art, use photoshop (or Gimp if you want the free alternative) to do things like remove backgrounds, add or adjust colors etc. For most character art you'll need to use PNG files which support transparency.

      Synfig has some drawing tools so you may want to explore them. You may be able to use them instead of photoshop to prepare your art for animation.

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