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Behind the Scenes: Bat Storm Suit Camera Test Animation - How It Was Made.

Bat Storm in front of the camera.
iClone 7.
I'm very much a novice when it comes to 3D animation in iClone 7. However I can find my way around the application because the user interface and workflow shares a lot of similarities with Cartoon Animator 4 (also made by Reallusion).

For that reason alone, if you're proficient with Cartoon Animator 4 (formerly known as CrazyTalk Animator 3) and want to try 3D character animation, iClone 7 will not seem too unfamiliar. You may even be able to pick up the basics in under an hour.

With that in mind I thought I'd do a break down of how my Bat Storm Suit Camera Test, animated short was made. Not a step by step guide but just a look at the features I used, to highlight just how easy iClone 7 is to get started with.

You're already part way there if you have a firm grasp of the X, Y, and Z planes for positioning characters and props in CA4.

Bat Storm Character Rig

Bat Storm.
I'm not going to claim this part was easy in the sense I've spent years trying to find just the right look for Bat Storm as a 3D character. However Character Creator 3 is such a good tool for modelling characters that it is easy to learn the basics. So much of the modelling is done simply by adjusting slider settings.

However this article isn't about character creation so I'll move on.

Animating Bat Storm

The very first thing I did for this animated short was place Bat Storm on the stage and then applied a 'standing idle' motion to him from my iClone 7 content library. I then looped the motion in the timeline. That's it. Character animation done.

The Set

Stone wall set.
I knew the camera would be very tightly focussed on Bat Storm's head and chest so all I needed in the background was something to give it a bit of texture. Something that hints Bat Storm is in a location.

I found a stone wall prop in my content library that I enlarged and duplicated into a corner wall and placed it behind Bat Storm, where I knew the camera would be aimed.

Camera and Motion Path

In iClone you can set up multiple cameras within the one scene and switch between them during the animation. I set up a single camera and aimed it at Bat Storm from where the camera would start.

I could have just keyframed the camera movement as it tracks around Bat Storm but this would result in the camera moving in a straight line between keyframes. To get a nice smooth arc as the camera moves I created an arc, with a bit of a dip in it for when the camera pans lower, and then set the camera to follow the path.

From there I keyframed just three points, all of which adjust the angle, zoom, and direction the camera was pointing. I first key framed the start and end points, then I added one keyframe at about the midpoint to add a bit of variation to where the camera was facing.

Here you can see the camera and its motion path,
as well as the red depth of field boxes marking
where the focal range is.

Depth of Field Camera setting

This was the very first time I've used the Depth of Field camera setting. If you're not familiar with the term it's the setting that enables you to keep your subject in focus but blur everything in the foreground and/or background. iClone allows you to vary the depth of field to almost any setting you need.

Depth of Field in Camera view. Everything in
red is in focus. Blue or green is blurry.
It's actually quite easy to use because the application overlays where the depth of field region is on the stage. There's also a setting so that when you look at the scene through the camera each focus region is represented by a color and you can see when your subject passes between each region.

I only used the Depth of Field setting in iClone to ensure Bat Storm was in focus and the background was blurred.

Lighting

I literally just used the default lighting setup for a new project in iClone. All I changed was the key lighting color from white to dark red.

Video Editor and Post Effects

Cropping with Pan & Zoom my original iClone
video in Movavi Video Editor.
At this point all my work in iClone was done. I exported the animation and then brought it into my video editor.

I must admit my framing and focus in iClone didn't really match the Robert Pattinson camera test footage all that closely. I could probably have gone back into iClone and fixed it but instead I used my video editor to crop the footage closer and to blur out Bat Storm just prior to his chest pulling into focus.

As well I couldn't get my scene lighting to be as deep a red as the Pattinson footage so I used color adjustment in my editor to really darken this down to a deeper red.

After that it was just a case of adding my titles, sound effects and music (which I'm not going to go into detail about since this article is mainly about the visuals).

---o ---o--- o---

I was quite happy with the end result. It's not an exact match to the Pattinson video but it wasn't meant to be. I just wanted it to be close enough for anyone familiar with the original clip to know that's what I was parodying.

Just in case you haven't seen it yet, watch the final animation below.


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