Excellent value CGI film-making suite that’s easier to use than most
Makes real-time animation & actor creation easy; novice-friendly Director Mode
No video tutorials; advanced animation tools take time to master
Reallusion produces awesome consumer (low-cost) software and kernel technologies for facial animation and real-time moviemaking. Aimed and users of all skill levels, the U.S companies products are all excellently presented and emphasize ease of use and powerful performance. iClone is the company’s flagship 3D character animation tool that provides fantastic facial animation, character generation, visual effect and scene production tools for creating machinima (an amalgamation of the words ‘machine’ and ‘cinema’) movies inside iClone’s 3D real-time rendering environment.
Machinima, in case you’re wondering, is a collection of associated production techniques whereby computer-generated imagery (CGI) is rendered using real-time, interactive 3D engines instead of professional 3D animation software. In other words, it uses pre-built 3D worlds to produce animated movies. Engines from first-person shooter and role-playing simulation video games are typically used. Indeed, Blizzard, EA and Valve support machinima films. Consequently, the rendering can be done in real-time using PCs, rather than with complex 3D engines using huge render farms.
iClone 3 Pro – like Moviestorm, Antics3d and ZenCub3d – is a non-game program which lets you create model creations and animations. What’s neat is that you can tap into a rich bank of content available from Reallusion, user-generated libraries or through Reallusion’s partnership with Google to access over 200,000 free 3D models to iClone through the Google 3D Warehouse. You can even import a photo of your own face and graft it onto a 3D character.
So what’s so cool about iClone 3.0 Pro? First and foremost is sets the standard for dynamic directing in real-time filmmaking. A dual-engine environment separates Directing and Editing into two modes allowing you to wear different hats during your production. Of course, you’ll also need to edit your production with cuts, zooms and pans, and you can experiment with depth-of-field camera effects and advanced lighting techniques (behavioural ambient effects, spotlights and reflections) to enhance the level of realism even further.
In Editing Mode you set the stage with 3D actors, record or import voices for automatic lip-sync and facial animation, select and edit props, add scenery (simply drag and drop onto the workspace) and atmosphere with special FX, select and edit actor motion with IK/FK, and frame your shots with multiple fixed and animated cameras. All Editing Mode elements are controlled across the non-linear Timeline Tracks. In Director Mode, control is redefined with the blend of videogame interaction and live vehicle and avatar puppeteering recording. Actors come to life with a type of puppet motion performance they will portray when the cameras roll. As the scene action plays you ‘puppet’ your actors through the scene with videogame-like keyboard and mouse movement.
Using iClone 3.0 Pro is a snap, thanks to the right-click menu system – each type of object has its own list of actions and tools, saving you from having to search around the user interface for the right tool. Furthermore, DramaScript (an action script that allows you to define custom interactivity) is data used to associate a hotkey and right-click menu operation to control live actor movement, movement on the terrain, how your sit on a chair, or drive a car, even ignite an explosion, etc. And with Tab Track Editing you record what you play, and rerecord what you don’t like.
Yellow highlighted action segments appear when you tab or reverse tab the playbar, corresponding to the active selected object or actor. Tab Track Editing helps you to easily jump to a motion editing point, delete old or record new motion and do it all from the main play bar. Another neat feature is Multi-Actor Timeline Editing, which allows you to drag and drop your actor into the scene – every actor then has its own set of timeline tracks for control. iClone can import models and motion from 3D Studio Max, Character Studio, Zbrush, Poser, DAZ Studio, Google SketchUp and 3D Warehouse, or popular model libraries like TurboSquid and Renderosity. Supporting file formats for import include 3DS, OBJ, SKP and BVH.
To accommodate the application needs and budget requirements of a broad range of users, Reallusion offers three editions of iClone 3.0, all of which are Windows XP and Vista compatible. iClone 3.0 Experience (EX) is the free edition of iClone, which includes the full Pro features for 30 days and unlimited features of iClone Standard with no expiration. iClone 3.0 EX contains everything necessary to learn the features of the Pro edition, but output is watermarked with the iClone logo and limited to 320×240 size ratio.
iClone 3.0 Standard (£51.99) is next up for creating simple, fun and entertaining 3D animations, complete with such features as multi-actor editing, simplified sequence editing, enhanced motion editing, 3D object manipulation, multi-camera manipulation, enhanced lighting, multiple production modes – all complete with HD-sized video and Flash video output to multiple platforms.
iClone 3.0 Pro (£100) is the ultimate edition of iClone, intended for those who are serious about productivity and quality output. Its features include advanced timeline editors to fine tune all movie elements with precise timing, speed, parameter change and loop control. iClone 3 actors can converse with the multiple actor facial animation and lip-synch tracks for more sophisticated dialogue management. The actor motion-building system layers poses with motion clips, and provides smoother blending results for fluid actor animation. The more advanced DramaScript capability combines export animation segments with a set of directions to build custom interactive 3D content.
iClone 3 Pro is a knock out and sets a new standard in consumer 3D animation. It provides cost benefits and low overheads, and you aren’t hamstrung by your own artistic abilities. Whether you’re into machinima full-time or just starting out in animation, iClone 3 is a brilliant package. Bear in mind that the quality of your video will largely depend on the level of effort you put in, so be prepared to spend hours perfecting your project if you want it to look professional. Our only disappointment is that there aren’t any basic video tutorials on how to specifically accomplish core tasks and how each of the timeline tabs work.