Home Contests & Challenges Archives Reallusion Game Character Animation Contest

RGCA - Adopting ICLone 6 as an Animation Platform

I'm a live action filmmaker who dabbles in animation and over the last three years have had a modicum of success with my work. I had always been a devotee of both Daz and Poser and used them to create my animated films.

Here are samples of my original work that I created using both Daz and Poser -

The Doctor's Wife

The Watchmaker's Apprentice


The films have all been well received but I knew that my animation skills were lacking. The strength of the material is the music IMHO and through judicious lighting, some quick editing and cinema-styled music video technics, I was able to complete the task of making these films by myself using Final Cut 7, the standard Daz and Poser models and some Afer Effects lighting and compositing skills.

Now, It was time to step up my game and look to what I could do with a real-time engine and the new IClone 6 software. Would I be able to match the work I did prior? Could I find a system that would run the program and be compliant with the technical specs needed? Could I return to a PC interface and adapt to the workflow?

Most importantly, could I develop the skill set to learn as an animator and develop myself as a game-engine/ Machinima filmmaker using Clone 6?


  • jgesq
    This Summer I started using a combination of techniques and software to design a real time game engine animation using hand key, motion capture, existing models and avatars plus a toon-styled render engine to create narrative cinema. The question I asked myself was = "Is there a workflow for creative and dramatic expression that does not involve using detail-heavy industry powerhouses (like Maya) that I can build upon using my existing digital skills. As a 3d graphic designer and animator, I had used both Poser and Daz software to create artwork and animated cinema that had been showcased worldwide. Now, I wanted to use another software, Reallusion's Iclone 6 to develop avatar based motion pictures for online and worldwide showcasing.

    After three days orienting myself with the software, I rendered this test using a toon ink style setting with interactive particle animations. I was creating my own little tribute to the opening of "The Muppet's Christmas Carol" (a family favorite) as I designed this pan across the rooftops.


    Based on this successful test run (which took me about 90 minutes to create), I added an avatar figure in a walk cycle that I quickly transposed into the screen. I would still have to deal with feet slipping and sliding - but the results were positive after about an hour. Models were imported and textured in Reallusion's 3DX Importer software.


    From here, I believe I can now look to lip sync, toon-lighting and specialized action as I develop a working visual palette. The goal is not to compete with larger budget and well staffed productions - but to suggest a personal cinema that can be created using animation tools available to the enthusiast and hobbyist. As a visual artist, my goal is the continued evolution of my own work - and sharing cost-effective ways to create original cinema.
  • jgesq
    I continue to evolve my skills with IClone and will work diligently in documenting my progress. Most of my notes are found alongside the YouTube post itself. Here I shall Keep a record of my progress.

    Toon Characters

    Using the defacto Stout character, I brought a figure into IC and animated/textured/toned to see what can work.


    I can see myself making a film noir or silent picture about this lug sitting by a canal pondering his life - and something happens. He decides to continue. As always, my cinema will be dictated by the time, $$$, and story. I also looked at the toon vs. b/w look as well for consideration.


    My hope is to find a look that can work for my characters using the game engine software in an imaginative way that does not constrain the speed and agility I can have in the low-poly world.


    I continued my character work using a female character and worked on my fledgling lip sync skills. I have a long way to go - but I can see progress already from yesterday - and that's a good thing.

    I set up two scenes both lit differently - the first one is with a florescent fixture as the character holds in space - without the dead frames that characterize a CGI hold vs. the real life 'hold' that has us moving all the time. I can make her breath - and this is a nice touch.


    The florescent tube actually has a 60hz flicker to it (LOL!) and so I rendered it using a China Ball and the results are quite clear. Here I have a softer lighting setup that is a much cleaner and clearer look.

    Neither of these renders have been color corrected and as here as 'samples' only.


    So, as my day comes to an end (I am dedicating 12 - 5pm throughout the Summer to fast track my skills), I find myself progressing nicely with a greater understanding of the software I am using.
  • jgesq

    Today was all about importing props from Google Sketchup and learning how to create sub-props and then texture them with a random assortment of low-rez tiles. Lighting and smoothing models and adding elements as needed to create a dramatic shot coupled with my first use of Mason as a living and breathing model. As I learn how to work with Iclone, there are a number of unique opportunities and stories I can tell using the variety of resources available from the 3d Warehouse. Having Sketchup in the pipeline expands my model options considerably.

    I shall download a bridge from Chicago and drive my truck over it later today.

    4:50 CST = So it's about 90 minutes or so later and my next digital sketch is done. I downloaded a bridge I know well and added rain and fog and basic animation plus some simple lighting techniques to test out the interaction.


    I rendered it from two angles so I could see how I might take advantage of multiple camera positions as I do in real life. As I become more familiar with the program, the stronger the work is getting. As a digital sketchpad, these tests allow me to develop my fledgling skills in a quick and dirty pass that keeps me motivated and excited.


    This time I attached the fog and the rain to the van to minimize the amount of assets required. I still have to learn how to rotate wheels and the like - but you are not paying attention to them in this pass as the light from the cab draws your attention.
  • jgesq
    Today's exercise is to add my Son of Santo styled character to a IC6 world. I'm experimenting with foliage, foreground lens elements (as I tend to stage my work in the middle), overhead Softbox arrays and learning to assign a walk to a Path. 800 frame animation switched between two cameras. Assigned a Dummy or Nul object for camera panning options.

    The goal with this work (and these exercises) is to build up my skill sets before I tackle a simple story. I have already written one and am now training myself in techniques before undertaking the work. As always, practice makes perfect.


    Here's SOS (Son of Santo) getting angry in an acceptable CLOSE UP that allows me to see how close I can push in on the character before the JPEG degrades. With low resolution animation (LRA), it is a balance between the number of pixels, texture sizes, objects in the scene and the hamsters under the hood.


    As in all tests, it is the evaluation of the separate attempts that makes the work worthwhile. I am less worried about pass thrus (his leg hits a rock) and more concerned about camera placement, animation, posing and the like. 800 frames is a lot of animation and I rarely break 100 in my regular workflow. IC6 tends to double print the frame count so I am only rendering 400 frames here in passing. At 30fps, this equals just over 10 seconds. I tend to work in 3 second increments for standard shots (unless I am dealing with dialogue). All of these clips have also be rendered as a low-rez MP4 as opposed to an image sequence of TIFs that I would build in AEFX and then return to editing with.

    I will attempt to stay in the PC world for these films (using AEFX and Premiere Pro as my main interfaces) - but the Hit Film program does has its 'All-In-One' attraction.

    1841: CST

    Dawn Light Tool and Key Light Coloring. Test of facial animation rig and continued slow dolly camera. The sky tool provides a nice array of clouds and stars to use as needed.


    Each render brings me a step closer to starting my narrative work. Repetition. Experimentation and Practice.
  • jgesq

    As I continue to explore the interface and get accustomed to the IC6 toolset, one of the features I do like a great deal is the Puppetering Option. By being able to directly interface with the puppet and move in combination to the dialogue (or in this case singing), I find a real kinship with the action onscreen and the options available to me as an animator. I can 'swing' with the music as need be. I hand keyed in subtle finger moves on the right hand for emphasis and am working hard on coming to terms with the phoneme shaping system within the program. Missing the audio scrubbing feature afforded other programs big time. This is truly an essential option IMHO. Would love to see this.

    Onward, ever onward.
  • jgesq

    Today was all about working on Lip Sync and so whom better to hang out with than George Carlin. The task I set for myself was a recreation of an old tired comic (with my profound apologies to GC) telling a story at a nightclub during the 1960's. This first pass is the action only. I'm pretty happy with the characterization - less so with the sync. I will have to hit rounder "O's" for emphasis and find a better way to sell the dialogue. At 42 seconds, this took me about 2.5 hours from concept to completion - so my time allocation is good. As I continue to learn IC6, I can only hope for better control and fidelity with my work.


    Once I completed this pass, I added some small particle interaction to see how this translates in the lighting plus a brick wall for a 'comedy club' feel. Intercutting on both clips is achieved in program. I'm including this pass here, but I wasn't overly happy. What I did notice was how stiff the character was towards the end of the bit so I added secondary animation to the head movements by puppeteering 'live' the character as the camera intercut - WHAT?!!! Yes, I could manipulate my digital avatar live as I worked with the figure allowing me to play to the camera and even share a look (or two) to the audience at home.


    I also worked on a Chubby Pass today using a simple wav file from www.wavsource.com - it's fun to use these little bites to find some kind of feeling for the character tests. I'm still pretty stiff in my work - but it is about the practice. As I was unhappy with my work using Daz and Poser for the earlier animations (The Doctor's Wife, The Watchmaker's Apprentice and Closer), I know that my efforts here - and with my continued reading - shall hopefully pay off with more fluid and engaging character actions.

    Here's the FINAL pass on the StandUp test with better head animations. Still catching some bounce flicker on the walls - but that is what tests are for. :)

  • jgesq

    Before settling down for the night, I edited a brief section from Neil Gaiman's invigorating Commencement Speech in 2012 as a test for more Lip Sync. Again, I think I have to go broader with the "O's" and hit with greater confidence. Secondary animation is just to take the curse of the moving holds. It is rare I would hold for 42 seconds or so on any one shot - so this was a nice test to see how convincing the work is. I use DOF (depth of field) to create less emphasis on the background and kept this as simple as could be from a staging perspective.

    However, the render took a much longer time due to the DOF (wich I think I can fake in After Effects) so I took a second pass at it - slightly adjusting the camera, the secondary animation and the DOF settings. This is the final result below.


    As noted in the title, I spent about 90 minutes on this - my average on a test render like this. More time spent on the complexity of the Lip Sync will garrner better results IMHO.
  • jgesq
    My tribute to author Neil Gaiman (I met him briefly in the 1980's when I interviewed him for a video series) and one of my most favorite writers. Whom better to pay tribute to than him? How I look forward to the adaptation of his "American Gods" and "Coraline" is truly Laika's finest hour.


    Here I have animated a portion of Neil Gaiman's commencement speech to the University of the Arts graduating class of 2012 in Philadelphia. It's one of my favorite key note speeches - and so I took the liberty of adapting the work here.

    Today, I felt I got it right. :)

    All of the work was used using the Direct Puppet Option and hand keying specific moves and the like. The Puppet Avatar for the character was also used to set keys and to animate specific areas.

    I tried for characterization rather than flash here. It was all about creating a living breathing character that could be seen in an animated film.
Sign In or Register to comment.