Final day for me at SIGGRAPH. It’s been a fun week hearing about all the new tech and software that’s going to be hitting the consumer market. New trends like Virtual Production are really exciting as we are seeing a merging of the imagined and natural worlds we film in. Huge improvements are being made on the side of motion capture. Some not very affordable but necessary steps to increasing our knowledge base for producing high fidelity capture and playback. Today, I had a chance to catch up with the guys at Reallusion who do have a motion capture solution that is financially more in reach with our readership than most other products on the market.
It’s not enough to call iClone just a motion capture software. This product touches so many facets of 3D animation that it’s easy to see how it can be utilized as a way to cut costs and speed up development on a production. iClone calls itself the Animation Pipeline – and it really is. For one thing, you can choose from an assortment of stock characters and motions that can be swapped around, compiled, and converted over to the 3D software package of your choice. Or can simply create right there in the package to make your own show or previsualization. What ever your animation needs, iClone 5 has worked hard to anticipate and make it available.
Built on Maya’s powerful HumanIK system, characters that are chosen within iClone can have different, but compatible rigs. This makes it possible for a library of motions like walk cycles, poses, and various actions, to be easily swapped out from character to character. And even swapping that out is as simple as dragging the icon for the motion and dropping it on the character for instant preview. If the rig and the movement have unwanted collisions, a palette with sliders designated to certain parts of the body can be moved to adjust the location of the limbs as well as the position of the body during playback.
But you are not confined to the stock resources that come in the box. Characters can be customized by bringing in photos and morphing the features to fit the mesh, or export a UV snapshot to make changes in Photoshop to create unique clothing designs. And if you want to direct actions specifically for the story you want to tell, you can leverage the Kinect for Windows technology for real-time mocap. Set-up and calibration takes very little time and the responsiveness between you and your avatar is really accurate. But just in case there is any confusion on the capture, iClone allows artists to quickly grab the IK handle of the character’s limbs and manipulate the keyframe right there without having to bounce to another package.
At the end of the process, you may decide to export the character and/or animation to continue down the production pipeline. iClone 5′s content format retargeting system called 3DXchange converts to popular formats for software like 3ds Max, Maya, MotionBuilder, Lightwave, and Zbrush (to name a few) with an FBX that is special optimized for each individual destination. Through beta testing, they were able to refine the elements that made the cleanest possible conversion for each platform to mitigate any frustration that comes from transitioning assets.
That’s just a super basic overview of what it can do. The options for working with characters and animation are pretty deep. There’s even an online store in which more assets can be bought or sold to others in the community. I can see this product being a huge advantage to the indie community because it provides general resources to get you started but still leaves room and tools to come up with custom content of your own. Jump over to Reallusion to find out more about the features within iClone 5 and how it can help facilitate your production needs.
That concludes my time with SIGGRAPH 2012. I hope that our community found something of interest to spurn your imagination with what’s possible with these amazing new technologies. Check back for coverage of more reviews of software that help improve the way you make movies.