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Kelleytoons
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6376 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2015 :  10:25:47 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Since Wes asked I thought I'd share some thoughts with everyone about my adventures (so far) with iClone 6.

First some background: I originally started as a 3D animator, with what was to become 3DS Max (back then it ran in DOS and was named 3D Studio). I loved it but was always frustrated by how long it took to actually render anything. When I discovered Anime Studio and how fast I could make animations I never looked back.

Well, not strictly true. When iClone first came out I was intrigued. It was the promise of Real Time animation and not only real time animation but real time CHARACTER animation and while the results weren't great they were at least encouraging. I bought iClone 1 but never found any real use for it.

Last year they sent me the latest promotional literature about iClone 5 and, once again, I guess I had more money than brains so I upgraded. Still never used it, not even booting it up once.

So a few months ago they sent me the promotion for iClone 6 and, you guessed it, this guy went ahead and spent more money he didn't have. But this time I actually booted it up and to say I was impressed would be an understatement.

I don't think it's perfect by any means, but it certainly is the closest thing I've ever seen to getting character animation, if not in Real Time, then in five or ten minutes for a scene of three or four minutes. It renders as fast, if not faster, than AS, with a MUCH higher level of detail (obviously, as it's 3D).

Part of the magic is it uses the NVidia graphics engine -- while it will run on lesser cards, it really needs an NVideo card and a good one at that to work best. I bought one for $200 and it just screams. In that card is contained things that allow it to do real time physics and hair that is truly wonderful. I never thought I'd live long enough to see this kind of stuff possible.

I've also, in conjunction with this, been playing around with mocap using my Kinect V2 and that stuff is pretty amazing as well. For something costing a few hundred dollars I can get some really good motions (including hand and finger motions!). But what's even more exciting is the possibility (not *quite* here yet) of doing full facial capture, all without markers.

I will, from time to time, post some additional thoughts about this. I'm pretty early still in my journey, but very happy with even my stumbling around. It doesn't mean I don't love AS nor will it prevent me from using AS -- 2D animation is a completely different beast.

"Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat"


-Mike "ex-genius" Kelley

SynthSin75
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USA
4465 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2015 :  6:43:17 PM  Show Profile  Visit SynthSin75's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Thanks Mike. I look forward to any further thoughts or even seeing some of your work with iClone. I'm on the fence about buying it.

-Wes
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Kelleytoons
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6376 Posts

Posted - 11/10/2015 :  7:53:35 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
If you think you *may* buy it between now and Dec. 6th would be a good opportunity -- there is a free offer for their new CT8 pipeline which will allow 2D to 3D heads (for use in both CT as well as iClone although the latter is all I'm interested in). I can provide more details if you'd like.

And if there is anything I can show or tell you that would help make your mind up be sure to ask. I've learned a TON lately <g>.

"Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat"


-Mike "ex-genius" Kelley
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rankamatuer
Junior Member

205 Posts

Posted - 11/20/2015 :  4:41:12 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Obviously I've got a full plate learning ASP, but I just don't get 3D in general. Does it really enhance your ability to tell a story? Do people enjoy viewing it more? It almost seems like heresy to me, having grown up on a steady stream of 2d cartoons. It astounds me that you like it so much Mike. What are you planning to do with it that you can't do in 2d? I don't want to dismiss it without understanding it better.

One must attempt the absurd to achieve the impossible.
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Kelleytoons
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6376 Posts

Posted - 11/20/2015 :  6:18:13 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
While I grew up *watching* 2D cartoons, I "grew up" animating in 3D. For one thing, I can't draw (as everyone here knows) so it never once occurred to me to do anything in 2D (that pretty much involves drawing). Even now I just kind of scrape by.

But when 3D animation got cheap enough (and that is a very relative term -- this was back when I was making big money and it cost me 3K just to get the software, let alone the very expensive hardware at the time) I realized it was something I could do. If I couldn't figure out how to draw something with perspective, why worry about it? All I needed to do was to create a 3D object and the software would handle the rest. I couldn't shade anything worth a damn -- again, no problem. Just throw a few lights (I already knew lighting from photography) and the machine figures it out.

It was pretty cool and I actually made some decent money at it, but the achilles heel then was character animation, and telling stories is all about the characters. I did a bit, but it was SO tedious and impossible to do that when I found AS I found heaven.

AS was also lighting fast, another real issue with 3D. When you take many days (or longer) to render even a few minutes of animation, you really appreciate the speed of AS. So I never really looked back...

Until fairly recently, when I looked at the latest incarnation of iClone. As I noted above, this was in my viewports a long time ago. I have kept an eye on it off and on because I realized their goal, Real Time 3D character animation, was something that I've wanted all my adult life. And with iClone 6, I think they have achieved it.

It ain't perfect, but it's pretty damn close. And with the Kinect mocap stuff I'm using, I also don't have to worry about animation (so there's that out of the way). Facial mocap is just around the corner, so at that time (I'm guessing less than six months but it could be sooner) the "animator" is removed from the equation, and the actor/writer/director becomes king.

Look, I still love 2D and will always do some of it. But there are things about it I *hate*. I hate drawing backgrounds -- with 3D that's the easiest thing in the world (you won't believe the beautiful content I have, enough to last a lifetime, and all really without any work at all). I dislike doing lip sync -- iClone does it automatically (and very well). With mocap body (and soon face) all I have to do is drop the pieces into the scene, and render (while it plays back in Real Time to actually render takes about the same time as AS. But we're talking full reflections, trees, plants, grass blowing in the wind, 3D physics on cloth and hair, and a lot of things that, in that quick a render time, would have been impossible even a year or two ago).

Oh, and I did I mention iClone is cheap? Not incredibly cheap (again, relative) but about the same scale as AS. There are lots of add-ons you can buy, and some of them are really needed, but in terms of 3D software this is the bargain basement of wares.

I'm working on some things that I'll show here eventually. But for me, telling the story is the most important thing, and any tool which makes it easier to do that is wonderful. iClone is about the easiest in the world.

"Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat"


-Mike "ex-genius" Kelley
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Kelleytoons
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6376 Posts

Posted - 11/20/2015 :  6:50:19 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
After taking a shower and thinking about this some more I thought I'd elaborate.

While 2D and 3D animation can accomplish almost anything (as many companies have proven) in terms of MY skills 2D is almost completely limited to a certain sort of content; namely, a cartoonish, satirical approach. Nothing wrong with that, as it's kind of my wheelhouse, but it's about all I'll ever hope to do (again, because of my own lack of skills in drawing).

With 3D I can definitely do different sorts of content -- I'm too self-conscious ever to try and be dead serious (besides, I really don't think the world needs more seriousness. Seriously) but with 3D I can at least be more sly about how I present my humor and, yes, perhaps even do something that has more emotional backbone. OTOH (again, my skills, not the software) the suspension of disbelief that occurs naturally in 2D can't be done well in 3D.

This last is important to note: if I draw (in my limited way) a squiggly line that is a "plant" folks will accept that in 2D. It's why backgrounds in 2D do not have to be all that impressive (they can be, but they don't need to be). People "know" 2D isn't Real Life, so they have a covenant with the animator and say "okay, tell me the story and I won't worry about the fact it isn't real".

With 3D you don't have that luxury. You are judged by Real Life and getting "close" is much less acceptable. It still can be -- you can do "enough" and folks will say "okay, I know this isn't real but I'll go along with it" but the line is much more difficult to tread. It's another reason I won't try and do anything too serious -- only folks as talented as Pixar can get there.

So I see the two paths as very different and they require different stories to be effective. I do think a nod to the fact that what you are doing isn't the Real World (breaking the fourth wall) is a good idea in 3D. Again, not something you ever need to concern yourself with in 2D.

And in the final analysis, if what you have to say is worth hearing, it most likely doesn't matter much how you tell your story. But it sure is fun to deal with the various possibilities of doing so.

"Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat"


-Mike "ex-genius" Kelley
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SynthSin75
Administrator



USA
4465 Posts

Posted - 11/20/2015 :  7:40:43 PM  Show Profile  Visit SynthSin75's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Mike, could you elaborate on what addons you consider necessary and why? I'm still trying to judge whether I'll actually use it (like you, I have bought software I've never used), and if the price, including all must-haves, is worth it to me. Also, do you know of any good animations/demos that really show what your must-have addons can achieve?

-Wes
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Kelleytoons
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6376 Posts

Posted - 11/20/2015 :  10:58:01 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Right now the really critical add-on, IMHO, is the 3DXChange program, which allows you to convert nearly any 3D object from an outside source into iClone. This way you can get a TON of free content from, say, 3D Warehouse (the former Sketchup repository) or lots of free BVH motions (there are a few thousand of those out there). With that and iClone you basically have more than enough to do what you want. There are different levels of 3DXChange with the Pipeline being the most expensive -- it offers the ability to take content OUT of iClone into other 3D programs, so it's not really needed if you are going to stay within iClone (I only bought the Pro version).

Character Creator is free, but you will want that. So for iClone Pro and Pipeline Pro, which both cost $120, you will be spending $240 and have a very complete production suite.

Now, I have some other stuff, like the mocap stuff, which isn't a must-have unless you want to do custom mocap stuff AND you have the hardware (at the least you would need a Kinect and Windows adapter -- I actually have two of them).

Finally, not to confuse matters further, but they are JUST about to release the CrazyTalk 8 Pipeline. This wouldn't be half as interesting if it didn't offer the ability to export the 3D heads into iClone. So for truly custom work you might want that (it doesn't release until the middle of December, but I've already pre-ordered). I don't want you to think you can't do very good custom heads on your own without it, but it will sure simplify the process for those of us who are artistically challenged. If you decide you really like iClone they are going to release just the 3D head piece sometime early next year (most likely for less than $100).

As for what you can do -- there are some *really* good animations out there, but by and large they are made by fanboys whose sense of actual writing/acting is, well, to say sophmoric would only be damning with faint praise. I don't consider them good examples because, by and large, I can't stand to watch more than a few minutes before I roll my eyes. So turning down the sound and just watching the visuals is a good practice, by and large. There are exceptions, of course.

Here's some of the one's I've enjoyed watching lately:

https://vimeo.com/136220539

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh_iFiSv0B4#t=49

This last video was all done with free content from the Sketchup warehouse (and the default Heidi character, who looks pretty bad out of the box -- not sure why he didn't do more but he's not really a character guy)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IANdXQOqym4

Here's a much better example of what you can do with the free Character Creator:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUCgeNrn54w


"Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat"


-Mike "ex-genius" Kelley
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Kelleytoons
Forum Admin



6376 Posts

Posted - 11/20/2015 :  11:25:18 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
And here's what I did in about 90 minutes, early on in iClone (still getting used to things -- the airship was free content from the Warehouse imported via 3DXChange).

I have an idea for these characters (and this scene) but I was waiting until I got my mocap studio setup (which is now is) and still waiting for the 3D head pipeline (should be shipping very soon after Dec. 6th), as my characters need custom heads (while they are altered somewhat they still look pretty stock).

A scene like this would have taken a week to render in Max -- in iClone it took less than 10 minutes (maybe a lot less, I went to get a drink of water and when I got back it was done).



(To be fair this needs to be seen in HD on a big screen, not embedded here -- so if you like it at all, watch it on YouTube).

"Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat"


-Mike "ex-genius" Kelley
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SynthSin75
Administrator



USA
4465 Posts

Posted - 11/21/2015 :  2:55:59 PM  Show Profile  Visit SynthSin75's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Yeah, that default Heidi character is what made me question the quality. And I assume the hair physics in Trouble in the Tomb was just bad settings, as they were far too strong and slow. Nice render. Is there a mechanism to keep the feet from slipping around?

Looks like I may have missed a sale as iClone6 Pro and 3DXchange6 Pro are now listed as $199 each. I'm almost sold, but I'll wait for a sale. I don't think I'll need any CT stuff, and thanks for all the info.

-Wes
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Kelleytoons
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6376 Posts

Posted - 11/21/2015 :  4:40:38 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The "Trouble in the Tomb" was done in iClone 5, prior to hair physics (it's actually an IC5 figure). The hair physics in iC6 are actually just about perfect (occasionally there is an occlusion issue but it can be handled).

Feet can be "planted" but in walking around any slippage is most likely due to the motion file as well as how much "work" you want to put in. By default you can get a character to move to any position you want by just pointing and clicking, but that tends to have slippage. Or you can use a motion file that's properly done and then there is absolutely no slippage but then getting the character to where you want it to go is a bit more trouble.

Here is a file I created and rendered (that is, I put the premade items into the scene, added animation and camera movement, and rendered out to an MP4 file) all in just about 30 minutes. It shows fairly good foot planting (although I see I need to adjust the shadow on her) as well as hair physics (and there is a tiny bit of occlusion issues). Both of these problems, though, were things I might have fixed in less than 15 minutes -- this is the raw file without ANY fixes or work at all other than drag and drop (I also got a chance to play with the new sky thingee, that allows you to automate sun, cloud and star changes). Yes, it's only 30 seconds, but it's 30 seconds of 3D animation with some pretty cool looking FX done (mostly) while I was answering my email and posts on forums.



Also, don't dismiss CT quite yet. Here's the thing we are most excited for:



and the idea is the pipeline product (which is part of this) will allow us to import the heads into iClone. It's really the thing I am most excited about for iClone right now (I have all the content I'll ever want, and the Character Creator is great for bodies but it requires more talent and work than I have for faces -- this makes it dead easy).

"Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat"


-Mike "ex-genius" Kelley
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SynthSin75
Administrator



USA
4465 Posts

Posted - 11/21/2015 :  6:36:55 PM  Show Profile  Visit SynthSin75's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Thanks, Mike. Yeah, I saw that CT8 video. Impressive, but not something I see myself needing immediately. Hopefully their newsletter will notify me of a sale.

-Wes
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Kelleytoons
Forum Admin



6376 Posts

Posted - 11/21/2015 :  6:43:13 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
It might -- you might also want to get on the main site every now and then and keep an eye out.

As a rule they do have some great sales on bundled products -- they don't generally discount individual stuff, but will offer (for the same price as one item) a couple of things together that make it worth your while.

I ended up buying both iClone and CT together about a year ago on sale and while I never used them they also gave me "premium" status for cheaper prices on upgrading.

"Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat"


-Mike "ex-genius" Kelley
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rankamatuer
Junior Member

205 Posts

Posted - 12/01/2015 :  4:28:53 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Took the Iclone plunge today. Also finishing my new *fast* computer with one of Intel's newer CPU's. Incredible how cheap all this stuff is getting!

I realize there is along learning curve here. Trying to lay the groundwork because at some point, after further investigation.. I'll probably switch to 3d. But in the meantime, going to be making several new cartoons in 2d, just waiting to ease out of my current
job first before I unleash a political firestorm.

One must attempt the absurd to achieve the impossible.
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SynthSin75
Administrator



USA
4465 Posts

Posted - 12/01/2015 :  7:24:37 PM  Show Profile  Visit SynthSin75's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I almost did, but turns out I'd need the almost $400 Pipeline for my immediate needs, so I'll probably just learn Blender instead.

-Wes
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Kelleytoons
Forum Admin



6376 Posts

Posted - 12/01/2015 :  9:59:20 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
You really need the XChange Pipeline? Remember, you can export obj out of just the Pro version.

I haven't felt any need for the Pipeline edition of Exchange, and the Pro is only $99 (really, the ONLY reason to need Pipeline is if you are going to render in another engine, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of iClone. Either that or you are going to sell commercial products and/or make 3D games).

"Look, I made a hat...
Where there never was a hat"


-Mike "ex-genius" Kelley
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