Reallusion's iClone software has evolved over the years from an avatar creation niche app to a full-fledged animation package loaded with features to make the job easier. As a longtime user, I have been fortunate enough to pick up a few tips from iClone users as well as my own work habits to save time and cut down frustration.
Set the Scale
Often overlooked is the need to set the scale of the scene particularly for beginners. Nothing kills a scene any quicker than a variety of characters with no consistent scale. When you start to build a scene place a character or prop in the scene first to set the scale of the scene for consistency. Make sure every item added to a scene is visually the same scale.
Drag and Drop Assets
iClone users can keep their 3D assets on a directory or a drive and just drag and drop assets into the workspace. Some assets have related script files that have to be in a certain location to function and the same is true of built in motions. You can drag and drop those to the needed folders or simply install them again when needed. As iClone gets more complicated, more items require regular installation but a majority of props and characters will function with a simple drag and drop.
Setup Visible Menu Tabs
Out of sight, out of mind is not a good thing with an application. iClone is loaded with features that can be buried by hidden menus. In version 6, you set all the important features such as rendering, preferences, Indigo renderer and project setting as their own tabs on the side menu to keep them visible.
Group Props Together in Large Scenes
A lot of us love large scenes and depending on your computer, you can build some massive scenes. So massive they can give your computer hiccups or cause it to be extremely slow when trying to animate the scene. To avoid this, group items as one object then set their onscreen rendering to a lower state like wireframe or save the grouped objects and then delete the group from the scene. After you complete your animations tasks, you can simply double click on the saved group asset to load it all back into the scene before you render out the final product.
Decide Proper Build-Out
This used to be a no-brainer years ago when computers couldn't handle complex scenes. We only built what the camera could see but today is a different world. Many directors want as much flexibility as possible and want an 180-degree filming view and some prefer the full 360 degrees. If you are not sure what you want then build the 360-degree view if possible.
Use a Shot List for Cameras
When I'm handed an assignment I usually get a shot list (camera angles) from the videographer or creative director that diagrams the camera shots desired or I'm tasked to create the list which is further modified by the director once work starts. This provides a starting point for your scene and forces you to visualize that scene through different angles. The easiest way to do this is to create a camera in iClone... link yourself to the camera view to start looking at the scene from the camera lens. Move the camera around its axis... every axis if time allows... to see the different camera angles provided. I've stumbled across a lot of killer shots this way and have even been complimented on my "ability" to see the scene in so many different angles when all I'm doing is freestyling the camera.
iClone can be as complicated or as simple as you want or need it to be. You don't have to use every bell and whistle but they are there if you need them and developing good work habits early can save a lot of frustration down the road.
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M.D. McCallum (warlord720) is an International Award Winning Graphics Artist, 3D Animator, 3D Sculptor and Published Author. He is a staff writer and reviewer for the CG Industry news section here at Renderosity.com. You can find more info on M.D. at his website.