As a longtime user/trainer/evangelist for iClone, I am still amazed at how this application has evolved from a simple avatar animator to a powerhouse of digital animation and imaging tools. iClone and its associated apps can turn out a project very quickly and efficiently. With all its bells and whistles, whether its ease of use or drill down professional features iClone has sadly lagged behind in one area.
Any kind of water. Doesn't matter what kind. To put it kindly… 2015 wants its water back.
Ok… maybe that's a bit rough but what was great when released has not aged well. And… it has always seemed that iClone treats water like an afterthought. To date, there is no real water system in iClone, and considering how important that can be it is sometimes baffling to consider.
In reality, I can see water being one of those crusades that everyone jumps on board but once released isn't such a big deal anymore. For all I know there may be some water system R&D going on (I don't read their roadmap anymore… too old to remember of any it anyway) in the subbasement of the Reallusion Skunkworks but for now… we make do.
What we do have are some very nice, water type textured planes that seem to be more like props but aren't as versatile as props because they have limitations. When introduced they were welcomed and then cast aside fairly quickly. Some people have done wonderful jobs of utilizing the water planes in iClone but most of us just gave up and composited water into wherever ever we needed it.
Soft cloth oceans have been around since physics was introduced into iClone. Not always pretty and not always smooth they have been around all the same. This method uses a soft cloth ocean, but it also uses an Alembic export from Blender driven by a simple Python script to provide the wave animation.
I saw this on Facebook from Rampa (familiar to most iClone users and a great tinkerer) on how he does this, and he graciously supplied the Python script in the video description. While it was very promising the initial version was a bit out of control sea-wise in that it was so fast and violent it would have made any grizzled old sailor jump ship.
However, as with any tech demo, it planted a seed because the concept was sound. Rampa's goal wasn't production value but to demonstrate it can be done so I decided to dig into the Blender Ocean modifier to see what could be tweaked… which turned out to be quite a bit.
First and foremost, let me say I am not a Blender user. Nothing against it, it's powerful and sexy, it's just that I learned 3D long before Blender was around. 3DS Max is my weapon of choice and has been long before Autodesk owned them but Rampa made this so simple that I jumped right into Blender and had the ocean animated within minutes.
In a nutshell, you create your ocean in Blender with an Ocean modifier and keyframes. This is a simple and quick process then you export it out as an OBJ or FBX. I used OBJ as that is what Rampa used and it worked flawlessly. You also need to export the file out as alembic (.abc). The script is very simple:
file_path = ""
object = RLPy.RScene.FindObject(RLPy.EObjectType_Prop,"")
RLPy.RFileIO.LoadAlembicFile(object, file_path, RLPy.ECoordinateAxis_Y)
In the above example insert the path to your alembic and obj files.
file_path = " C:/Documents/BlenderOceaniClone/ocean.abc"
and add the name of your prop.
object = RLPy.RScene.FindObject(RLPy.EObjectType_Prop,"ocean")
From there you need to go into the Scene Manager in iClone to rename the ocean prop to match whatever name you gave it. Then you import the prop and resize it to suit your needs. Next, go to the Script menu on the top toolbar of iClone and import the ocean script. Then apply texture.
To see how it's all done watch Rampa's video and you'll be swimming in the ocean … in iClone… in no time. Like all soft cloth oceans, it relies on texturing to pull it off so you may have to find your own texture if don't like what Rampa and I have used.
Good luck, and we'll see you on the water.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.