I've been using iClone since version one, way back in the dark ages around 2005 or so. Before that, I was already working with 3ds Max because I worked for Max based studios and Photoshop because... well... it's Photoshop.
Those three software applications have been with me since I discovered them, and they are as familiar as the back of my hand. So I'm extremely comfortable with them. Max and Photoshop were the professional tools at first. The extreme tools as it were. It took a bit of time and experience to become proficient in those applications with a large dose of frustration.
Not so with iClone. Even today with all its bells and whistles, it's still much easier to learn and produce results for some people. You can just drag and drop characters, props and motions on the workspace or proper object and get something going. Try that with 3DS Max and you won't get a damn thing... except a jumble of dropped objects and an error message or two asking... basically... WTF?
At first, I had to touch up the iClone videos and stills with Photoshop as it was little more than a toy in version one. It didn't have a free camera then, only stock cameras with motion. It had very little character motions, and I'm not sure it had a timeline in version one but... it had a powerful image to face tool that was ahead of its time.
I remember grabbing some face shots of James Bond actors like Timothy Dalton, Sean Connery and the always proper Roger Moore. I think I even threw in George Lazenby and melded them to characters... you could even tell who they were! Tossed in some random animations and camera shots along with the James Bond theme song and a video was produced in just a few hours!
I never said it was a good video but that time frame from concept to completion was unheard of. I started using iClone for storyboard illustrations, and it immediately paid for itself. After a couple of years I began to look forward to iClone updates because they were... to put it simply... MASSIVE!
We pay for the major upgrades in version... from 6 to 7... but updates in between the whole numbers... those massive... glorious updates... are free!
This latest update to iClone 7 and Character Creator 3 are no less massive. In fact, once again, they contain work habit-changing tools that are easy to grasp and powerful to use.
Too many things to cover it all now, so I will focus a bit on two of them in this article:
- AccuLips lip sync for iClone 7
- New Hair and Beard Tools for Character Creator 3
First... the new lip-sync and yes... we've been here before. We've been promised good lip sync before only to find it took a lot of clean up. This time around is a major improvement in both the interface and the results. AccuLips relies on written words to improve accuracy. You literally type in and correct any mistakes the lip-sync makes which is then added to a library. I confess, even after testing, that I'm a bit in the dark about the library but it's like a constantly evolving vocabulary that can be customized. Kind of like a car... you don't have to know how it works to use it.
The tool then matches words to VISEMES and it does a rather remarkable job. In one test where the audio was garbled, I typed in the words (copy and paste works too). There is a much improved and new lip-sync interface to work in.
Second... the new hair and beard tools for Character Creator 3 are amazing. It divides the face and scalp into regions like the moustache, soul patch, goatee, sideburns and so forth. The same is true for hair in that you can have a base with added bangs, ponytail and wisps of hair here and there. Again... the new interface is easy and straightforward to use. If you are adding a moustache then select moustache and as long as you select the right region the beard will move properly with the mouth as it breathes or speaks.
I'll go over these more in detail in future articles but for now, I can honestly say that testing these improvements has been a real pleasure. So, fire up the Reallusion Hub and download those updates. What you are waiting for? I mean... I haven't even got to the better Alembic import and a little thing called Vertex Animation!
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.