This week we will take a break from Actorcore retargeting to address an issue that I’m asked about concerning the use of images in iClone. Sometimes you do not have the 3D assets you need, or it might be that 2D will work for a particular shot. When this is the case you can still create a complex-looking scene that is extremely lightweight, and easy to assemble.
In the accompanying tutorial, I show how to use lighting, images, and opacity to make a compelling open or establishing shot. This type of shot is also referred to as a beauty shot, and it's not just eye-candy. It sets the stage for the scene that follows.
Just about everyone that uses the app knows you can drag and drop images into the viewport but not all know that if you start with a RIGHT click instead of left you get a menu once you release your image in the iClone workspace.
This menu gives you several choices:
|IBL - Lighting
Image Layer - Always on Top
Plane - Anything Anywhere Any Angle
Billboard - Always Facing the Camera
Background Texture - Diffuse Map
Of the choices above I use Plane the most as it can be manipulated and used with opacity like a Png or an opacity map to create a “cut-out” as it were. Strategic placement of these cutouts combined with an eye-catching background can craft a rich visualization that can get the viewers' attention.
Lighting is extremely important to pull this off successfully, but it is far from being complicated. In fact, as the tutorial shows, you only need to check some boxes and make a few changes including using the underrated “Adjust Color” tool to mix a blueish-green IBL blend image.
Another thing I use in this tutorial is incredibly old school and dates back to when solid colors were a major tool instead of the afterthought they are today. Instead of iClone fog, I use a solid color Image Layer with faded opacity to blend the harsher and darker foreground buildings with the background.
Basically, we are turning the iClone workspace into an extremely simplified version of After Effects using the Image Layer just as we would a solid color layer in AE. With the Image Layer always being on top we can use it to color blend everything behind it. This does not fit all situations, but it works well in this example and many others.
It boils down to dragging in a background image (tutorial images download link in the video description) then dragging in the cut-out images which are properly positioned in front of the camera. When using a static background image, you will not be able to rotate the camera. You can maintain the shot or move forward or back to some degree.
HDR effects, particularly Tone Map, are also important to lighting the scene as we work with the background image to flood the scene with light using only a sider control. Nothing complicated. This light helps blend the scene with the foreground images by flooding out some of the minute detail while retaining a sense of atmosphere. I find iClone 7 to be great at enhancing background images with the Tone Map creating a pseudo light effect.
So, if you want to see how to put all this together follow the short tutorial to recreate the scene then dive back into it... to make it your own with different lighting, tweaks, and effects. There are also a few tips concerning increasing camera workspace size and quick, easy glow maps from the diffuse map. Throw in a static or moving craft and you have a compelling shot to grab the interest of the viewer.
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.