3D animation for the beginner tends to be difficult to learn, with the need for extensive tutorials, and hours of fiddling before anything near useful emerges from the maelstrom. This tends to put the average user off and discourages many from attempting to create their own 3D movies. Enter Reallusion with the new iClone 3 PRO animation studio. As with much of its software, Reallusion tends to turn mountains into mole hills through easy to understand interfaces and simple, yet thorough, tutorials to get even the beginner up and running fast on their chosen masterpiece and iClone 3 PRO proves their ability yet again.
iClone 3 PRO is a complete package for 3D animation, with an interface that will please even amateurs with its simplicity. It is by no means the most powerful of 3D packages, but what it does it does well, but it is not a direct competitor for development tools such as 3ds Max. Control of the animation in iClone is very similar to that of a gaming platform (using their "Play to Create" interface), with the keyboard keys W, A, S and D used to control actors and props in a similar fashion to many game interfaces that should appeal to any gamer wanting to try their hand at animation.
The software package is truly impressive, especialy due to the number of tutorials and the all encompassing manuals (online and printed). The tutorials give a fast incite into the use of each facet of the software, with the manuals providing more detailed step by step guides to each software function.
The first step of creating your 3D animation in iClone 3 is the design of the environment and placement of actors and props using Editor mode. The software includes a number of environments, props and actors, but far more are available for purchase online through the Reallusion website to suit any scenario. The software allows for a great deal of customisation of every aspect of the environment including weather variables (haze, breeze etc.), water parameters (colour, reflection etc). Actors can even be customised using your own photographs to give exactly the character you would like (using an interface not far removed to that used by Reallusion CrazyTalk 5) using the G3 actor system. These characters can then be even further customised to create a desired body shape, skin texture etc. If that weren't enough furher models for terrains, actors or props can be imported using Reallusion 3DXchange 2 (also included in the iClone 3 package) which allows for importing and further editing of 3DS and OBJ files from SketchUp, DAZ Studio, Poser, Zbrush, Bryce, Vue, Lightwave etc.
Once you have created the environment and placed props and actors to your satisfaction the program can be used to direct the script in Director mode. This is where the "Play to Create" part of the software comes in allowing actors and interactive props to be manipulated either using a combination of W, A, S and D for movement and mouse clicks for object interaction to follow your desired script. During this time actors can be given specific personas and behaviours to "act out".
Once the basic movements have been predetermined it is back to the Editor mode to refine each movement to make it more lifelike, refine the camera movements and angles to improve the overall effect, and define lighting and shadowing of the subjects in the scene. This again is highly customisable from specific bone movements (including fingers), down to depth of view rendering for a specific effect. Finally publication of the finished animations can be done in a number of formats including a picture series, AVI, RM, MP4, Flash, or WMV files.
Reallusion have as usual done themselves proud with this latest version of iClone 3 PRO, simplifying what could be seen as a really daunting application through a very simple to use interface and a comprehensive series of tutorials and manuals. Everything works together very simply: whether designing the set, creating actors or even using the simple interface in Director mode. Each feature has a multitude of easy to configure variables to create the environment and physics desired for the scene. The software will definitely appeal to amateurs wanting to start at 3D animation, but also has the features to accomodate more experienced users wanting to upgrade. The software is definitely great fun no matter what experience level.
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