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Creating an Action Animation Short in 3 Weeks


Exploiting a pipeline with Character Creator, iClone, Rokoko and Cinema 4D

As we all know, creating animations can be an extremely time-consuming and costly task. New software innovations have made it much easier for animators and filmmakers to create quality projects in record time.

This tutorial will share how this “Battle City” short by Jon Finger, was created in 3 weeks with help from theCharacter Creator, iClone, Rokoko and Cinema 4D pipeline.

Here is the workflow-

Step 1. Use Character Creator to generate avatars

Quickly assemble varying characters with minimal effort

Character Creator content offers all sorts of premade characters, costumes, skin textures, and props. 

In the Battle City film, the characters are a tactical team, and they have similar looks and costumes. Jon Finger applied a combination of military, post-apocalyptic and high-tech outfits. The battle mech armor outfits and survivor post-apocalyptic playset for Character Creator offer highly realistic PBR characters.

Character Creator works with a large library of characters, costumes and props.

To make interesting and believable custom characters, Character Creator allows you to modify the texture, scale and edit the mesh. The CONFORMING button is a very interesting feature in Character Creator as it takes the topology of the assets to look fit on the character.

The other useful feature in Character Creator is the MORPH SLIDER, which allows you to adjust eyes, nose, and body shapes – helping you get exactly the type of character you need.

Apply pre-made character content, and modify the character with Morph Editor in Character Creator to create generic characters.

Once the characters are done, send the characters to iClone, you can actually send multiple characters to iClone to interact with each other.

Battle City Tutorial 1 – Character Creator

Step 2. Animate Characters in iClone 

In this stage, motion capture is the key for time-saving 

There are many ways to animate in iClone. The most time-saving method is to use Motion LIVE to add motion capture data to instantly animate your characters.

Control multiple characters in Motion Live

You can bring in multiple types of motion capture onto one character all at once or as individual layers. Jon Finger did it in multiple layers. He started out by recording the facial animation, with the LIVE FACE plug-in, using iPhone’s facial tracking on an iPhone X or XS to capture the facial movement. There is also an option to use Faceware plug-in which allows you to use just a normal camera on your computer.

iPhone facial mocap with LIVE FACE plug-in
Body motion capture via Rokoko Studio

For body motion capture, he livestreams the body motion capture from Rokoko Studio in order to capture the takes of the full-body motion capture and find the best one. 

The final step was hand animation with Leap Motion. The neat thing with Leap Motion is you can choose whether you want to do the full forearm hand and fingers, or just the hand and fingers, or just the fingers. 

When you have all the captured data in Rokoko, you can export an FBX through 3DXchange, With 3DXchange you are able to import most motion capture or animation data for your characters as long as you can assign those bones that you have on your character to one of their base setups. Once you designate all the bones you can then apply that to your character and that character will now have the animation.

Another thing that is very helpful to speedup the animation process is the integration of iClone motion libraries. For example, in this film Jon can have someone dive across the screen without having to actually dive across the living room. He also used a lot of motion library data for the enemy characters. It made it easy to populate characters and animate all at the same speed.

Battle City Tutorial 2 – iClone mocap

Step 3. Bring animated character into Cinema 4D

Building and Rendering in Cinema 4D 

Exporting to Cinema 4D was very easy, select characters and export as FBX then import into Cinema 4D.

Character and animation exported from iClone to Cinema 4D

Each character in their own Knolls so that you can adjust how their animations will play out  just by rotating that Knoll or moving it around for this project. Jon was working in 24 frames a second, so he exported all FBX  at 24 frames a second.

Composite the scene and multiple characters for C4D render

An experienced lesson here is that Jon wished he had kept the frame rate higher for the facial tracking characters, because later he ended up finding out that he didn’t have more facial capture data. 

Since the characters were already textured and everything was set up with lighting and  adjusted materials, he decided to set up an entire scene and render a wide frame of it. The cool thing with doing it this way is that you can render out the wide shot, look through and see what you need to fix and fix some close-ups so that you don’t have to do as many renders. And still, you have a lot of footage to work with in the edit. 

Set the entire scene and render out the shot with Octane.

Battle City Tutorial 3 – Cinema 4d

Battle City Tutorial 4 – building in Cinema 4d

Learn more about Character Creator and iClone

About the Author

Jon Finger is a filmmaker inspired by building and exploring worlds. He’s always looking for new technologies that remove limitations and allow him to approach his ideas faster and with more freedom.

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