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In this article, filmmaker Adolf Navarro shares 3 tips on how to quickly create and animate different genres of action sequences in real-time with these three action sequence examples: the Mech Battle, the Post-apocalyptic World, and the Assassin…

When bringing a script to life for the first time it’s always a struggle between time and resources; especially when it comes to action sequences as they require lots of characters, motions, visual effects,  post production and compositing.

It would take much more time to create the scenes and animations in traditional workflows. However, filmmaking with real-time animation, a library of content and character creation provides visual artists with flexibility while saving lots of time.  Furthermore, realtime animation allows creators to collaborate instantaneously with writers, directors and others involved in the creative process.

Tip 1: Scene layout with characters, prop, and motion packs

The Mech Battle action sequence:

Quickly taking a scene from script to layout is where iClone has an edge and really speeds up the process of bringing things together.  Along with the realtime viewport that displays PBR, advanced lighting and atmosphere, the drag and drop scene creation makes use of the content library that I have purchased or imported.  Reallusion’s content has lots of quick options from military to sci-fi so there’s always a good kitbash for props, characters and scenery.

I created the unique characters in Character Creator (CC) and used some premade content packs for the props and effects. For instance, for this action sequence, the Mechs and the human soldiers were made in a short time because I used the premade assets from the Mech Rex, Task Force and Helicopter packs for all the characters, uniforms and guns.  The terrain grass and bushes are made using the iClone plant and cut tools with Speedtree.  Adjust the growth, wind and and size of the Speedtree assets for instant vegetation.

The Mechs, human soldiers and helicopter were made in a short time with premade asset

All the Mech characters came with embedded motion that can be linked in the timeline. The helicopter also contains embedded scripts, so it’s also very easy to make the rotor movements when the aircraft is flying.  For the human motions I used some clips included in the adventure movies motion pack. I didn’t need any mocap device to do these sequences and the motion can still be edited or blended with other moves. The basics are all there, but the tweaks and cameras are where I make the scenes my own.

The Mech characters, the Helicopters and the human soldiers with embedded motions or applying motions

Tip 2: Applying Real-time Rendering Techniques

The Post-apocalyptic World action sequence:

The balance of quality and speed with a real time render engine such as iClone allows you to check the results on the fly while viewing the scene in nearly final pixel quality . What you see is what you get in the viewport, and even in the most complex scenes with GI (Global Illumination) activated, render times are reduced dramatically. Not having to wait for a long and slow render process is a great advantage. Any error can be immediately noticed, corrected and re-rendered in a matter of minutes.

For instance, to create the aesthetic for these post apocalyptic scenes, I used an assortment of vehicles and gears, those are from a Doomsday Vehicles content pack.  The vehicles can be plotted and driven over the terrain using physics and smart LUA script controllers included with the models.

The characters are sourced from  the Survivors Pack. These characters are textured using photos and are dressed to spec fast using all sorts of post-apocalyptic clothes and accessories. They can be used in combination with PopcornFX Particles Effects to achieve very cool shots, like the flamethrower or bullet impacts when using the machine gun installed in one of the cars.

Real-time animation with PopcornFX Particle Effects blends VFX with in-scene action

Live virtual production in iClone and with realtime engines is more commonly being adopted by studios and VFX companies. So, while we drive the cars like in a video game, their motions are automatically recorded in real time. This is really useful because the spin of the wheels is automatically synchronized with the movement of the vehicles while following the unevenness of the terrain avoiding us a lot of work. The realtime workflow lets artists and the production team collaborate more effectively with tools that can assist in fast storytelling and editing.

The car motions are automatically recorded in real time

Tip 3: Using physics and motion clips for performances

Realtime engines like iClone provide the ability to emulate real world interaction with the use of the Physx and Bullet physics that is included in iClone.  Whether the action sequence calls for crashing boulders or characters to interact with scene objects; any prop or character can have physics associated interaction.

The Assassin action sequence:

In Assasins Creeds scene, the physics and linking motion clips speed up it’s automation calculation

I set physics attributes to some objects in this scene, so they could interact with the collision shapes of the character when he moved. In this way, all the motions caused by the character hitting the table were automatically calculated by  iClone’s physics engine.

Finally to add more action and refine the moves with smooth and seamless transition between clips; the timeline and motion editing tools are essential for finishing a scene.  Access every motion clip and keyframe to adjust poses, transitions and more using the timeline.  Blend the motions with easing and alignment from one motion clip to another.  The curve editor is the professionals tools for fine-tuning scene motions and is an option to add for the most control over animation.  When editing in iClone there are some ways to quicken the process; turing on the “Object Related Track” feature is a good tip to speed things up when you have lots of assets in the scene.  Once an object is selected in the viewport and the “Object Related Track” is turned on, then the timeline will automatically switch to the tracks associated with the selected object.

Final render and sum up

Rendering the scenes in iClone gives all the media needed to continue on with my personal workflow using video editing software and cinematic filters. The clips were edited inVegas Pro 1 using Hitfilm Ignite Pro filters, so I easily got a nice cinematic aspect, just dragging and dropping the desired filters on the clips and working with their settings.

iClone makes it possible to go from the storyboards and script to a visualized prototype, previz or completed animation project.  The power of realtime mixed with content packs and character creation is a complete toolbox, especially for the solo artist studio. 

The detailed explanation of the techniques mentioned in this article is included in this tutorial video:

The Author

Adolf Navarro / Director at Antareus Ltd.

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