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Italian Director turns to Realtime 3D Software with Digital Doubles for Star Wars Fan Film Previz


Director – Angelo Licata

Angelo Licata

Angelo Licata is a Turin born, Director/ Writer / VFX supervisor known for his 2007 independent film – Dark Resurrection, a tribute to Star Wars.

His film was was greatly acclaimed by the media, paving the way towards the film industry where he collaborated on several films including “EX” and “Maschi contro Femmine”, while directing numerous TV commercials. In 2013, he wrote and directed the short sci-fi film – Closer, which received over 8,000,000 YouTube views. In 2015, Angelo directed and wrote Mala Vita, a RAI television production with excellent reviews and winner of various awards including a special mention from the National Syndicate of Italian Film Journalists

In the last chapter of his Dark Resurrection series, Angelo created a short trailer/film where he employed iClone and Character Creator‘s Headshot plugin to plan for just 4 days of movie shooting!

Q: Greetings Angelo, and welcome. Kindly share with our audience your background and trajectory in filmmaking. 

Hello, and thank you Reallusion for the interest in my story. I started the adventure in the world of entertainment thanks to a small experimental film that was freely inspired by Star Wars, titled Dark Resurrection. It was 2007 and since then I have found myself being the director and supervisor of visual effects in various Italian productions.

Despite having participated in large productions such as the Mulino Bianco campaign with Antonio Banderas, and three blockbuster cinema films in Italy, the thing I’m best known for is always the Dark Resurrection saga,

which at the time had an incredible impact media in my country, and the science fiction short Closer which has seen over 9,000,000 views on YouTube. In the meantime I have written some scripts and a novel, which have been approved and will hopefully soon become films and TV series.

Q: Your Star Wars-inspired saga, Dark Resurrection has developed over a decade. How have your creative tools changed during this time?

The software and also the way of using visual effects has changed dramatically from one film to another. In the first volume only the spaceships had been animated in 3D. All the other backdrops, on the other hand, were static renders and then animated at parallax levels with after effects.

Volume 0 in 2011 was shot entirely on the green screen but this time the backdrops were obtained from real macro models created by a brilliant scenographer named Tommaso Ragnisco, then they were photographed and mapped on 3D.

The result is great realism that still works and collects consensus today. For the final chapter, also shot entirely on the green screen, 23 totally digital locations were created, textured with Substance Painter and rendered thanks to Octane Render in Cinema4D.

There has been a frightening evolution, and every time I have had to learn new techniques. The last chapter also had complex management to rely only on the storyboards and for this reason it was totally previewed in iClone.  

Q: Dark Resurrection employed the use of iClone real-time animation, and Character Creator digital doubles. What are the advantages of using these tools? 

iClone was an irreplaceable productive tool. Having to build everything digitally, it was essential to design each shot. We had to understand which movements and which shots were possible within the soundstage, and be sure that we would only shot scenes that were useful for the final editing. ”

– Angelo Licata / Filmmaker

And of course it had to all have high quality and aesthetics. We started by photographing our actors and creating their avatars in Character Creator. The use of similar digital doubles may seem exaggerated, but it is not at all.

As with accurate digital doubles you can understand what is the best angle of recovery for an actor’s face, play with different heights and answer a lot of unknowns directly inside iClone. Finally, the animatics also improve communication with the entire crew, allowing each production department to prepare well in advance.

Q: You literally learned iClone and Character Creator in 1 day! How did you accomplish this, and what advice can you give other industry professionals being pressed by deadlines?

I understood the basics of its functioning in a morning and in the evening I had my hands in my first animatic, rough but very functional. Maybe I did it because I was moved by despair: I had to make a commercial and they called me with very little notice. I had very few hours of sets available, and I wasn’t sure what I had in mind would work in editing. With iClone I tested my ideas and made an animatic pre-assembly of the spot.

Personally I find that the interface is quite simple, the ability to animate various parts of the body with keyframes allows me to work very quickly.

Character Creator is also a very powerful tool and in my opinion even easier to use. It is really easy to create characters of various workmanship by changing features and building by clicking directly on the point concerned. ”

– Angelo Licata / Filmmaker

In my opinion, animatics are an indispensable production tool when using visual effects or very complicated scenes, and it is essential to plan filming. In any other case they are a unique, creative tool that allow directors to experiment with alternative solutions and eliminate the superfluous. For me it is a sort of parachute to “not get hurt” on the set. Obviously, seeing the scene before shooting it allows the production to plan the shooting days and the costs with remarkable precision.

Q: Now that your Dark Resurrection saga has come to an end, what can the filmmaking community look forward to from Angelo Licata ?

Finishing Dark Resurrection was a dutiful commitment to the thousands of fans who supported me from all over the world. Since January almost 10,000 people have downloaded and read the free ebook and many are asking me to make the full film, but it is an impossible thing to do. It would cost millions of euros and three years of work and is unthinkable for a non-profit film.

Download eBook

In the last few years I wrote some screenplays, including a fantasy and a thriller, both very close to seeing the light thanks to important production houses in my country, but the world of cinema and TV has totally stopped due to the pandemic.

In the hope that everything will start again soon I am writing my next novel and continuing to study Unreal and iClone. I’d like to make a fully animated short film using these two incredible tools.  Thank you.

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