In this 4 part tutorial series, Marko documents the process of creating a fully-rigged character in Character Creator 3, animating the character with iPhone facial mocap and the Reallusion motion library in iClone, and importing character and motion into Blender. Marko showcases two methods in working with motion data in Blender, one is using Auto-Rig Pro, another is using Non-linear Action Editor (NLA).
Marko Matosevic is an enthusiast with Blender for over 8 years, runs his own YouTube channel (YouTube.com/Markom3D) and is now a multi award winner of several short films using the Reallusion suite and Blender.
PART #2 – ANIMATING CHARACTERS IN BLENDER
iClone is a truly amazing tool for working with motion capture data, and also using their motion library, in giving your character life. Compared to Blender, there are no native tools for working with motion data other than the Non-linear Action Editor (NLA) and even then, there is a lot of post work that needs to be done. iClone does a lot of the hard work in order for your animations, whether for game or film, to be up and running. I have been using iClone for over a year now and my production cycle has reduced from six months to two weeks for animated short films.
In this article, we will go through the process of exporting a character from iClone with body motion, and applying it to another character in Blender.
Generate Character Motions in iClone
Once you have opened your character in iClone, select the Motion tab. Look through the list of motions that you have available, and select the animation you want to attach, click and drag it onto the body.
Note: It is highly recommended that you create all your base animations in iClone before exporting to Blender, and this goes for both body motion and facial motion. This will save a lot of time and you will not need to do post work with applying actions in the Non-Linear Animation Window.
Move the time line down the bottom to the spot that you want to add the next bit of animation, and click and drag the animation to the character again.
Export Motions from iClone
Once you are happy with the animation, click File > Export > Export FBX. Make the Target Tool Preset as Blender. Next select the FPS of your preference. By default iClone animation is at 60FPS, so if you change the FPS in the export setting, this will change accordingly in Blender. With the Export Range, select Range and type in the frame that you want to export from and to. Lastly is a personal preference, but unticking the Embed Textures box as this allows for the .fbx to be smaller in size, and for all the textures to be placed into the one main folder. Then press export.
Import Motions in Blender
From here we jump into Blender and select File > Import > FBX, then find the exported fbx file and simply double click on it. The blend file will update the FPS of the scene depending on the FPS of the first character that you have imported. By default iClone animation is at 60FPS, so if you change the FPS in the export setting, this will change accordingly in Blender. Your character will now be fully functional in Blender.
Combine Two Motions in Blender
It becomes tricky if you want to merge two or more animations. This method is only applicable to armatures that have the same naming convention. Start off by importing both your characters into Blender as previously stated. Select the Animation Tab at the top of Blender, and change the editor type of the top left window to “Nonlinear Animation”.
Once in the NLA Editor, select one of the armatures, select a NLA track, Shift+A on the track and select the corresponding action from the secondary character. When we play the animation, we will see that the character will reset to its origin point. Select the first action in the NLA Editor, press tab to go into Edit Mode.
Select the Hip bone for the character and copy the last keyframe in the animation. Press tab to get out of Edit Mode for the first action, then select the second action, and press tab to go into Edit Mode. Go to the first frame of the animation, and with the hip bone selected, paste the key frame. From here change the NLA Editor type to Graph Editor and you will see something below.
Here I will use the Z axis as an example. We can see on the first frame of this animation is where the last animation ended as we copy and pasted this from the previous action. We need to move all the corresponding frames to roughly line up like below, by selecting all the other frames for the Z axis, Press G to move and Y so that it only moves up and down.
The animation will now line up and the character will continue its path. Make sure that this is also done with the X and Y axis. This is not required to be done if all the animations are done within iClone as mentioned at the start of this article.
PART #3 – Facial Motion Capture for Blender