Television Commercial Animations on a Budget: Ubik’s Story with Reallusion iClone.
In this story, Italian commercial production house UBIK shares how it applied real-time animation tools iClone, Motion LIVE, and 3DXchange to successfully overcome a challenging deadline within budget.
Formed in 1994, Ubik Visual Effects (UBIK) has developed projects for many reputable clients over 2 decades, including the Findus brand from Nomad Foods Ltd. UBIK brought their chameleon mascot Carletto (originally created by Jim Henson Studios) to life in a 3D animated version, helping Findus gain huge success throughout the country.
After seeing the initial results, Findus was convinced of the communication potential of using a 3D version of Carletto, and gave UBIK a tougher challenge: to complete a 5-episode web series featuring Carletto to celebrate 45 years of Sofficini products. The concept was to make Carletto the protagonist, rummaging around in the attic and coming across a photo album from the past.
The challenge: traditional pipeline can’t meet our deadline and budget
The challenge was to conceive and create a minute-and-a-half of 3D character animation in just two months, but all the while keeping the quality and artistic standard high – despite the episodes being intended only for web and social channels. Therefore, with a considerably lower budget than that of television commercial productions, UBIK was eager to find a solution that would help them complete the production. Being impossible both in terms of time and cost, producing the commercials with UBIK’s traditional 3D production software like Maya, was no more an option, and they started looking for an alternative production method.
Finding the right tools for motion capture & animation
Although UBIK had had some experience using motion capture in the past, it had always been for human animations and never for stylized characters. Following some in-depth research into online blogs and demos, UBIK’s team realized that of the many hardware and software options, it would utilize Noitom’s Perception Neuron Pro for motion capture, and Reallusion’s iClone for real-time animation. Before putting this real-time pipeline to the test, their key concern was transferring the model from Maya to iClone, and the complexity of facial and body rigs too.
Putting it to the test
UBIK began to carry out tests using a copy of the 3D model without optimisations. This helped them understand where to intervene in order to adapt the characteristics of the Carletto character to the technical needs of real-time software. The first animation test gave satisfying results, and from these, it was easy to understand how and where to intervene to correct the defects caused by overly complex models and rigs.
Then, after making all the necessary corrections, UBIK immediately moved on to the animations. These had to restore Carletto’s personality of typical funny and somewhat clumsy gestures, accentuated by the fact that the original character was a puppet. Both the client and the agency’s creative directors loved the first tests. So the production was immediately begun: the realisation of each 15 and 20 second episode with simple and complex features like lipsyncing, the addition of props, with accessories and clothes which took on average a full week’s work.
The tests brought extraordinary results when compared to the animation requirements of using Maya. Moreover, given the differences between Maya animations and iClone, combining the two was no sure-fire certainty.
Final results & feedback
In the end, the studio was pleased that both from a technical point of view, and considering the ease and versatility of the hardware and software used, the final results proved to be both highly effective and economical. Indeed the final results were so convincing that the clients decided to use the animations of the character for TV commercials.
Paolo Lato’s feedback: iClone and Motion LIVE is intuitive and a perfect fit for facial and body animation
“Carletto Sofficini is our first production with iClone and Perception Neuron Pro. We are satisfied with the results, and seeing real-time production as an alternative method for 3D animation projects. It did not take us too long to figure out how to animate Carletto in iClone, because the UI was pretty intuitive, and Motion LIVE did serve as a good platform for capturing both facial animation and body animation. We were able to find online tutorials if we needed help, and you can also turn to the Reallusion forum and learn from other users. It is good to know that now we have other ways to complete a production quicker without compromising the quality, while keeping our customers happy!’