Digital Puppets | Interactive Animation Studio offers Turnkey Services with Character Creator iClone

Digital Puppets UK

Digital Puppets is a UK based animation studio that specializes in Cartoon motion capture, both 2D and 3D. The studio is run by brothers Scott Evans and Antony Evans.

As well as creating real-time performing avatar puppetry, they also work in developing and designing custom characters for their clients, in a wide range of styles, though they can replicate any existing licensed character or company/product Mascot. The studio not only creates motion capture characters for online Entertainers, Educators and marketing/advertising agencies, but they can also take the characters that they produce and provide their customers with fully animated shows.

The duo have recently completed a 50 episode run for the UK nationwide radio station ‘RADIO X’, in which they animated the hosts and turned their weekly podcast for their online audience to enjoy. The studio also does work for multiple worldwide known broadcasters such as the BBC, Cartoon Network and more which cannot be disclosed due to NDA’s.

“iClone & Character Creator have dramatically increased how fast we can produce character designs and animations, which allow us to create client content at a more affordable price.”

Antony Evans | Digital Puppets UK

Q: Salutations Antony and Scott! Thank you for being part of the Reallusion Feature Stories. Kindly share with us how you both got interested in 2D & 3D animation, and how did Digital Puppets begin?

Hello, Thank you for inviting us. As you may be aware, we are brothers, and so our interest in art started very very young as we used to compete to see who could ‘draw the best picture’. Which our unfortunate mother was demanded to choose between.

As we got older our interest only grew, especially since we grew up in the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons, favorites being He-man, Thunder cats, Jason and The Wheel Warriors, Visionaries and so many more. Whilst Scott kept an interest in hand drawn cartoon animation, my interest moved more into CGI. And to this day Scott specializes in 2D and I 3D, though we do work on each others projects often, whether it is with concepts, ideas or sharing the animation.

We started back in 2017 very much by happen stance. Scott had a customer who wanted animations but didn’t have a big budget and it coincided with 2D motion capture emerging. Not long after we started developing mocap characters, it became our main business, because before 2017 we specialized in cartoon character driven marketing.

Q: Digital Puppets provides a entire range of services from custom character creations, to turnkey animated projects. Can you run us through what you can offer clients, along with maybe some of your most memorable projects?

The two main things we offer our customers are:

  1. Fast production times without loss of quality
  2. The supply of characters that our customers can animate themselves without prior animation experience

Motion capture and iClone allow us to supply both easily. Digital Puppets specializes in character design and our biggest strength is the ability to create any style of design, be it 2D, 3D, Anime, Cartoon, or Photo realistic; which is why we have worked with high-tier companies such as Turner Media, Cartoon Network, The Walt Disney Company, and the BBC. As we were able to recreate their licensed IP characters and turn them into digital puppets.

One of the great benefits of digital puppetry is the live interaction using real-time motion capture that we can animate characters with, which engages with a live audience. This is great for cartoon characters that can answer questions for kids, especially in a classroom environment where they feel like they are actually talking to their favorite characters.

Q: Character Creator and Headshot have played a vital role in your 3D character creation process. In your opinion, what would you feel are the biggest advantages when investing into the Reallusion ecosystem?

One of the big advantages is how simple it is to use. With Character Creator 3 and its Headshot plugin, you can now very easily produce a character in a fraction of the time it would take using other methods. It also allows you to concentrate on the character design and not worry too much about rigging issues, as this is already done for you.

Another advantage is the integration of other 3D programs, whether its ZBrush, Unity or Unreal Engine ; you can easily import and export between programs without issue. Most 3D artists know you will have a tool kit of various programs to work with to suit your projects, and for us iClone is now integrated into all these workflows.

Q: Your company has also made good use of iClone, motion capture, and ActorCore. Could you share some tips on animating with iClone? And how do you see these tools shaping the future of digital marketing and promotional content?

Many of the customers that we supply digital puppets to, don’t have prior animation experience, so we pre-determine the motions that that character will use, normally gestures such as waving, pointing and movements like dancing, sitting, walking, etc. Then we build a library of these motions that the customer can drag and drop onto the model at the appropriate place in the timeline, which they can use over and over again. This allows not only for fast turnaround for animation production, but a simple to use approach.

Optimizing your workflows is really important, as this saves time, thus saving your customers money. So, our best tip is to keep things simple, work smart not hard, find motions from ActorCore‘s online platform and adjust them to work for you character, then save that motion in a library for future use. We recommend using the iClone face capture for expressions and using the iClone AccuLip’s for accurate lip sync because with that you can easily edit and adjust.

With the increase of social media use in our daily lives, there is now a larger demand for content, especially for marketing and advertising and more people are using platforms like Facebook, TikTok, YouTube and Instagram, and these rely on short form content delivered daily. The more accessible motion capture is and the easier it is to use, the more opportunity there is for everyone to create a lot more, great looking content.

A great plugin we have been using is the Motion trigger from plugin developer – ZongYe, who created his plugin through iClone’s OPEN Python API. This is a great tool for fast or real time animations. It allows you to save premade motions that can be assigned to keyboard triggers, so if you are doing a live performance with iClone, you can easily trigger the actions in real time allowing you to concentrate on performing instead of the animation.

“iClone has an open architecture that allows developers to custom create their own plugins via Python scripting which they can sell in the Marketplace. This is a powerful capability for iClone to be further customized for professional studio projects, making it an extremely valuable tool for serious production.”

Antony Evans | Digital Puppets UK

This works great for our customers who are doing live broadcasts on platforms like YouTube or Twitch, as most people doing these types of broadcasts are controlling their character while also running the broadcast software or even playing a game at the same time, so having pre-set animations assigned to keys is an easy way to animate without distracting from the performance and controlling the other software.

The biggest benefit of this plugin for Digital Puppets, is that it allows us to setup a character and scene for our customer, so they can start animating without any previous animation experience. We can setup all the animations and triggers, and all our customer needs to know are what triggers to press. The combination of Motion Trigger and the Motion LIVE mocap platform, creates an intuitive way to create real time interactive productions and fast turnaround content for social media platforms that our customers can create themselves.

Q: What kind of clients would most benefit from the services at Digital Puppets, and how can they contact you? Typically, what would a client need to provide you in terms of creative guidance?

Lots of people, businesses and companies can benefit from digital puppetry, because we can create animations faster and cheaper than was possible before. Once a puppet is rigged up, it can be used to either make content quickly or to interact with audiences in real-time, which means we have three markets that we provide to:

  • The first was online gamers and educators, people who made videos for YouTube and Twitch. They use cartoon characters to help them stand out from the thousands of competitors. If you’re flicking between channels, a talking cartoon is going to grab your attention, and this leads us into the other market…
  • Advertising– the internet is filled with ads, on every page, and as users we all have developed a filter to ignore side adverts, pop ups, etc, but cartoon characters and well made animations stand out, they get people’s attention, and that gets adverts over the first big hurdle. Once you’ve got the viewers’ attention, then the advert has a chance of doing its job and promoting the product or service that the advertiser wants people to know about.
  • The last big market that we provide to is television companies. We can turn any character into a digital puppet, and these puppets can then be used to make social media posts, interact with fans or even be used for scenes. Content is quick to make, which means that they can be delivered for much smaller budgets.

If people are interested, then they can contact us at info@digitalpuppets.co.uk and we will email them back our info and costs.

We are also very happy to video call with people, to demonstrate how we work, and finally people can visit our YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/DigitalPuppets/videos), as we have been posting a lot of behind the scenes videos.

If people have a job that they would like us to look at, then all we need is a description of the character/campaign that they have in mind and we are happy to provide free concepts and ideas before they commit to us working on their projects.

Contact Digital Puppets:

Website: https://digitalpuppets.co.uk/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/DigitalPuppets/featured

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Look3dstudio/media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/digitalpuppetstudio/

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