What are those award-winning MetaHumans saying?

Reallusion 2021 iClone Lip Sync Animation Contest Review

Image Credit : Lim Phong Hian. Petra Puljiz

Having received more than 450 entries around the world, Reallusion is happy to announce the final winners of the October, 2021 iClone Lip Sync Animation Contest from a line-up of very compelling artworks. Using 3D tools to represent real-world visuals is difficult, especially when it comes to human facial expressions, subtle behaviors, and expressive emotions. That’s in part why we find it fascinating to see the diversity of MetaHuman performances from the submitted entries. Especially those that have expressiveness and vivid acting, that not only demonstrates the efficient use of iClone animation tools, but also proves that creating realistic humans in 3D does not require one to sacrifice originality. In this article, we will offer five lessons that we have learned from the contest winners, underlining the tools they have used and their insights into animating MetaHumans. 

iClone Live Link – MetaHuman Animation Magic

Lesson One: Effortlessly achieving outstanding facial and body animations in iClone

Complex human emotions such as affection, nostalgia, indignation, are features that Metahumans must possess to give convincing performances. And in order to express those emotions in a life-like manner, artists need to have a keen eye for details, such as the interconnected musculature between the eyes and brows, the frequency of blinks accompanying a variety of motions, like dancing and talking, and even the digital actor’s relation with the environment and other props in the scene. It’s worth noting that most contest winners have integrated many different tools to overcome these challenges to deliver the most convincing performances. 

Petra Puljiz (HR)〈Love, Rosie〉Best Character Animation 3rd place

Tool: iClone7, Substance Painter, Marvelous Designer, Maya, Blender, Unreal Engine (MetaHuman), After Effects, Rokoko

In Petar’s WIP video, you can clearly see how he skillfully combines several critical animation techniques to complete a well balanced piece of animation. He was able to deploy the best practices of the iClone to MetaHuman animation pipeline⁠—a must watch you won’t want to miss!

Here are some key takeaways from Petar’s workflow: 

  • After refining the Rokoko mo-cap data, Petar used iClone’s Motion Layer Editor to create several natural body movements giving emphasis to the character’s talking animation, including hand contact on the table, grabbing and releasing the cup prop.
  • Like the other contestants, he used AccuLips to drive the main lip-sync animation, and observed the Unreal render in real-time via the iClone to Unreal Live Link.
  • Instead of using facial mo-cap, Petar cleverly chose to blend subtle emotional expressions using iClone’s Face Puppet, and made final detailed tweaks via MetaHuman’s facial controller.

He relied on Marvelous Designer to create the character’s unique dress, and give it a dynamic animation within an environment built up in Blender—clearly, Petar has all-round talent.

Jae Solina (US)〈Touch〉Special Award-Best MetaHuman. WIP

Tool: iClone7, Character Creator 3, Unreal Engine, Perception Neuron, Davinci Resolve

Apart from wearing a Rokoko Smartsuit for motion capture, Jae’s choice of using Perception Neuron is a prime example of the high degree of interoperability within the iClone pipeline.

Robert Suckrow (DE)〈Dieter tells jokes〉Special Award-Replica. WIP

Tool: iClone7, Replica Studios, Unreal Engine, HitFilm

“I used Replica Studio to import the voice. Then I used AccuLip sync to improve everything a bit, in collaboration with Replica Studio… it is simply fantastic”

Robert Suckrow, founder of rosuckmedia

Lesson Two: Taking advantage of useful software synergies

Quite a few entries have attempted to blend the MetaHuman system with Character Creator into one holistic scene. Some entrants chose to apply both tools to one character, like Farayi, who used Character Creator to create an African warrior’s armor. While others have created two different characters to interact with one another, like in “Beauty and the Beast” by Lim Phong Hian, who skillfully captured the essence of a tearful scene between the Methuman “Beauty” and the “Beast” made with CC3.

Farayi Chinyanga (ZA)〈Azania Rises: Chinyere〉Special Award- Best MetaHuman. WIP(2:30)

Tool: iClone7, Character Creator 3, Blender, Unreal Engine, After Effects

“iClone facial animation is a life-saver. iClone’s Live Link compatibility with Unreal Engine makes that part of the production pipeline seamless.”

Farayi Chinyanga, founder of Formation Animation

Lim Phong Hian (MA)〈Beauty and the Beast〉Special Award-Movie Remake. WIP

Tool: iClone7, Character Creator3, SkinGen Premium, Marvelous Designer, Unreal Engine, Daz 3D, Premiere

AccuLips provides me with a highly efficient way to make my character talk. I learned so much from using the various software from Reallusion. This is not the end but a new beginning for me.

Lim Phong Hian, founder of Betapuru Digital

Lesson Three: Fast talking with style

Rapid talking animations can be the bane of accurate lip-syncing. However, some participants went beyond mimicking the audible language, they also worked to capture  inaudible body language as well. In this aspect, CENIT Studio was able to reproduce the monologue performed by Woody Allen in Annie Hall, and layer upon it details that the original act did not have. On the other hand, we’re also impressed by Warren Gokul’s bold move to replicate the fast, but subtle, rap of Scatman John, well known in the 90s.

CENIT Studio (MX)〈Woddy Allen Monologue from Annie Hall〉Special Award- Movie Remake. WIP(1:36)

Tool: iClone7, Unreal Engine, Premiere, Rokoko

Compared to the long shot in 1977 Annie Hall, CENIT Studio was able to change the camera angles to sustain the audience’s interest, while Woody Allen’s character delivered jokes about his relationships with women over a symbolic background, which is a metaphor of loneliness and unease experienced by the character, exemplified by what was and was not spoken. 

Warren Gokul (ZA)〈Scatman〉Special Award- Best MetaHuman. WIP

Tool: iClone7, Character Creator 3, Unreal Engine, HitFilm

“Accu-lips is amazing. I managed to produce an almost perfect animation in less than a day it is truly unbelievable!”

 Warren Gokul, Appifiny Games

Lesson Four: Imbuing personality and attitude

People around us express themselves by wearing different styles of clothing, adorning certain jewelry, and even undergoing body modifications, like getting piercings and tattoos. MetaHumans can also do the same! When given a small amount of time, artists can deploy these accessories to help personalize their characters and, in the process, garner attention. 

StyleMarshal (DE)〈Ex-Sicario〉Special Award- Best MetaHuman. WIP

Tool: iClone7, Character Creator 3, Cinema 4D, Unreal Engine, After Effects, Xsens

StyleMarshal’s “Ex-Sicario” is a great example imbuing a MetaHuman with lively personality with carefully selected clothing and accessories. Firstly, the physics simulations of the fluffy hood and the Parka makes his dance more dynamic and interesting. Secondly, his Eskimo suit is a dead give away of the cold, harsh environment where he is currently in hiding, while his tattoos, nose ring, and earring are telling accoutrements of his quirky personality. When combined, these elements present to us a very compelling character, which makes the piece really stand out. 

Giuseppe Vecchio (IT)〈War Cry〉Special Award- Best Student Artwork. WIP

Tool: iClone7, ZBrush, Substance Painter, Unreal Engine, Premiere

Another good example is Guiseppe’s “War Cry”, in which a primitive warrior is chanting and preparing to fight with an enemy. The tension is thick between the clean face intruders and the tribal hero, adorned in war paint, as they face off. This piece has the dramatic impact to draw the viewers in to watch further as the telling of the hero’s past unfolds.

Piero Varda (PE)〈I like to move it〉Special Award-Honorable Mention. WIP(1:20)

Tool: iClone7, Unreal Engine, Davinci Resolve

Last but not least, “I Like to Move It” makes a noteworthy appearance with eye-catching clothing and dance performance that is sure to arouse interest from the audience.

Lesson Five: Tribute to the Classics with a Twist

We’ve also noticed a trend of paying tribute to pop culture classics with a surprising twist. Either it’s a contemporary representation of the legendary sci-fi film “The Matrix”, or the satirical juxtaposition of an old lady lip-syncing to Britney’s “Oops!… I Did it Again” with impossibly nimble dance choreography, iClone animation tools makes it possible to communicate any artistic vision in a timely manner, while pushing boundaries beyond technical limitations.

Bijay Balia Hembram (IN)〈Matrix-Blue pill Red pill〉Special Award-Best Digital Double. WIP

Tool: iClone7, ZBrush, Blender, Unreal Engine, Davinci Resolve, Faceware

“iClone is really a very powerful software and is a boon for indie artists. The features in this software are amazing and it actually helped me by doing most of the heavy-lifting and allowing me more time to try many ideas in a short period of time.”

Bijay Balia Hembram

Cesar Turturro (AR)〈Yes, do it again!〉Special Award-Best MetaHuman. WIP(1:40)

Tool: iClone7, Character Creator 3, Blender, Unreal Engine, Premiere (3dDraper cloth simulation plugin)

“I never imagined finishing this type of work with this level of detail and quality, just in a matter of days! I tried to show how an older person looks when she is dancing and singing with a smile on her face. There is no age (limit) to do that. So yes, do it again!”

Cesar Turturro, Film director

If you haven’t had the chance to use iClone before, we highly recommend you to try it now. A 30-day trial of iClone includes  Unreal Live Link and MetaHuman Live Link Kit, which means you can animate MetaHumans in real-time for free in the Unreal Engine!

Also, with the aim of empowering the global 3D community, Reallusion encourages all the freelance developers, indie artists to apply for the Indie License Program, which grants free access to the premium Unreal Live Link plug-in to produce like a professional studio. Check if you’re eligible on the program page, or hone your craft today with free upgrade offers for iClone 8.

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