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Pitch & Produce | The Troublemakers: Using professional iClone 8 animation tools for feature film ‘Os Pestinhas’

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Nildo Essá – CEO, Founder, Writer

Nildo EssáFX Animation Studios

I finished architecture and urban design in 2002. While I was still studying, back in 1998 I was invited by the university to start aiding teachers with their classes. Ever since I have been working part-time and freelancing in the archviz industry.

In 2004, I opened my studio FX Animation Studios, catering to the local market doing TV Ads and PSA’s. It’s what we’ve doing to this day. Our studio very is small, it’s mostly me and my wife plus a third member to handle all the administrative work a company requires. I’m the one behind most of the stories and all the 3D animation, editing, and more. My wife handles mostly modelling, story, sound and starting to get into 2D animation.

In 2011, “Os Pestinhas” aka the troublemakers were born. It’s a project comprising of shorts, comic book stories and also a feature film project. Over the years we were able to make (all self-funded) 2 award winning shorts, over 15 PSA’s and a few comic book stories under the same name. “Os Pestinhas” is a group of 3 kids who aim to educate and learn from their surroundings and adventures.

Our dream is to make the very first 3D Animated feature film and that’s why “Kibwe” was born, and after almost 8 years of working in the feature film project on and off, we are excited to have the support of Reallusion and Epic Games and also our partners at Ekaya Productions who will handle  the sound for the film.

In the making of the film “Os Pestinhas” we are heavily utilizing the power of real-time creation and animation tools like Character Creator, iClone, Blender and Unreal Engine to get this project over the finish line.

“The Reallusion set of tools – iClone 8 and Character Creator 4, have allowed me to really tell my stories faster, and the way I want them to be told!”

Nildo Essá – Founder, Animator, Writer

Q: Hello Nildo, and congratulations on being part of the Reallusion Pitch & Produce program. Kindly tell us a bit about your studio, and the past projects you have done for TV commercials and public announcement videos.

Thank you very much… its very exciting to us to be part of the program. So we have been in business since 2004 officially, prior to that I had been doing freelance work since 1998 to Archviz companies. I’m an architect by trade but never really got to do much of Architectural projects. In 2003 I started working also with advert companies doing animation and special effects for Ads and some PSA’s.

We were the only studio locally doing this kind of stuff… and still today we are still seen locally as a reference when it comes to animation work. Over the years we have done more than 150 TV Ads and probably than 30 PSAs… all the while still wondering whether or not we should make the jump to a TV Series and Feature film which was what we really wanted to do.3

Our Previous Award Winning Short

Q: Please tell us when and how you started “Os Pestinhas” (The Troublemakers). Originally, how were you creating your first characters and what software were you using to animate with? Why did you eventually choose to use Character Creator and iClone?

Back in 2006, we created a character for a famous Rice brand and it was a major hit with the local audience. We wanted to explore this character further but couldn’t, so we decided to create our own characters, ones that we could use for whatever we wanted to do.

So that’s when in mid 2010 we started tinkering with the idea of creating a girl character, Lili, where she would be the one to be always asking questions about everyday life… why this why that. After a few months we decided she would be alone in the world and would be hard for her to share her experience so that’s why we created the other 2 kids, Minhoca aka Stretch, and ZéGordo.

All characters were being created using Daz and 3ds Max, we had even commissioned a programmer to make a tool to convert Daz rigs to 3ds Max CAT Rigs. Even though Daz is a very powerful tool, it’s also a bit complex. So when we found out about the alternative that was Character Creator (CC) we immediately wanted to know more. What sold us initially was the ability to create a custom skin texture almost from scratch… something that we lacked in Daz. So we switched the pipeline from Daz to 3ds Max, to CC3 to 3ds Max – and we asked the same programmer to repurpose the conversion tool to also accommodate CC characters.

We still felt like we needed to change/improve our pipeline and tools. Even though we loved using 3ds Max , because of licensing changes we were forced to look elsewhere, and that’s when we decided to start using Blender and iClone (iC) for animation purposes, giving us more attention to Blender because it was the closest to 3ds Max. Also, because at the time iClone was still a very closed system in the sense that we couldn’t use our custom shortcut keys, additionally it was locked at working at 60 FPS. So we decided to use iClone just to export the animations to Blender… this changed recently with the new launch of iClone 8.

Q: Lili and the rest of the characters look great. Can you run us through your typical creation workflow with Character Creator and Blender?

The other GREAT feature on Character Creator is the Transformer tool. This was a huge selling point for me, because I had already made my characters in Daz. The tool allowed me to have the same characters in CC3 format, which allowed me to further tweak them .

So that’s what we did, we converted all of the characters to CC3 and then used Reallusion’s CC to Blender tool to port them over into Blender. There we used Autorig Pro to rig the CC3 characters and animate. We also used another amazing Blender Add-on called Faceit to rig the face to be able to use ArKit with an iPhone X.

Q: Coming from a professional 3ds Max user, now you are using iClone 8’s new features. Please highlight those new iC8 features and tell us why you feel that they now allow pro studios to use iClone in high-level productions? (auto FBX drop, custom FPS, drag continuous clips without reference objects, reach effectors, transition between IK and FK)

We are only starting to use iClone 8… and there are a bunch of features that we still need to feel with regards to their use. In the latest trailer for the movie, we started using iClone 8 and the features we used the most so far were the “Loop”, “Speed”, “Reach Target” and the various facials tools. You can see them in use on the forest chase and cliff sequences of the trailer.

The ease of use of the LOOP tool especially is the most ridiculous one, as you can just drag to extend the motion. Before this, in Blender I had to manually copy the motion and using animation layers I had to manually sync them up in space and in the timeline. It was not difficult to do, but it was time consuming.

Because now we can also use different FPS ( in our case we use 25 FPS), we can now use more seamlessly iClone 8, Blender, Marvelous Designer and Unreal Engine 5 with little to no headache.

The iClone 8 FBX AutoDrop feature was also very nice to use, as it basically skipped the Retargeting process I was used to with Autorig pro. This allowed for seamless work when I wanted to use mocap files, as it really was just drag and drop and then tweaking the animation with animation layers inside iClone 8. The iC8 reach target tool is also quite intuitive, as you just choose when to grab and when to release with a transition bar for both actions. This allows us to go from and into any motion with ease.

“I love animation work… but I also hate as it is so time consuming to animate. Fortunately, thanks to iClone 8’s new features, most of the previous tedious processes are now fun and streamlined.”

Nildo Essá – Founder, Animator, Writer

Q: Kindly share with us your pipeline with iClone and Unreal Engine 5 (UE5). How well do Reallusion characters and animations work with Unreal Engine, and how can studio save time and effort with this? What suggestions do you have for serious animators that are currently investigating this pipeline? 

The AutoSetup for CC in Unreal Engine 5, speeds the process by A LOT… even though the end result is not really one to one yet, it takes the user about 90% there. All we need to do really is tweak the shader settings to get the result we need. So far we have been using the FBX import/Export workflow to get from iClone 8 to Unreal Engine 5, and it works very well… especially because we can simply take the same export and re-use in Blender or in Marvelous Designer for extra work IF needed.

If users keep their production pipeline tight and just use Reallusion software and Unreal Engine, then there’s not much more that’s needed to complete a shot. Studios just create in Character Creator 4, send to iClone 8 to animate it, and finally send to Unreal Engine 5 to render… it’s really as simple as that.

Q: When will the animated feature film for “Os Pestinhas” (The Troublemakers) be completed? And where can audiences follow you for more updates?

The trailer gave us some very good insights regarding how to go about this and other productions for the future. We are still underfunded and so we need to cut some corners while still delivering the expected results.

Having said that we are aiming for the beginning of 2024 for a release. We hope to be able to get more artists after the proper funding. When that happens, production will be much faster. Our idea is to have 2 main platforms, where we will share our progress, such ast ArtStation and YouTube. So starting next month in July 2022, we will try our best to give weekly updates.

Follow Nildo and The Troublemakers (“Os Pestinhas”):

Website:
www.fxlda.com

YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/user/FXlimitada/videos

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