Tutorials, Tips & Tricks, Interviews, 3D Animation
Hello everyone. I’m M.D. McCallum also known as WarLord, a longtime iCloner dating back to version one. For many years I was one of the few users who produced tutorials on iClone. Mainly the basics and how to get things done quickly with as little effort as possible. Not because I was lazy but because production schedules can be stress-packed with seemingly impossible deadlines requiring shortcuts in the method of production particularly concerning previz.
I retired from full-time animation several years ago but still keep busy with iClone on an almost daily basis when possible as these are exciting times to be an iCloner. Reallusion has always packed a lot into its mid-version updates and even more into their major upgrades. Having been given a small glimpse of their release roadmap, I can safely say that you haven’t seen anything yet.
When I first stumbled upon iClone almost twenty years ago it was a very different product with a simplified interface and no free cameras as they were all preset dolly and pan-type cameras with built-in paths. I saw a few videos, mostly dance videos which I’ll discuss shortly, and it was enough to intrigue me as some users were saying those videos were produced in minutes to hours, not days to weeks or more.
As a 3D digital freelancer, I was always on the lookout for any tool that might help with the tedious nature of animation back then. There was no timeline in version one, but I knew if it could do videos, it could do image renders and I needed custom images for the storyboarding I was doing at the time.
iClone was a perfect fit with its premade library of props, motions, cameras, and effects. It wasn’t versatile at all way back then, but it was quick and when you need to turn around a storyboard depicting a revised shot list… you need it as quickly as possible. It became a pro tool for me almost immediately even though it was far removed from today’s version.
One other thing about version one. It had an incredibly powerful image-to-face tool that shaped the head along with mapping the image to the face mesh. Anyone could use this tool even if you had never used an animation tool in your life. Reallusion made it easy.
In fact, Reallusion made it so easy they included a large library of dance moves… hence the early label of dancing video maker, a name that iClone has long since shed but including those dancing motions turned out to be a shrewd move as they started popping up on YouTube and other media hosting sites sparking discussions about iClone and Reallusion.
Yes, as hard as it may be for some of you to believe, without those dance videos, iClone may have never drawn the early user base that it did. They brought attention to the fact that people who had no idea what Maya, 3DS Max or rendering were about had created animated videos in such a short time and… by themselves!
It was low poly and a bit crude compared to today’s iClone, but it was fun!
That’s right… fun. A word not usually associated with computer animation at the time. Challenging, intriguing, experimental but not fun. In fact, back then it could be very tedious. Waiting overnight or days, maybe weeks, to see some rendered work was a normal thing. iClone real-time playback changed all that too. iClone has matured into a powerful animation application over the years. Future upgrades and releases will not disappoint as they provide some very useful and time-saving tools even though iClone is packed with tools and features now. While loaded with features, you don’t have to use everything until you are ready and that is another great aspect of iClone.
It is only as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. You don’t have to use everything until you get more familiar with the tools and concepts as the learning curve lessens. Don’t think of where you are today if you are just starting. Instead think of where you will be 3 months, six months, and a year or more down the road when you do have the skills to use all those tools.
My mission here, my little corner of the Reallusion universe, is to bring the “users’ perspective” along with my years as an animation grunt and project manager to provide you with more information about iClone and Character Creator.
One of my tasks will be to provide reviews of Reallusion products. These reviews usually revolve around some test scenes built for the product in question. These tests will be a lot like what many of us do when we get a new asset, dive right in and start pushing the limits. Maybe this will make the decision easier for some of you when it comes to pulling the trigger on new assets or products.
While there are a lot of tutorials out there for iClone, many are geared for intermediate to advanced user features leaving more basic features to be explored for those just starting in their animation journey. With this in mind I will be providing more basic tutorials, both written and video depending on the subject, to help less experienced users catch up quickly so they too can enjoy the advanced features and tools in iClone.
Also… and this is a favorite of mine, I get to experiment with iClone and Character Creator to continue to push the boundaries as so many users do. We’ll look at kitbashing, using other tools such as ZBrush and Substance Painter to create models in the millions of polys that we can optimize and bake down for use in iClone. We’ll slice and dice motions, use animation layers and other tools while diving into production pipelines that can lead to professional work or a more polished video.
I’ll also delve into Omniverse and Unreal Engine to achieve more cinematic renders using iClone as the underlying animation tool while off-loading the render work to these applications. All the while trying to keep the tutorials as short and simple as possible.
Twenty years ago, it was paper and electronic notes full of workaround instructions because the 3D apps at the time were lacking in features and tools. These workarounds had to be documented so we could use them in future work and that was very time-consuming. It was a real downer for the creative spirit at times.
Now we just load up iClone and start animating.
Can iClone make just about anyone an animator? Yes, it can. Whether or not you are a good animator is up to you.