A Bigger Budget Positions the ActorCore Asset Store as the Premium Source for Mocap Animations with Wider Coverage and Higher Standards
ActorCore is the ultimate destination for 3D animators looking for exceptional mocap animations and rigged characters. With a strong commitment to excellence and being the leading provider for 3D creators, ActorCore places emphasis on diversity, authenticity, and craftsmanship with its offerings. Recently, the content store has introduced a new line of 3D motion series inspired by Hollywood stunts and action choreography. While Reallusion, the maker of ActorCore, is actively seeking partnerships with outstanding mocap studios to join the ranks of asset creators and collaborate on developing distinct styles for various forms of entertainment, including games, films, and multimedia.
Extensive Assortments of All-Purpose Motions
To help industries overcome their unique challenges, ActorCore has expanded its offerings to cover 2,200 motions in 35 broad-spectrum themes. Whether it’s everyday city and home life, office scenarios, social events like shopping and parties, transportation and commuting, or profession-specific motions such as construction and hospitality, ActorCore has it all. By searching for keywords and tags, everyone can quickly and easily find the contents that fit their needs and satisfy their specific requirements.
Flamboyant Motions for Hollywood-Inspired Themes
The 3D store has recently introduced mocap animations specifically designed for action adventure movies and games. One of which is the “Run for Your Life” motion pack, featuring 68 sequences suitable for chaotic scenes often seen in disaster movies. Additionally, the “Parkour” pack offers 45 athletic and acrobatic moves, while the “Hand-to-Hand Combat” pack includes 68 moves perfect for intense, paired fight scenes. New motion packs are set to release later this year for other frenetic scenarios like street riots and bank heists, along with Disney cartoon animation and motions for unconventional creatures like apes and orcs.
ActorCore Mocap Animations Offer Incredible Value
Rarely found in online marketplaces, these exhilarating and risk-taking motions often require the expertise of hand-key artists. Even so, the time-consuming production process often falls short of expectations because editing natural and sophisticated motions by hand is substantially difficult.
Using motion capture, on the other hand, requires professional studios to be well-equipped with skilled staff capable of storyboarding, writing, a group of actors interacting, and stunt performance. Not to mention the auxiliary support required, like directing crews to capture vast amounts of motion data and experts to refine the captured results. An experienced staff may spend several days on a large site, utilizing various props and state-of-the-art equipment for capturing and recording. Such productions require substantial budgets and a peculiar blend of specialists to complete these ambitious projects. Yet, this is precisely why ActorCore stands out, as it provides access to these one-of-a-kind mocap data distilled into multi-functional and highly-adaptive prepackaged motions that can be applied with simple button clicks or drag-and-drops.
Call Out to Top-Tier Motion Capture Studios
Reallusion is on a mission to provide the greatest selection, highest quality, and broadest range of content to its users. To achieve this goal, the company is inviting the finest motion capture studios to become a part of their asset development community and collaborate with them in creating the most captivating and visually stunning 3D motions for ActorCore. Join Reallusion today and be a part of the most exceptional 3D asset community available. To learn more about the ActorCore Partner Program, simply visit the website or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
It is common knowledge that in the videogame development industry, what is new today may be tradition tomorrow. This means that from the moment you start a project until you finish it, you have the need to keep evolving and improving both graphically and in terms of animations and character design. Adapting the work done to the latest innovations in software development and the new features they offer.
At the point of development that we were at when Reallusion launched iClone 8and Character Creator 4, it was for us an unprecedented step forward in the history of our studio; as far as character creation and animation is concerned. As originally we began work with the previous software iterations of Character Creator 3 and iClone 7.
We can really see a before and after in our project, once we have obtained the results of applying these improvements from Reallusion to our Lucidus Mortem project, which we initially introduced with the Pitch & Produce program.
A strong point for us has been the intelligent human skin colour function and the magnificent SkinGen Premium tool. Another strong point for us is the advanced controls for morphs and facial expressions. This combined with the eyes, mouth and lips have allowed us to significantly improve the design of our characters, being able to appreciate as we said: A before and after.
The possibility of importing any rigged character into Character Creator 4 and from there being able to characterize and transform it, and then exporting it to iClone 8 for facial and body animation, is extraordinarily useful.
iClone 8 comes into its own with all its power, to create realistic and effective animations; creating transitions that blend one sequence into another with rigorous accuracy. This is just the beginning, as later on we can perform an extra clean-up where we can trim and smooth the sequence of animations even further. The Curve Editor helps us in this in an extraordinary way. At this point, we want to highlight the new and magnificent illuminations included in the software; which allow us to check how the character looks immersed in different environments.
Being able to see the result in real time in the engine with Unreal LIVE LINK and the compatibility with the main MOCAP systems, make iClone an essential software for us.
In short, we are developing a very complex project and we are sure that with the new Reallusion tools our Lucidus Mortem will be born ready for the future. – Indigo Studios
Kay John Yim is a Chartered Architect at Spink Partners based in London. He has worked on a wide range of projects across the UK, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, including property development and landscape design. His work has been featured on Maxon, Artstation, CG Record and 80.LV.
Yim’s growing passion for crafting unbuilt architecture with technology has gradually driven himself to taking on the role of a CGI artist, delivering visuals that not only serve as client presentations but also as means of communication among the design and construction team. Since the 2021 COVID lockdown, he challenged himself to take courses in CG disciplines beyond architecture, and has since won more than a dozen CG competitions.
“Masquerade” tells a story of a girl with a concealed identity who enters an empty theater filled with statues. As the statues come to life, a mysterious gentleman joins her and they waltz to the rhythm of enchanted flames, lost in a world of magic and fantasy.
This project was my debut for a short CG film, allowing me to develop my skills in storyboarding while working with AccuRIG and motion capture data to create intricate character animations. It was also an opportunity for me to refine my lighting and rendering techniques. That being said, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Reallusion and GarageFarm for their sponsorship. Their support made this project possible.
The software and workflow I used throughout every stage of the project can be summarized as the following:
▪ Redshift > Neat Video (denoise) > After Effects (Heatwave) > Premiere (Magic Bullet Looks) > RIFE-App (interpolation)
The scene consists of two spaces, the hallway and theater, designed and modeled in reference to the Louvre Palace and Opera Garnier theater respectively. While they are not complicated spaces in terms of architecture, the ornaments are highly detailed and could have easily resulted in extremely heavy models that caused render times to skyrocket. Because of this, optimization became a core tenet throughout the making of “Masquerade”.
The following iconic buildings served as references throughout the modeling process.
Using my past projects “Ballerina”, “The Magician”, and “The Gallery of the Great Battles” as the foundations, I recycled a lot of the ornaments that I had modeled for the Amalienburg hunting lodge in Munich. With the main architectural space blocked out, I then switch between Rhino and C4D, using the following Rhino commands and C4D functions for modeling:
Flow (Rhino): Conform objects to a specified curve, useful for accurately bending ornaments meshes to architraves, bullnose etc.
Flow Along Surface (Rhino): Conform objects from one surface to another, useful for accurately transferring ornaments on flat surfaces to curved counterparts, e.g., balcony balustrade.
Spline Wrap (C4D): Similar to Flow in Rhino but procedural, can not handle heavy meshes like Flow but extremely versatile for changing design.
Volume Builder + Volume Mesher + Quad Remesher (C4D): Useful for topologizing heavy meshes that require close-up details but need to maintain their 3D silhouettes.
Mirror Instance (C4D): I set my scene origin at (0,0,0), placed everything symmetrically under a null, instanced, then scaled the null’s X by -1, which mirrored it procedurally.
While I used a lot of my ornaments previously modeled in ZBrush and retopologized in C4D, I also used 3D ornaments from textures.com. I recycled meshes and used “Render Instances” within the project wherever possible to constrain file size.
2. CHARACTER CREATION
The female character I used for this project was originally created in Character Creator for a short called “Ballerina”. I have since updated her using the integrated SkinGen library in CC4.1 and added an extended facial profile for animation in iClone 8.1.
My CG character workflow drastically sped up when I began to integrate CC4 with Redshift’s Random Walk Subsurface Scattering. Not only had CC4’s integrated SkinGen features allowed for faster procedural texturing, my overall workflow was simplified into a series of drag-and-drop processes with textures automatically exported with the FBX files.
The male lead ended up being a modified version of a default character in CC4.1. While the character creation process had become a lot easier in CC4, making convincing characters remained out of reach for me. I used the following websites as my go-to reference while adjusting character bone structures, facial silhouettes, and skin textures.
This site generates a non-existing person every time the page is refreshed.
This site provides a series of high-res portrait photos.
After creating the male and female leads, I exported both characters to iClone 8.1 for animation.
3. AccuRIG in CHARACTER CREATOR 4
The statues played a huge role in setting the tone for the scene, in fact, the final theater model and shot framing were designed around the movement of the statues.
AccuRIG in CC 4.1 lets inexperienced artists rig their models and turn them into animatable characters. For AccuRIG to work its magic, I had to first remove the skirt on the ballerina statue that would have interfered with the rigging procedure. I then reposed the statue into a t-pose using a combination of Cinema 4D (C4D) and Houdini.
For the animation, I used Edit Motion Layer to create three varied movements for use in my scene. I then exported the animated statues into Houdini, removed all of the body parts except for the sleeves, and imported them into Embergen for pyrotechnic simulation. Exporting the pyro VDBs from Embergen became an overnight process much like final rendering.
At the time of this writing, Embergen (v0.7.5.8) did not support VDB export at 24 fps, which would have been the preferred frame-rate for most of my projects, including “Masquerade”. I eventually uploaded the project to GarageFarm for final rendering, hence it was equally important to optimize the file sizes along with the render times. Exported VDB files can easily take up dozens of gigabytes of space (approximately 150 GB in total for the whole project). So, in order to reduce the total files size, I used Houdini’s Retime node to adjust the timing of the VDBs from 60 or 30 fps to 24 fps, which effectively reduced the total file size by 25%.
I then imported the animated Alembic files, FBXs, and simulated pyro VDBs into C4D. I used Constraints to bind the skirt back onto the FBX skeleton’s pelvis, which would transform according to the animation. Finally, I duplicated the statues into an array and offset every statue’s animation slightly to create a gradual rhythm to the animation.
4. CHARACTER ANIMATION
The character animations were created using a mix of Xsens motion capture data and ActorCore premade motions. For the entrance sequence, I first applied a looping “Cat Walk” cycle from the ActorCore motion library to the female lead. This gave me the foundation for animating the girl’s entry into the theater hall. I then animated her transformation by matching the pace of the walk cycle and using iClone 8.1’s Motion Correction feature to compensate for foot sliding. I continued to use Edit Motion Layer to add the head turn amid her cat walk and used features from “Digital Soul” to apply facial animations.
With the entrance sequence animation complete, I exported the animated character as an Alembic file to Houdini, where I removed intersecting body parts. Particularly, the arms which would have interfered with the cloth simulation in Marvelous Designer (MD).
For the second half of the animation, I motion captured real-life actors in Xsens suits doing a “Cinderella” waltz and transitioned the animation data to a slow dance motion from Reallusion’s “Studio Mcap Series: Motion for Lovers”.
With the Xsens raw data imported into iClone 8.1, I used “Digital Soul” to apply facial animations and locked the eyes of my actors on one another. I used Reach Target to correct the glitchy parts of the interactions and Edit Motion Layer to readjust the intersecting body parts wherever necessary.
5. CLOTH SIMULATION
While C4D and Houdini have both made significant improvements in cloth simulation lately, I still find that Marvelous Designer offers a level of control, speed, and quality that surpasses every cloth simulation software I have tried. While realistic most of the time, MD’s simulation rarely gives the perfect result. Generally, I tinker with the Friction settings and Simulation Quality in face of the minor glitches I encountered along the way. I then export various versions of the simulation into Houdini and use Blendshape to blend them together.
To add some mystery to the protagonist, I had her wear a cloak at the opening sequence, which gradually vanishes and reveals the character’s 3D face and dress. This was created using C4D’s PolyFX with an improved setup carried over from a previous project of mine called “Kagura”.
6. ASSEMBLY, LOOK-DEV, AND SHOT FRAMING
Speaking again of the entrance sequence, I used iClone’s camera in combination with C4D Camera Morph to precisely control the tracking camera. At first, I set up a camera in iClone 8.1 and aimed it toward the female lead’s eyes. This created the illusion of the character looking into the camera and breaking the fourth wall. I then exported the camera as an FBX file for use in C4D. Then I positioned a total of four cameras around the entrance and used Camera Morph to smoothly transition among the four cameras.
With the character in place, I played the sequence repeatedly and added three extra cameras along her walking path, with two cameras eventually passing her and switching their focus toward the statues in the theater. The final Camera Morph is controlled and timed with Greyscalegorilla’s “Signal” plugin, which allowed me to use a curve (rather than keys) to control the timing of the camera transitions. For the dance sequence, I used Align to Spline with a circle spline centered on the characters to create a consistent and controlled framing of the characters, as if they were filmed with actual cameras attached to dolly tracks.
I kept the lighting setup as simple as possible, using the RS Sun and chandeliers as the primary sources of light and pyro VDBs as the secondary source of illumination. I added a RS Environment driven by a Maxon Noise shader to add an additional layer of atmosphere to the final render. I also kept the materials simple, using only five materials in total to maintain a distinguishable color palette.
Since version 3.5.06, Redshift’s updated Random Walk SSS has provided more realistic SSS models without sacrificing render speed. It simplifies the setup of skin materials and produces better results under a variety of lighting conditions. Prior to this update, Redshift’s ray-traced SSS required multiple texture layers and manual adjustments to create realistic skin materials, which was a time-consuming process that required constant adjustments on animation sequences with significant light changes. While Arnold Renderer has offered Random Walk SSS for some time, Redshift’s implementation has made it much more efficient and practical for use in animation.
For the Subsurface settings of the characters’ skin materials, I used the Skin Diffuse map from CC 4.1 as the color and set Radius to a salmon color (similar to the color one’s dermis when viewed under direct illumination). I set Scale to 0.1 to represent the thickness of the skin, and used Random Walk mode with Include Mode set to “All Objects”.
As for the look of the fire, I aimed for a more fantastical and smokeless appearance. To ensure that the colors and movements of the fire would match the lighting and color palette of the rest of the animation, I dedicated a lot of time at the start of the project to test different render and pyro simulation settings.
At the time of writing, there was a persistent NVIDIA driver issue (a VRAM memory allocation bug) that consistently caused Redshift to crash on long sequence renders. This issue was widely discussed on Redshift’s Facebook group and official forum. Some 3D artists found that downgrading their NVIDIA drivers to 462.59 worked well, but the only fix that worked for me was to disable half of my GPUs for renderings (two out of four in my case).
The scene for Masquerade was one of the heaviest among all the animation projects I have done — the architectural model alone totalled 4 GBs, while the entire scene (including VDBs, textures, characters, cloth simulations) totalled over 500 GBs. To optimize render times, I converted all static objects, including Matrix objects, into Redshift proxies by groups. For example, ceiling as one proxy and walls as another. This drastically reduced the loading times for geometry during final renders. While I used to shy away from using Redshift proxies for animations due to render farm limitations, I have had the pleasure of using GarageFarm, which fully supports Redshift proxies as long as the proxy material properties are set to “Materials from Object” or “Materials from Scene (Match name and prefix)”.
Aside from its support for Redshift proxies, working with GarageFarm was one of the best experiences I have ever had using a render farm. The 24/7 support from the GarageFarm team was invaluable and they were always available to answer any questions I had. One of the standout features of GarageFarm was the flexibility it offered when it came to rendering. The ability to render single images in strips and having three levels of priorities for rendering jobs allowed me to easily manage my budget and render times. I would highly recommend GarageFarm to anyone looking for a user-friendly and reliable renderfarm solution for their CGI animation projects.
For the final rendering, every shot was saved individually as one project, which included the following:
Static geometry as RS Proxies, for architecture and furniture.
Matrix Objects as RS Proxies, for flower petals scattered across the ground and in the air.
Characters and animated garments in Alembic format
Simulated pyro in VDB format
I experimented with multiple techniques for further optimization and found the following four to have the most drastic reduction in render times:
Deleting everything outside the camera: I created unique scenes for every shot such that each scene only contained what was visible to the camera. This significantly reduced my final render times by up to 80%, especially for the statue close-up shots.
Turning off motion blur for Matrix/Cloner objects with RS Object tags
Keeping render samples low. I kept mine at the default, with Automatic Sampling set to a threshold of 0.03 and denoising with Neat Video in post-processing
Rendering only every other frame and using “RIFE-App” to interpolate frames.
Technique 3 resulted in relatively noisy renders, which I then imported as sequences into Premiere Pro and used Neat Video 5 for denoising. I left most of the Neat Video settings at their default and “automatic” values, but it’s important that you right-click on the Premiere Pro viewport and make sure the Playback Resolution is set to “Full”. This ensures that Neat Video samples the final renders at full resolution. The Neat Video user interface is easy to navigate, but I recommend checking out their official tutorials to get the most out of the software. Technique 4 worked for the first half of this particular project, but did not work for some of my other projects. Make sure to do test renders before proceeding with the final renders.
For the final touches, I used Red Giant Universe Heatwave in After Effects to add heat distortions to the fire. I also used Magic Bullet Looks in Premiere for color correcting, adding chromatic aberration, and film grain. The resulting effects were reminiscent of movies filmed with detuned 70s lenses, adding a layer of nostalgia and enigma to the final aesthetics.
In conclusion, the creation of project “Masquerade” was a challenging but rewarding journey of self-learning and artistic exploration. The process of bringing this character animation project to life allowed me to develop my skills in storyboarding, character design, character animation and rendering.
This project was created amid the rise of text-to-image artificial intelligence (AI) systems, which have the potential to disrupt the field of visual arts and threaten the livelihood of artists. While these technologies offer new possibilities for automation and efficiency, they also raise important questions about the role of creativity and human expression in an increasingly automated world. In the face of these challenges, I believe that it is more important than ever to celebrate and support the work of artists and creators.
By sharing my own process and insights through this article, I hope to inspire others to pursue their own artistic endeavors and to value the unique perspectives and talents of human artists. Despite the advances of AI, we must remember that it is through the passion and dedication of artists like ourselves that the world can continue to be enriched by the beauty and complexity of human creativity.
Anita Bell is an award-winning writer with a diverse portfolio that includes science fiction, fantasy, children’s adventure, and crime comedy. Her exceptional talent in the business and investing genre has led to her authoring three of the top 10 best-selling business books in the past decade in Australia and New Zealand. Currently, Anita is focused on pitching for grants with the assistance of Cartoon Animator and iClone. She brings a unique perspective to the art of presentation with her ability to incorporate stunning 3D/2D animations and motion graphics, resulting in a “WOW” factor that captivates audiences. She has the following to say about visual storytelling and Reallusion products:
“At first I wanted to produce some of my short stories visually, but after a decade as a guest speaker at schools, uni’s, and libraries; after meeting so many amazing and inspiring people, I’m enjoying the fresh energy in helping others to share their stories as well.”
With the help of Cartoon Animator and iClone, I was able to achieve professional and efficient results in 2D animation, despite having no prior studies in film or animation. After breaking my hip in an accident involving a neighbor’s bull on our farm, I spent several months learning animation techniques with free tools and tutorials. To build my portfolio, I offered one-minute talking animations to local businesses and charities, which helped me kick-start my sample reels for funding applications. Now, I’m excited to have a full schedule of corporate and educational projects booked up to two years in advance!
5 Crucial Advice for Beginners
Tip #1: Use KISS principle (Keep it short and simple)
When submitting your 2D animation pitches and written support documents to fund providers, keep in mind that they are often very busy. Avoid wasting their time and potentially insulting their intelligence with unnecessary repetition.
Tip #2: Have impression points
Have a clear understanding of the amount of funding you require and make sure your pitch is concise, engaging, and full of energy. Be strategic with your words, leaving your audience captivated and eager to invest in your vision.
Tip #3: Set up your keywords
On this tip, Anita says “You know why. So do it. And don’t skimp”. After watching her video, the interviewer requested her to provide 3 to 5 keywords that would help readers discover this article, suggesting relevant terms like “vector animation”, “secondary animation”, “lip sync animation”, or “face animation”. To which Anita laughed and candidly replied:
“Oh dear, perhaps I should respectfully decline to use such keyword terms as; vector animation, secondary animation, lip sync animation or face animation in any of my replies here, because;
a) I’m still having a bad hair day, as shown by the naughty little sub-title character in the video, and…
b) I already SHOW everything I needed to mention about those terms INSIDE the video.
And one of the Top Rules as a Writer is “Show, don’t Tell”. So you won’t see me mention any such terms as; vector animation, secondary animation, lip sync animation or face animation ANYWHERE in my replies to your questions for this article.
Just tie your readers to a chair and make them watch the dang video.”
The interviewer was amused and lacked a witty comeback.
Tip #4: Brainstorm your ideas
Anita says “Most folks make the big mistake of brainstorming why THEY want grant funding for their 2D Animations.” Spoiler alert: by just one minor — or major — detail, they are wrong!
Instead, she suggests researching why the grant providers are offering such significant funding and brainstorming what they may want to see based on the themes and “intellectual flavors” of projects they have previously supported. That is, she puts the emphasis on the needs of the grant providers rather than the seekers.
“Refocus on brainstorming how you can help THEM to achieve THEIR goals for THEIR money, and benefitting the widest numbers of THEIR target viewers and communities, by using your skills and networking contacts.”
Tip #5: Enhance with 3 key features
On adding “punch” and “WOW factor” to your pitches, Anita recommends using subtle professional touches like spring dynamics, free-form deformations, and scalable vector graphics. In keeping with her jovial deposition, she ends by saying “Oh, and maybe also some healthy helpings of vector animation, secondary action animation, lip sync animation, and face animation, if that wasn’t already obvious. LOL.”
Hi there, my name is Jasper Hesseling and I’ve been working as a solo 3D artist for over 15 years. I’m based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and I go by the name “Mayonnaise”. Why Mayonnaise? Well, it’s partly because of my Dutch roots – it’s a very popular sauce here – but also because I often feel like I’m creating the “visual sauce” for concepts and ideas. As an all-around 3D artist, I understand how to leverage the advantages of each 3D tool and assemble them into the ideal character animation pipeline. My background is actually in motion graphics, but I transitioned to 3D art and animation because that’s where my passion lies.
Some of you have already seen my winning entry Jessica Rabbit in the previous lip sync animation contest, and I demonstrated how I did it with an article post. Jessica was a pure iClone render project. But since Reallusion announced the Auto Setup plugin for Unity, I decided to give it a go and created this Lynn project. See why I created this project and how I combine my workflow with the Reallusion pipeline below.
Why I chose Reallusion Software
In the past, I’ve been working with a lot of characters that were customized by myself. It’s nice, but I don’t always have the time to create everything needed for a functional face rig, let alone the rig itself with all that extra facial functionality, like facial mocap and retargeting options. But with my previous experience, I know Character Creator and iClone will be my solution for this.
So I quickly started concepting and customizing the secret agent character, Lynn, for this project. The whole Lynn character is based on CC4-based mesh, and I made the outfits from scratch in Marvelous Designer. After doing a retopology and uv layout I made the textures in Substance Painter. I wanted her to have some recognizable items, so that is where the NIKE’s came in. And the rest of the items, I borrowed a bit from one of my favorite animator series: ARCHER.
Q: Hi, Jasper! Thank you for the wonderful project background introduction. You have both experiences in Unreal and Unity. Can you briefly share your experience with both engines, and tell us why you chose Unity for this project?
I love 3D animation and graphics as a medium to express my creativity. What I don’t like is waiting on renders. This is why I am always on the lookout for real-time rendering solutions. With this in mind, I am exploring the possibilities of both Unreal Engine and Unity3d.
While I find Unreal to be an interesting option, Unity’s open setup and forgiving nature appeal to me more. Though I must admit, if serious ways to compile errors are required, Unreal may be the better choice. As for my expertise, I’m not an expert in those areas. That being said, after seeing the HDRP render, I couldn’t resist diving into it once again.
After seeing what people like Sakura Rabbit and Little Mountain could get out of Unity, I wanted to see what I can achieve with the HDRP engine. So I chose Unity for this project and decided to push myself further for high-quality visuals.
Q: So after selecting Unity, can you tell us more about your findings in Unity HDRP, and how it can be incorporated with the Reallusion Auto Setup Plugin?
I was very impressed with the render results of the HDRP engine in Unity. The Reallusion Auto Setup Plugin was a huge time-saver in setting up characters in Unity with all the rig and shaders you need in the HDRP environment. Especially it makes a very realistic display of Digital Human Hair, Eyes, Skin, and Teeth almost without any tweaks.
Another fascinating feature that I found is the built-in preview tools. Once the shaders are automatically assigned to Unity, I can use it and quickly apply different looks and expressions on Lynn, and immediately see the facial expression results under the Unity environment. This is another time-saving feature on lookdev tasks, allowing me to focus more on the creative process.
During production, I also looked into Victor Soupday’s Reallusion forum post. Victor is the original designer of the CC to Unity AutoSetup tool, and he helped me greatly when I bumped into some technical issues. His insights have assisted me to fix a few errors on the go, too.
Q: Can you talk about your character animation workflow in the Parkour Pack?
I started out with a rough blocking animation in Cascadeur and imported that into iClone. In iClone, I polished the animation and added extra details like hand and finger animation as well as facial expressions.
I could also place constraints for when the character makes contact with the environment like the jump over the railing. With the motions available in theParkour Pack I could really expand on the animation and the last part is totally created with motions from that same pack. I also found the review made from Libertas videos helpful, and suggest you can also dive into that review and take a look.
“This iClone-to-Unity pipeline is a feast to work with, and I feel really liberated as a solo creative.And I see only more possibilities on the horizon.”
-Jasper Hesseling, Freelance 3D Artist
Q: In your opinion, can you share with us how your workflow can inspire Unity game Developers?
I believe that with this workflow with characters from iClone or CC4 Unity, developers have better access to awesome character models and animation for their games. Since there is a lot of detail in the models, character animation in cutscenes could add to the storytelling of any game. And below is the materials that we need to collect to decorate your story. We’ve done this before so we can be a bit more creative with the materials!
Katherine Dellimore is a 2D digital animator from the UK who specializes in making animated videos and tutorials on YouTube. Many of her followers know her as “KDSKETCH” or “KD” for short. Her YouTube channel focuses on the creation of 2D animation while she elaborates on the process of character design, storyboarding, and various tips for aspiring animators.
Katherine is no stranger to Cartoon Animator (CTA), having experimented with CTA 4 back in 2019. Among her videos, two tutorials stand out the most to us: one introduces CTA’s newer and more advanced features — with lip-sync topping her favorites — and the other demonstrates the use of mocap plugins for creating motion capture animation. She continues to release new tutorial videos regularly, including a recent one highlighting the latest features in version 5, especially vector animation.
Adding Secondary Motion with Spring Bones
In this video, KD demonstrates the benefits of incorporating spring dynamics in 2D character animation to bring objects to life. Using Affinity Designer, she creates a wolf-themed cellular kite with cylindrical sails strung together and rigs the connected sections of the kite with spring bones to make them ripple midair. KD then applies the same concept to human characters with varying hairstyles and bone structures, by adding spring bones to their rigs. The result is a mesmerizing animation that takes characters and props from ordinary to extraordinary, using the quick-and-easy presets in Cartoon Animator.
(Adjust spring editor settings for different hairstyles)
KD is known for her meticulous attention to detail and her ability to convey software features and tips in a way that is easy to understand. If you’re an aspiring animator, this video is a must-watch, and stay tuned for more tutorials, including an exciting one on Free Form Deformation!
Greetings, my fellow 2D animation enthusiasts! I’m Nathan Smith, a member of Studio Ghibletz. Today, we’ll take a behind-the-scenes look at Anomaly Karen, the latest “Stu Jibby” production, and offer insights regarding how you can raise the production value of your own projects while taking advantage of the latest vector workflow in Cartoon Animator 5.
Most shows we watch nowadays switch camera angles frequently to bolster storytelling. Here at Ghibletz, we believe that camera work is the core component for achieving high production value in 2D animation. Each scene ought to include three basic camera angles to switch between while editing to give the scene more depth and immersion.
Ever since Rick Lander joined our team, he has been instrumental in incorporating multiple camera angles into every project he has touched. Not only that, he has also mentored us on how to translate real-world camera angles into 2D animation. But, we quickly encountered a problem inherent in the flat world of drawings. That is, rigged characters limit the shooting to a small range of possible camera angles and positions. For example, zoom far enough into a character and pixelation will appear. That’s why we’ve changed things up with Anomaly Karen, where we deployed characters made with vector graphics instead.
As one of CTA5’s latest features, vector animation lets animators create characters with SVG elements. Ghibletz, brought Zorby and Galaxtar to life in CTA5 using the Adobe Illustrator pipeline. By using vector characters, we were able to shoot closeups without losing a single pixel of detail.
Easy Lip-Sync Animation for Witty Dialogue
At “Stu Jibby”, we take pride in our scripts and witty dialogue. To bring these scripts to life, we use CTA 5’s automatic lip-sync tool. Without it, lip-sync animation would remain a daunting and arduous task, especially for animated episodes of Anomaly Karen that are completely comprised of dialogue.
We start by importing the WAV file and then we manually adjust the lip-sync. Personally, I like to remove some of the lip movement added by the auto sync tool. I feel this gives the characters a smoother, more natural-looking lip sync. This is also an area where you raise production value and save money at the same time. If you design your characters cleverly, you can recycle lip poses. Our characters, Karen, Zorby, and Galaxtar all use the same mouths for instance. And we recycle this same lip sync system for Mouse Bros characters, Richard, Duncan, and scientist.
Color Grouping for Faster Color Variations
Color grouping proved to be an invaluable tool during the production of Anomaly Karen. It gave us a “two for the price of one” deal with Galaxtar and Zorby as we have designed them with similar features to take advantage of this tool.
For the two characters, Jop had only needed to rig one character. From there, I used color grouping to change the skin tones and eye color, then I exchanged one sprite to give them different clothing. I ripped the eyebrows off of Zorby and — BOOM! Galaxtar was born. Color grouping gives a lot of bang for your buck when it’s used to create multiple characters from a single set of assets.
Identifying Important Details to Animate for Staging
For the first four clips of Anomaly Karen, not much happens: You see Karen in her car, the restaurant, a different angle of Karen in her car, and the restaurant again. In the last clip of the restaurant, however, a letter falls off the sign for comedic effect. We could have added loads of details to that scene like a group of children walking by, grass blowing in the wind, and a flock of birds for instance. Instead, we chose to animate a single letter falling off the sign.
With full-fledged software like Cartoon Animator, it’s tempting to over-animate a scene. But that’s something that animators should resist because it’s so easy to populate a background with movement, making it overcrowded with activity. An abundance of details is distracting to viewers. Instead, one should practice the principle of staging.
Staging is the setting up of a scene with a purpose. Don’t just add details will-nilly — Just because one can add a tumbleweed or two with a few clicks, doesn’t mean one should. Identify which details are needed to tell your story, then use these details to draw the viewer’s attention to the important plot points. A well-staged scene instantly tells the viewer what is happening, why, and how.
Applying Secondary Motion with Spring Bones
Animated characters in CTA 5 can be brought to life with secondary motions by using spring bones. In my opinion, spring bones are a game-changer. They have the ability to instantly raise the production value of a scene. However, be sure to use them selectively as any technique becomes distracting when overused. For example, Zorby and Galaxtar only have one spring bone for each character, as that’s all is needed to properly apply secondary motion to the antennae on top of their heads.
Using Secondary Motion to Improve Character Turns
At Studio Ghibletz, we dream of pushing rigged characters further than they’ve ever gone. Ultimately, our goal is to use puppet animation to produce net-work quality content. Part of this goal includes perfecting character turns.
Turning a rigged 2D character is a sticky business. Sure, you can switch between angles but ends up looking choppy and cheap. While producing Anomaly Karen, we realized that we could smooth out a turn by applying spring bones. In the episode, Zorby and Galaxtar turn twice. Once, they are abruptly flipped, and for the second time, Galaxtar turns his whole body. The spring bones on their antennae help to smooth out these turns. Essentially, spring bones trick the viewer’s eye into thinking the turn is more fleshed out.
And this is just the beginning! As I write, Rick and Jope are tinkering with iClone to perfect a new technique to create even smoother character rotations. By using a combination of spring bones, intermediate angles, and 3D source files, we hope to develop an entirely new technique for turning characters in CTA 5… but, that’s a story for our next production.
Thanks so much for taking the time out to read this behind-the-scenes article on Anomaly Karen. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to Studio Ghibletz’s YouTube channel so you never miss any of our exciting content.
Born in Chicago, Libertas started out with a passion for filmmaking at an early age, and ever since he’s had the desire to tell grand and fantastical stories featuring brave heroes on epic quests in lush and vibrant worlds, much like his Assassin’s Creed-inspired micro-short film “Modern Assasin Training Session.”
Libertas admits to always dreaming bigger than his shoestring budget could afford. Even still, he loves creating characters and their costumes to see them come alive, especially in his YouTube short films. Outside of his day job as the Manager of Videography and sole 3D generalist at his company, he spends his free time, once again, dreaming big and crafting new characters, costumes, and props for his digital actors who are instrumental in bringing his epic stories to life for the audience community and not just himself.
My Experience and Honest Review
Containing forty-five motions across four categories, whether climbing, vaulting, flipping, or in absorbent daring movements combined together, these animations can be strung together to create some impressive acrobatic movements for your characters whether for games or films. As a fan of Assassin’s Creed and as a person making my own short films, I was very excited about this pack. Because parkour is a great way to show your character’s athletic prowess. Overall, I like this pack and I think there are three distinct merits about this pack.
What I like about this pack is that you get a good variety of animations available to you that I just haven’t seen elsewhere. Especially in the categories of the vault, flip, and climbs. While you can find other animations say on Mixamo, for vaults and rolls, these packs seem to have been designed purposely to fill in the gap-work that other packs lack. And that makes it great for mixing with other animations.
Motion with good heft
Additionally, because these were motion captured, I find that they have a good sense of weight to them. Typically with parkour animations because they’re so difficult and require a lot of skills, you have to find someone who can even perform it. You typically find that parkour animations will be hand-animated, and therefore lacking in realism when it comes to characters landing on, falling to, or rolling on the ground, and even when they are balancing on their feet. A lot of that natural movement is just so hard to capture. Another benefit to motion capture is that the transitions and movements translate naturally on the character with little input.
The combined skills subset is a very interesting concept, and it provides a quick weight to showcase a character’s interactions with their environment in a more elaborate manner than seen in other content packs. This makes it easy to quickly put together longer animation sequences to showcase your character’s abilities. On top of that, I was able to cut up some of these animations within the longer combo sequences and merge them with other animations to get even more variety out of the pack.
Tips & Tricks: What Magic is This?
Though some of the performance starts a bit slower, and that pack lacks of daring moves. If you do want to make those types of adjustments, let me share three tricks that I use for making compelling acrobatic performances. You can also check out Reallusion’s latest FREE Course and learn how to edit your animated characters with iClone.
Use transform key
Making the characters jump greater distances than the premade motions allow often results in awkward-looking transitions. The easiest way to fix this is by adding a transform key at the moment the last foot leaves the ground for the leap and a transition key for where you want the character to end up. Now that you have the horizontal movement set up with the transform and transition keys, you can go back and add a vertical key for the apex of the jump in between the two. This technique will keep the modified jump animation looking a little more natural.
Blending with other motion packs
For characters that run and transition into acrobatic moves, I recommend having two run animations to change things up. Either a run cycle from the Spunky Moves Pack on ActorCore or from Mixamo. Both seem to have worked pretty well with this pack.
Playing with the camera
One of the best ways to accentuate the movement of your characters is by supporting them with great camera movement like large sweeping shots combined with wide angles and lenses. Having great camera movement puts the audience where the action is while showcasing the environment. For some inspiration on how this is done, I recommend you watch videos from Devinsupertramp on YouTube
Cartoon Animator makes creating 2D animation fast and easy. However there are many other applications for Cartoon Animator including the creation of comic strips, graphic novels and motion comics.
Many motion comic artists rely on simple camera pans and sliding images across the screen, resulting in basic, flat images. But with Cartoon Animator you can create explosive motion comic panels with multiple layers, dynamic movement and camera depth.
Instead of having to draw every panel of your motion comic by hand, you can use actors from Cartoon Animator as the characters for your story. You can pose them just the way you want, including facial expressions, set up your actors in a scene and then animate that scene as a panel of your motion comic.
Motion comics are a popular source of entertainment because they help bring our stories to life in a much more engaging way than just relying on static images. Cartoon Animator provides a fast and easy way to do this.
PLANNING LAYOUT & POSING ACTORS
Once you have your rough storyboard sketched out and planned, you can use actors from Cartoon Animator and pose them to match your storyboards.
Actors in Cartoon Animator are rigged with bones so posing them any way you want is easy. You can use premade actors or create your own from scratch, and even have total control over their facial expressions thanks to the detail face settings.
BREAKING ACTOR UP INTO MOVABLE PARTS
Once your actor is posed correctly for your motion comic panel, you’ll want to break the actor up into multiple parts to prepare for layering and motion. Using actors from Cartoon Animator makes this process very easy because you can isolate individual body parts and export them as large scale PNG files with transparent backgrounds.
SETTING UP BACKGROUND & ACTOR LAYERS
In your preferred art software, create your background, making sure to break up all the elements that will be required to move separately in your motion comic panel, including background layers, props and effects.
Bring your individual character parts into the scene and assemble them, keeping each on its own layer. Use your art software to enhance your character art by adding texture, colour and lighting to match the scene.
Once your motion comic panel is set up, save the scene as a PSD file. Now simply drag and drop your PSD direct to Stage Mode in Cartoon Animator and select Scene to have your motion comic panel background import with all your layers in their correct order, ready to apply motion to.
Save your actor as a separate PSD file and in the same way, drag and drop him to Stage Mode on top of your layered background, opening him as an actor file.
When you import your actor PSD, you will immediately be taken into Composer mode of Cartoon Animator which is the behind the scenes workshop. Here you can build, rig and adjust your characters. Since we are in here already, let’s start work now on adding some bones to our actor so we can animate him in our motion comic panel.
RIGGING ACTOR BONES
The first thing you’ll notice are the little red dots on top of your actor. These are the bone pivot points for each individual body part we have imported. So each body part will rotate around its pivot point. Open the Bone Editor menu, select a pivot point and line it up to its corresponding body part. Simply do this for each pivot point of your character to have your body parts stay connected and rotate in place.
To begin with, make sure the bone pivot point at the actor’s hip is selected and then from the Bone Editor menu, select Add Bone. Add an extra bone from the hip to the mid section of the torso. This gives you a point to be able to bend the character in the middle for more flexibility later. Starting from the outermost bone pivot points, now select each point and choose Connect from the Bone Editor menu. Then select the pivot point you want to connect to. You’ll want to connect each of the points for the arms and legs so they all connect like a skeleton.
You’ll see that for a motion comic we are only adding in a basic bone structure to our actor so that for speed and efficiency only the parts we need to animate will move. However, with Cartoon Animator you can rig a complete 2D actor for total animation control.
Now you have all the parts of your actor connected, you can add as many additional bones as required to allow for movement and bending of each body part. The more bones you add, the more flexible each body part will be and the more you’ll be able to control it. In the Subdivision panel of the Bone Editor menu, you can also expand the wireframe and increase its density to break up your part into more polygons for even more distortion.
When you’ve finished adding all your bones to your actor, select the Create Custom Rig GUI icon and you’ll be able to capture a thumbnail of your actor, complete with bones setup, to help you move him about later.
Now that you have all the elements of your motion comic panel imported and your actor rigged for movement, it’s time to set up the scene for camera depth and movement.
In Cartoon Animator you have three different axes for moving actors and objects. The X-axis moves objects horizontally. The Y-axis moves objects vertically. And the Z-axis moves objects closer to or further away from the camera. It is the Z-axis that will give your scene a sense of depth when you move your camera about and allows your characters to interact within the scene by moving between objects.
You can switch to Cartoon Animator’s 3D view at any time to see where all your layers sit in relation to each other and even move them about within this view for more control.
The greater the distance between the z-axis value of objects in relation to each other, the further apart they will appear and the more noticeable the 3D feeling of your motion comic panel will be when you pan or zoom your camera.
Set up each of your layers, including their z-axis value and then set the opacity for layers that need to be translucent like smoke. Then you are ready to work on the camera movement of your scene.
ANIMATING MOTION COMIC ELEMENTS
Now that your scene is all set up and layered, it’s time to animate your motion comic panel. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but ultimately, what you’re trying to do is to add a sense of drama to your scene and hold the attention of your audience and drive the story forward.
First of all, let’s animate our camera to establish the motion of the entire scene, and then we’ll animate each individual element within the scene using different tools included with CTA.
Starting at frame one of your project, open the Timeline and from the Track List select Project and then Camera. Your Camera timeline opens and it is here that you control all its movement. Make sure you are in Camera Mode so you see the frame as it will be recorded. Now because our actor is being pushed back by the explosion, let’s pan the camera horizontally and later we will animate the explosion pushing out towards him as he gets pushed backwards.
At frame one we have the camera set to its initial position.To create a dramatic sense of slow motion, let’s pan the camera horizontally across about 150 frames. If we move to frame 150 and then reposition our camera, and then play back the video, we see that the camera now pans horizontally as it plays from frame one to frame 150. As you can see, thanks to the way we set up the different z-axis values when we set the shot up, your scene appears to have a realistic sense of camera depth.
If some of the elements don’t end where you want them to, then you can even work backwards, setting them up at the final frame and then repositioning them at frame one to move between positions.
Let’s return now to frame one and do this for each element in the scene. At this point, it is simply a matter of working with each individual element within your motion comic panel and changing its position, depth or rotation from frame one to frame 150. One of the great features of Cartoon Animator is that when creating a 2D animation, you can scroll back and forth through your timeline at any time and make as many adjustments as you like to get the shot you want. We’ll rotate the actor slightly to give him a sense of being pushed back by the explosion, and make changes in the scale of the explosion so it appears to spread out.
Thanks to Cartoon Animator’s bone system, you can do so much more than just have your static actor slide across the screen. Because we already set up our bone structure inside our actor, we can now move those bones to give movement to his limbs, head and even bend his torso. Select your actor and open your Keyframe Editor and you’ll see an Image View showing all the bones. At frame one we already have the actor where we want him, so let’s move to frame 150 and give him some additional movement to make our comic panel more dynamic. Grab any bone and reposition it to where you want. Then as your animation plays, the bones will change position between keyframes and bring your cartoon to life. Cartoon Animator does all the hard work of the inbetween frames for you here, making animating your scene easy so you can just focus on being creative instead of being slowed down by having to work frame by frame.
So now we have a nice dramatic shot of our actor being pushed back in slow motion by the explosion.
SPRING BONES & FREE FORM DEFORMATION
Let’s use some of the other clever tools in Cartoon Animator to add some finishing touches to a few elements, like spring bones and free form deformation.
When animating, spring bones give automatic, dynamic motion to props and parts of actors, so you don’t have to worry about tedious keyframing. In our motion comic panel, we can keyframe the movement of the spring bones to give the canvas sack a more realistic sense of squash and stretch.
To add spring bones to any prop, select it and open it in Composer Mode. Reposition your pivot point for the object and then open the Bone Editor menu. From here, add any bones you feel will help your prop move correctly and increase your subdivision to add more polygons for a smoother bend.
You can manually keyframe your bones movement using the Prop Key Editor, which gives total control when creating a shot like our motion comic panel, or you can turn some of your bones into spring bones so Cartoon Animator moves them automatically when animating.
Exaggerated squash and stretch can also be achieved using another Cartoon Animator tool called Free Form Deformation. We can use this to expand our explosion props in a way that suggests they are exploding outwardly. There are plenty of presets for free form deformation, or you can keyframe the animation yourself by moving the points of the lattice from one frame to another for instant, smooth results.
Finally, go through your motion comic panel one last time and tweak details. Once you are happy with the scene, we can add speech bubbles and sound.
ADDING SPEECH BUBBLES
Even though our motion comic panel is complete, we can still bring in additional props, like speech bubbles. Having created them in your favourite art software as SVG files, you can just drag and drop them directly to Stage Mode and open them as props. From there, we simply rescale them, use the Transform track to change their position in the panel to match any animation already applied, and using the visibility timeline track we can determine when they appear and disappear.
ADDING VOICEOVER TRACKS
Cartoon Animator has two Sound FX tracks so you can bring in your voice track or other audio files. I always bring in my voice clips so I can perfect the timing, but I generally add other sounds like music and effects in post production.
RENDERING MOTION COMIC PANEL
Now that your motion comic panel is complete and you’ve added your voices, you can render your scene and export your file. Choose Render and then under the Video menu, select the format you want to export as, and the output screen size. Select only the range that includes your animation and then export.
EDITING AND ADDING SOUND IN POST-PRODUCTION
There are any number of websites for adding sound effects and music in post production, as well as plenty of software choices when it comes to editing all your scenes together.
For sound effects and music, I subscribe to a site called https://www.storyblocks.com/audio which has thousands of professionally recorded sound effects and music tracks. You will find everything you need in a quick search.
For editing all my clips together, I use Pinnacle Studio editing software, which gives me plenty of audio tracks so all my sound can be manually adjusted to produce my final motion comic panel. I even used Pinnacle to put this entire tutorial together.
Aside from being amazing 2D animation software that is fast, fun and easy to use, Cartoon Animator is also the perfect software for creating comic strips, graphic novels and motion comic panels. Whether you are new to 2D animation or a seasoned animator, Cartoon Animator works to your skill level. For beginners, the software is easy to pick up and be animating within hours, thanks to its easy to use interface and wealth of content provided. As your skills as an animator grow, you will make use of many of the varied professional tools and features Cartoon Animator has to offer.
I hope this video has helped inspire you when making your own Cartoon Animator projects. If you have any questions about this tutorial or CTA, feel free to email me.