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An introduction into Vector Art in Cartoon Animator 5 by Garry Pye

Overview: 

  • Introduction – What are vector images?
  • List new features of CTA5 – Vector art, Free Form Deformation (FFD)
  • Spring Bones
  • What is vector art? Vector vs Raster. 
  • What vector software can be used to create CTA5 characters
  • Benefits of vector art.
  • Basic flow of creating a vector character.
  • Learning character build folders – RLBone human, RLBone Head, RLImage.
  • Rules to follow when creating characters.
  • Exporting SVG for CTA5
  • Spring Bones
  • Free Form Deformation (FFD)
  • Conclusion

G’day! My name is Garry Pye and I am the 2D Community Manager for Reallusion. In addition, I have been a content developer for Cartoon Animators 2D Marketplace for the past nine years. I would like to introduce you to the 2D animation software Cartoon Animator 5, which delivers a new set of amazing and practical tools that will help you to create professional 2D animation faster and easier than ever before. 

In addition to the abilities you are already familiar with in Cartoon Animator, version 5 now has object Free Form Deformation (FFD), Spring Bones and most importantly, the ability to create characters using vector software. Each of these new features will enhance your animated projects in all new ways, and when mixed with the powerful tools you already use, Cartoon Animator 5 is about to take your 2D animation to a whole new level. 

In this article, I am going to take you on a tour of some of the new tools and features Cartoon Animator has to offer. 

Vector Based Character Design

Cartoon Animator 5 introduces the ability to design and build your characters as vector art in your favourite drawing software, including Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, Affinity Designer, Photopea and Inkscape

So what is vector art? Unlike raster art which is made up of pixels that can blur when enlarged or zoomed, vector graphics are created from geometric shapes like points, lines, curves and polygons, which means you can enlarge them indefinitely without any loss of quality and without any annoying feathering around the edge of your art. So you can zoom in as close as you want to a character and never worry about losing quality. 

With a drawing tablet like my XP-Pen 24 Pro, you can still free draw your art, but as vectors, you have the ability to make instant changes to shape and colour, meaning changes to your design can be made spontaneously, as opposed to working with raster images which need to be completely redrawn. 

And the best news is, creating vector characters for Cartoon Animator 5 is easy, provided you keep in mind a few important rules. 

As you are creating your new vector character, you are going to want to make sure all your colour environment is RGB mode. This way, users will have the chance to change the colour of individual parts of your character like skin, hair and clothing, directly inside Cartoon Animator 5, adding more value to your content. 

As you build your character, remember to group all your body parts like arms, legs and torso for easy management, and name them the same as the corresponding body part in the Cartoon Animator 5 character template, so that you can import your finished character straight in to CTA

Have fun drawing your most creative ideas, just be sure to keep all your parts grouped together so you can match them up with the character template and have them work in CTA5. Now once your character is designed and all your parts are grouped correctly, it’s time to assemble your character using the bones that will control movement. And the number one rule here is ‘make sure your layers are named correctly’. You have three main folders that make up a character build, and they are RLBoneHuman: RLBoneHead: and RLImage: And it’s worth taking a closer look at these to see just what they do.

First, the RLBoneHuman: folder contains all the pivot points for the bones of the body and you can position these any way you want to create your own unique skeletons for your characters. 

Next is the RLBoneHead: folder containing the pivot points for the individual parts that make up the face. These are important because they determine how the head rotates for your 360 Head movement. 

And finally we have the RLImage: folder which contains all the actual drawn parts of the face and body. Everything in here needs to be layered in the correct order so all your characters face and body parts appear in front or behind each other as required. 

Now you have your character all drawn up, with its bone points in place and all your layers in the correct order. It’s time to send it in to Cartoon Animator 5 and bring it to life!

Now you are going to export your new character as an SVG file, which is your Scalable Vector Graphic. Make sure your Compatibility is set to 1.1 and your Styling Options are set to Presentation and you can export your character.  

Move across to Cartoon Animator 5 and drop your SVG file in to Stage Mode and your character will appear! Now you only need to set up your 360 Head movement and your character is complete.

So that’s it. That’s how easy it is to create your own custom vector characters for Cartoon Animator 5. But there are a couple of other really clever new things Cartoon Animator 5 can do with your characters, and I am going to show you now.

Object Free Form Deformation (FFD)

New to Cartoon Animator 5 is Object Free Form Deformation (FFD). This is the ability to apply squash and stretch to your character to exaggerate movement and give your characters the feeling of being more flexible.  And it’s really easy to apply. 

Once you have animated your characters, you can apply Free Form Deformation. On your characters Timeline, you will see a tab named FFD. Open this track and this is where you will see the Free Form Deformation as it is applied. Select your character and open the Free Form Deformation menu. Now you will see a bounding box surrounding your character. You can move each of these points to affect the squash and stretch to your character and manually keyframe its movement, or you can apply one of the preset deformations. You can rotate, shift, scale and adjust the strength of the deformation to get your animation just the way you want and give your characters a more exaggerated, cartoony performance.

Spring Bones

Another new feature for Cartoon Animator 5 are Spring Bones. Think of Spring Bones as being able to automatically apply physics and gravity to your characters body parts. In the past, if you had a character with long flowing hair, when you applied a motion, the hair would still remain static. You could use the Deform tool and keyframe movement, but that process took a considerable amount of time. 

Not any more. 

Now, with Cartoon Animator 5’s Spring Bones, character parts can move freely, as the Spring Bones will automatically control their movement. There is no keyframing involved. Nothing you have to do. Just apply the Spring Bones and watch your character move like never before. 

And the best part is, adding Spring Bones is so easy! Spring Bones are going to change the way your characters move in the most amazing, dynamic way. 

With your character open in Composer Mode, open the Bone Editor. Select the bone pivot point you want to apply your Spring Bones to. Now add new bones starting from this point. You can do this to any face or body part. Then open the Spring Bone Editor, create a new group and assign the bone to that group. When you do, you will see all the bones attach to this bone are added to the group and they will all change colour. Now click Preview and watch as your hair moves naturally on its own when you move the characters head.

How good is that! No more tedious keyframing. No more unnatural, stiff movement. You can apply Spring Bones to any face or body part. Anything that you want to move naturally. Hair, clothing, tails, trunks. Turn anything in to a wobbly, jelly like substance in seconds. And then control the strength of the Spring Bones bounce, speed, gravity and more and Cartoon Animator 5 will automatically animate it all for you.   

Conclusions

So there you have it. Just some of the new features and tools of Cartoon Animator 5. Tools that are designed to enhance your characters performance through natural, automated movement, like squash and stretch, as well free flowing movement with Spring Bones. Techniques applied in the traditional 12 principles of animation, as well as vector art that will give your final 2D animations a higher quality output for professionals. 

Cartoon Animator is already powerful animation software designed with both the beginner and professional in mind. With version 5 we have added new features that will bring your characters to life in exciting new ways!

Follow Garry Pye:

https://www.reallusion.com/contentstore/FeaturedDeveloper/profile/#!/GarryPye/Cartoon%20Animator
https://www.facebook.com/garrypyeanimations
https://garrypyecreations.com/

Pitch & Produce | Walter Precipitous: Using Cartoon Animator for Global Science Education

José Vaz– CEO, Founder

José Vaz – Toma Creators

Hi, I’m Zez. I’m a freelance 2D Animator and Director from Porto, Portugal, working remotely for over 10 years. I manage a small team of creatives at my studio Toma Creators. We make full production for Animated Explainers and Music Videos, and the studio was involved with it. Apart from commercial work, I’ve always been involved in personal projects, such as creating Animated Series, Podcasts, Video Games, Comics, and more. 2D animation is my armory, and I like to turn all my embedded idea into reality, because I know I can achieve it with the right amount of artistic composition.

Our explainer videos were made for many industries, and you can find our customers representing all types of goods and services worldwide. Below are a few screenshots that I made for my customers, and each of them told their story precisely in less than a minute. From then, I started using Cartoon Animator (CTA) because I wanted to bring to life an upcoming project. Eventually, I got a brief for a story called ‘Walter Precipitous’ and ended up trying CTA for the first time on the short film.

Q: Hello Jose, and congratulations on being the first 2D entry of the Reallusion Pitch & Produce program. To start with, kindly tell us a bit about your character Walter, and share your 2D character creation process with Walter.

Walter is a water molecule. He changes forms from solid to liquid and gas but most of the time we’re seeing him as a big-headed droplet. When I saw CTA’s 360 head rotation tutorial with an angry bird sort of character, I knew Walter would work great on the software. My 2D character design style is highly inspired by Cartoon Network. I drew some sketches of the characters and quickly brought those to the iPad where I used Procreate to draw them in a neutral position with all the facial features I would need throughout the film. I brought the drawings into Photoshop where I added the colors and prepared the models for CTA.

There are a lot of emotions in the story, so I created, for example, two sets of mouth syllables, one sad 😔, and another happy 😃. Crystal’s character was animated as a green screen body in CTA which turns into this beautiful intricate texture in post-production in After Effects. The process of creating the characters on Cartoon Animator was fun and quick, and when the characters’ models were finished, animating them was a breeze of fresh air.

Q: Thanks for the nice sharing! To elaborate more, can you run us through your typical creation workflow with Cartoon Animator and other tools?

I usually use Procreate to draw my characters, then I take them to Photoshop to add the right colors. Once I am done with the 2D character creation, then I will take the model to Cartoon Animator for animation. In Walter Precipitous, there are a lot of lip sync movements involved, and I know most of the facial animators, regardless of 2D or 3D find it troublesome. So I am glad that Cartoon Animator streamlined the process and made my facial animation and lip-syncing animation process easier with their intuitive built-in functions.

When I’m finished with the character animations, I bring them to After Effects, a software I already felt comfortable with. I add most of the background images and post-production on AE. Here, I also textured some characters, and I am very pleased that my past experiences were put to work and you can see the characters are more vivid.

Q: Speaking of making the animation more vivid, how did Cartoon Animator 5 exactly help in this project?

Cartoon Animator is already a handy software for both indie and professional animators. With Cartoon Animator 5’s latest update, we were able to execute many new features and give Walter and Crystal more character. The first feature involved was one of the secondary animations: FFD effect. This allows us to squash and stretch the characters, and works brilliantly, and easily creating intricate effects straight out of classic animation’s rule book. In my story, Walter is portrayed as a bubbly character with a dream to explore the world. This feature truly helped us to animate Walter with an attitude and creates more cartoony motions.

The Spring Effect creates physics that was not possible before. In the project, I used Spring Editor to effectively animate the otter, trying to recreate the bounciness and simulate the tail motion. There are many pre-set included, and I suggest that you can always drag and drop them into your character bone and test it out. Reallusion already demonstrated it with a couple of samples in their FREE tutorials, and sometimes you just have to play with some tested secondary animation before the final results. Finally, the chance to use Vector Graphic Files was a big deal for me, since so many of the illustrations I work with are vector designs. This also allows users to import any vector graphics coming from any other online libraries. You can also get the vector files from Reallusion, or find the FREE vector characters embedded in Cartoon Animator 5.

Q: The project was a team effort. Can you share how you communicate and coordinate with them? Also, do you find it challenging to work remotely on team projects?

Communication is key, especially in bigger projects. The team has been working together for a few years on several projects. I know what Mariana (Illustrator) and Andre (Sound Designer) are capable of and their workflow. I know they are both capable of surprising me and pushing the envelope. Toblerusse, the creator and producer of the story, who lives in Canada, was just a pleasure to work with. He was very understanding and very much let us take creative freedoms. Even though Mariana, Andre, and I live in the same city (Porto, Portugal) we mostly worked remotely the whole time which we are all very much used to by now and so it’s become very natural. For communication to flow I would advise surrounding yourself with nice humans and try being helpful to your co-workers. I guess everyone involved was inspired by the story and had something meaningful to add to it. The big lesson is that remote work opened up a world of possibilities and collaborations that weren’t available before.

Q: We are very glad that your team pulled it out and delivered a nice project. Tell us about your future plans with Walter Precipitous Project!

Walter Precipitous was such a blast that the team is determined to keep going! So we created the landing page Walter Teaches Kids for all upcoming material. We’re creating more videos about water and science, a YouTube channel that we will be updating regularly and a Teachers Pay Teachers profile with more educational material. Hopefully, new characters and new short films will emerge from this!

Follow Jose and Walter Precipitous:

Toma Creators:
https://www.tomacreators.com/

Walter’s YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/@walterprecipitous885/videos

Walter’s Teacher’s Pays Teacher website:
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Walter-Teaches-Kids

Bringing static 3D Scans to life in minutes with AccuRIG by Frank Zwick

Frank Zwick – Dipl. Designer (FH) für elektronische Medien

Frank Zwick – Dipl. Designer (FH)

My name is Frank Zwick, I am a 3D artist from Germany with over 30 years experience in the 3d industry.

Since 2015 I offer a 3D scanning service, specialized in full body scanning. Anyone who has been involved in character rigging knows how much know-how, time and work it takes to get good results.

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To rig 3D scans of humans takes even a little more effort. Most of the time there is no exact symmetry to use, the fingers are often not separated from each other, as well as the critical areas. ( e.g. in the neck where the clothing collar merges with the skin) Hours of aligning local rotation axes combined with the tedious process of painting skinweights are a thing of the past since AutoRigging software has been around.

Unfortunately, the results were not always as good as expected, due to the reasons already mentioned, which is why I did not use AutoRigging software for my 3D scans. With AccuRig, Reallusion is launching a free auto rigging software with great features, which will attract attention in this area. With AccuRig it is now possible to transform a static 3D scan into a living 4D scan in just five simple steps, but with sufficient control over the rig. The ability to easily adjust and fine-tune the position of the body joints in an iterative process is almost always necessary for 3D scans of people.

“With AccuRig it is now possible to transform a static 3D scan into a living 4D scan in just five simple steps, but with sufficient control over the rig.”

Frank Zwick – Dipl. Designer (FH) für elektronische Medien

The same applies to the joints of the fingers. AccuRig delivers surprisingly good skinweights even under difficult conditions like in this example with non-separated fingers. In addition, the PoseOffset offers the possibility of retargeting even while the animation is playing. If the result is satisfying you can export it as FBX and pass it to other 3D applications or you can pass the character to ActorCore. There you can choose from a large library of motion capture data and transfer the motion data per click to the CharacterRig and evaluate it in the Real-time viewer from all sides.

For example, in ArchViz one often wishes for people in a certain pose to liven up the 3D scene, but of course you don’t have any suitable ready-posed 3D scans in the archive on your hard disk – with AccuRig it is now easier than ever to bring static 3D scans into the desired pose. All you need is a single 3D scan of a human in T or A pose to get started. After completing the five simple steps in AccuRig , countless poses can now be taken by the character as desired. So easily one A Pose Model becomes multiple models to populate architectural visualizations.

This is just another benefit besides the actual goal of bringing the static people scan from 3D to 4D. An animated People Scan naturally attracts more attention and you get a better impression of the character, compared to a static unnatural A Pose or T Pose with which characters are usually presented.

AccuRig is for me the best free autorigging tool I have used so far. Fast, easy to use, but enough control over the autorigging process to get the best out of it, and the best part is you have fun doing it.

AccuRig makes it easy for all 3D modeling artists to enter the next dimension – the 4D community will grow quickly. Please try it out for yourself and I wish you happy rigging!

Sketchfab :
https://sketchfab.com/Frank_Zwick

Sketchfab AccuRig :
https://sketchfab.com/3d-models/firefighterambulance-idle-accurigb1ce46dddb4f4a23b1b51215c76686a8

Homepage/3DScanService :
https://www.optimission.de/

Virtual Production Company adapts Live Action Projects to Real-time Animation

Piero Varda – Filmmaker, Creative Director, Co-Founder

Piero Varda – La Escena Virtual

My name is Piero Varda and I’m a filmmaker based in Lima, Peru with more than 15 years of experience in the advertisement and movie industry.  I originally started as an editor but then moved on to cinematography.  I’m now co-founder and creative director at La Escena Virtual, a virtual production company that provides virtual production services. We mainly work with LED wall technology and Unreal Engine. We create photorealistic 3D environments and track real cameras to virtual ones for FX purposes.

As part of our work, we recently started to upgrade and focus on real-time and motion capture workflows.  Our main goal is to migrate into a full real-time production company.  La Escena Virtual has also recently begun using Reallusion, primarily with iClone and Character Creator.  Additionally, we use different Reallusion plugins and animation bundles as a hub for character creation and mocap animation.

Before we started our company, I wrote and filmed a sci-fi live action movie project called “The Within” that is deeply inspired by Andean mythology and sacred practices.  Today La Escena Virtual uses the project to test techniques and pipelines as it’s a fantasy series that includes FX scenes with opportunities for digital doubles.

A couple of years back, regular post production meant this was a highly ambitious project which necessarily required co-producers to join in on the project to make it happen.  Today, thanks to virtual production and the doors it opens for collaboration, we believe we will be able to finish The Within in house.  Passionate filmmakers like ourselves have been waiting for these kinds of procedural tools, capable of working with other industry standard  software to help reduce time frames and regain creative control of the film process.  

“We learned that iClone and Character Creator were tools that worked seamlessly with Unreal Engine. Additionally, we eventually discovered iClone’s LIVE LINK and how it lets all the animation tools we were now using, work in conjunction with Unreal Engine — and after that we were totally hooked.”

Piero Varda – Filmmaker, Creative Director, Co-Founder

Winner Tips & Tricks Interview: The Making of Vivek Rai’s “Biker”

The “Winner Tips & Tricks ” series covers practical workflows and techniques shared by winners of the “2022 Animation At Work Contest”. To let users see the full spectrum of the Cartoon Animator pipeline, we are introducing projects that received attention and credit from the community. Let’s now take a look at “Biker” to see how Vivek Rai worked his magic with Reallusion Cartoon Animator (CTA).

About Vivek Rai

I was born and raised in India. Kolkata, the city where I grew up is immensely rich in literature and cultural heritage. This is where I found my passion for pencil sketching and reading comic books. My mind was completely blown away when I first saw my classmate make a flip book. For those who don’t know what a flip book is: it is a series of illustrations of an animated scene that is bound together on several papers in a sequence, to give an illusion of movement by flipping them rapidly; a common example is a bouncing ball or early Disney cartoons. This was when I realized that artwork could also be turned into animation.

The next 25 years were challenging because we moved to different places in India due to my father changing jobs—new school, new friends, and the increasing weight of academics. The academic struggle continued till I came to the USA to pursue my master’s in electrical engineering in 2008. It was only in 2011 when I earned my first paycheck and I felt that I can now ease off and revisit my old passion for art.

The memories of the awesome flip book animation from childhood were still fresh in my mind, so I bought myself an iPad and downloaded an app that allowed me to create keyframe animation. And just like that…I got into animation. Or so I thought. Because I soon realized that creating a quality keyframe animation of even one second would take a significant amount of work hours, like my first animated video on YouTube contained over 1,500 frames and close to 200 work hours as a beginner (In 2017, I started my own youtube channel by the name Saffire Animation where I would turn sequential comic book art into animation).

Although my first video on YouTube was well received by the viewers, as an animator I soon realized that keyframe animation comes with some limitations, and my job as the sole animator would be a lot easier if I could overcome these limitations. For example, if I can just rig my character for basic motions like walk/run cycle, jump, and talk, then superimpose the same rig on different characters then it will save my time in redoing the same motions repeatedly. Apart from that, I also wanted to spend less effort on creating in-betweens. My google search soon landed me on some name brands in the market but they had a monthly subscription fee and were too complicated with a huge learning curve. Reallusion’s Cartoon Animator had all the features which I was looking for and so I started off with a 30-day trial version and then soon purchased it for good. I soon created a video that had an overwhelming response of 96k views on my channel in just a few weeks. Things were all set and good to go, but just one challenge remained: time management.

Now, with a full-time IT job that requires my attention from 9 am to 6 pm every day as well as being a father of a seven-year-old, comes with its own challenges. So, after dinner, cleaning up, and putting my little one to sleep I don the cape of an animator when everyone in my house is asleep. I had turned a closet in my house into my personal studio which also has a little recording space. I animate three to four hours during the night and at least two more hours in the early morning. This way, I can spend approximately five hours on my hobby. I am happy that in a world where many people complain about things not being under their control, I am able to make time for what I enjoy when and wherever I can.

Why I made “Biker”



I used to own a Ducati Monster during my early years, so the subject I chose for the 2022 Animation at Work contest is about a biker and his love for his vehicle. Keeping the video simple, I wanted to tell a short story about a biker’s passion, drive, and initiative. To keep the opening dramatic, I used a soothing track and ensured that each successive shot ups the excitement to build up anticipation for the next scene.

Usually, motorcyclists are rebellious and stand for freedom, so I added a bald eagle to the video to show its rebellious side and its high-flying attitude as a symbol of freedom that would compete with the biker. I created multiple drawings of the animal and biker that would keep the entire video dramatic. CTA has an amazing real-time synching technique with some photo editing software. I used Adobe Photoshop as the PSD editor and Procreate as the drawing app for hand-drawn scenes.

Why I chose Cartoon Animator



Cartoon Animator is an easy-to-learn software because it is designed to provide a very clear workflow and does not contain a lot of extraneous features to distract you. It’s clean, simple, and easy for beginners to use this software where no prior 2D animation experience is required. One can also use CTA to make the process of animation intuitive and non-technical. For those who are new to Reallusion’s CTA software, Reallusion holds live webinar sessions where animators can get answers to their questions.

Even though CTA is not known for creating artwork, it can work in tandem with either Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, which is the second big factor for me. One can build a character with its individual parts as separate objects in Illustrator, or on separate layers in Photoshop, and then use Character Animator to rig those pieces together into an animatable puppet. CTA has a very underestimated feature of supporting frame-by-frame animation; I learned about this feature accidentally when I prepared a sequential animation in photoshop, and I imported the frames in PSD format.

The third and most prominent factor for using CTA is the Live Performance Capture Animation tool. Here, one can use their webcam and microphone to generate live performances for their animated characters and deliver them to the audience or record the performance on the project timeline and refine it further by hand.

How I did it with CTA

Step 1: Script and Storyboard



I kept the video short around one minute with only background, SFX, and music (no dialogue). I chose background music from a general license website. Then I looked up various YouTube videos on bike drifting and created a rough layout of every scene on my timeline. Once I finalized the layout of the rough sketch, I started drawing and adding colors to my scene. Below is an image of a series of snapshots from several videos, which I laid over the music as a reference.

Step 2: Character Creation & Sketching



While going through various YouTube videos, I picked up some basic 3D biker accessories like a helmet and boots, as well as a drift animation. With some drawing skills, I laid out a character in his early 20s, wearing a helmet and riding a Ducati Monster (my first bike) using paper and pencil. Once I was confident with the results, I scanned the drawing and digitally imported it into my drawing tablet.

Before creating the animation, I like to show the drawing to my seven-year-old for a second opinion. His wanting to see more of it gives me confidence that I’m on the right track. The following are some of the rough sketches during the development stage.

Step 3: Characters & Sprite Animation



Every shot had its own set of requirements. For the shot where the lead character leaps into the air with his bike, I used different sprites of the character to create a keyframe animation in CTA. Some shots like the lead approaching his bike and the bird flapping its wings required slow motion that needed to be smooth sans the choppiness that often accompanies keyframe animation; for this reason, I used the bone-rigging feature shown below.

Step 4: Scenes Creation, Composition & Camera Setting



I used camera movements to produce dramatic tension by using the Live Camera feature in CTA. With Camera Operation set to Mouse Select mode, I used the Alt key to accelerate the switching of the cameras: Alt+LMB to pan, Alt+LMB+RMB to zoom, and Shift+MW to zoom in. I played with these controls to give some depth to my still shots, especially where the biker lands on the ground after performing a somersault. To achieve this effect, I first downloaded a clip with no camera movement and another clip with camera movement.

To convey depth to the background, I placed the props in a way that would give a parallax effect. I combined both shots in the video editing software and kept the biker in the center of the frame using the “rule of thirds”. The shaky camera effect is a technique that I also commonly use when the biker is zooming past the screen. This took me barely five minutes to produce and it delivered exactly what I wanted out of that shot.

Step 5: Sound FX



I believe that music plays the most important part to produce a dramatic effect on the scenes. So, I like to use copyright-free music from a website like EpidemicSound.com where one can download music of various moods and tones. Apart from that, I looked up some SFX (like bike roaring, brake screeching, etc.) that would give my video a professional quality.

Conclusion



Cartoon Animator can help me to generate satisfying results without complicating workflow. Reallusion also offers FREE online tutorials for users to access at their online portal, making self-learning possible for users like me that have to switch between day-job and nighttime hobbies. I hope with my story and demonstration of the entry workflow, more users will get inspired and start creating more 2D animations!

Follow Vivek Rai

Youtube | https://www.youtube.com/c/saffireanimation

Instagram | https://www.instagram.com/saffire_animation/

Learn from Winners : Create K-Pop Avatar with Game Modeler in Seoul

Hello everyone! My name is Yunji Jung (Little Gold), I live in Seoul, Korea.

I’m a 3D artist ready to jump into what I love. Sometimes I participate in game environment design, but mostly I do character modeling. Currently, I’m working as a character modeler in the game industry which I’ve always dreamed of becoming since I was a kid.

Having worked in the game industry for several years, I realized that 3D technology was evolving daily and that easy-to-use tools are rapidly entering the market.

Fortunately, I am a person who likes to explore new things. I often just scratch the surface of various tools featured on YouTube in my free time. Among them, I found Character Creator (CC) lets me work intuitively and efficiently without complicated tutorials, so I often use the tool for my work.

Part I. Winner Entry Workflow

Step 1. Finding Reference

It takes a lot of time to find references for me. It’s a very important process to gather references before starting work. Before I start working, I specifically design who my character will look like and which celebrity my character’s outfit should be inspired by.

For heads, look for references where you can find features such as front, side, 45 degrees, top, and bottom, if necessary. Next, we will decide on the material and overall feeling given by the costume. In this case, K-pop idols gave me a lot of inspiration. And Like many workers, I mainly use the PureRef program.

Step 2. Editing Face and Body

Basically, I used the body provided by CC3 as the base.

Let’s start with the head. CC3 is very convenient because you can intuitively modify the shape of the face. In particular, it is possible to manually control the deformation as you like while connecting to ZBrush with GoZ. In my case, I purchased an additional Headshot plug-in and used it, which enables more sophisticated control of the head.

Step 3. Head Corrections, Adding Hair & Dress

Modify the head more precisely. Then, before making a character pose, apply CC3’s stock hair and dress to get a feel of the character.

Step 4. Making a Character Pose

I made a character pose after putting on my hair and dress. The reason is that the body may look different when the character wears a costume and when it doesn’t, so it is to make additional modifications to the body to the look that you want when they’re dressed.

Step 5. Cloth Modeling

Now let’s make a costume. After positioning the character in CC, import the edited body into Marvelous Designer. The overall silhouette and wrinkle directions are determined in Marvelous Designer (MD).

Step 6. Adding Details in ZBrush

Add a bit more deformations, textures, and stitching in Zbrush. Use the large silhouette exactly as it was taken from the MD, but fully express the details in ZBrush that MD can’t. I added the hemlines, fine wrinkles, stitches, and fabric textures.

Step 7. Render To Texture (RTT) and Texturing

It’s not for in-game at this time, so I didn’t put a lot of effort into the topology. Also, I finished a certain amount of low poly and UV mapping for texture work. The next step is to texture the costume using Substance 3D Painter.

Step 8. Facial Expressions & Makeup

Lastly, add an expression and edit the makeup to look like a K-pop idol with Photoshop.

Step 9. Final Polish

After the competition ended, I made additional improvements to the quality of the parts that seemed to be lacking. I edited the makeup and a little bit of the head as well as added hair and accessories to improve the overall quality.

Thank you so much!

Part II. Feature story

Q : Hi Yunji, many thanks for sharing your workflow with us. Your entry ‘A Lovely Girl’ has a very stunning character and costume design. Whether this girl is tying her bow or eating an apple, you’re good at catching delicate moments to show the character’s aesthetics.

Could you share more of your artistic thoughts behind this project? How do you decide the best angles to demonstrate a character’s unique personality?

I’ve been eager to make a pretty girl character all the time. While participating in this “A Lovely Girl” project, I realized that making a beautiful character is not as easy as I thought. However, making a pretty character is a common request in my industry, so I will continue to work on it. It was my test of whether I could complete a character of desirable qualities in two months’ time from concept to modeling and rendering.

Planning of the beauty shot and overall feel of the piece is about eighty percent complete at the beginning stages. The variety of clothing materials, hairstyles, poses, and facial expressions begin with a dummy. I find a lot of references and keep trying out dummies until the look I like comes out. CC provides a function that makes it easy to change character poses and facial expressions; it is beneficial in reducing working time.

Q : You’ve mentioned how you’ve dreamed of working in the game industry since childhood; what was the trigger for such ambition?

I have liked drawing since elementary school. Of the various fields under consideration, Game Art was a very attractive option. I liked to play games and I thought seeing the game artwork was really cool. 

Because I didn’t recognize the difference between 2D and 3D at the time, I used to save the illustrations I wanted to draw on my hard drive or buy a collection of illustrations and draw along. Naturally, I majored in a related field and 3D from the age of 19. Currently, I am honored to have the opportunity to work with the artists of the illustrations I used to copy.

What are the most rewarding aspects in this line of work? What are the challenges of being a character modeler in the Korean game industry?

Character modeling is too difficult: face, hair, dress, monster, hard surface, nothing is simple. But it is also more rewarding because it is not easy. New concepts always excite me and I’m very happy when I get some satisfactory results. Being a 3D artist is an irreplaceable and attractive role.

The Korean game industry is always mindful of globalization. As a game developer and modeler, the challenge is to think about how to express more realism. For realistic expressions, Korean game companies are willing to invest in increasing their development capabilities by using next-generation engines and 3D scans, etc.

Do you think it’s beneficial to be a trilingual speaker (Korean, English, and Chinese) in the game industry in Seoul? How does this multi-cultural background influence your character creation?

It must be great to be able to speak three languages. However, most of my colleagues are Korean, so there are few opportunities to use various languages in person. Nevertheless, the ability to understand without subtitles seems not very useless because most of the tutorials in the new tools are in English, and if there is a problem, it is also convenient to be able to contact by email directly without using an interpreter.

In addition, most artists on YouTube use English. Because they are like my teacher, sometimes I feel strange and happy to understand their language. Furthermore, I can expect more opportunities in the future in this global world. 😀

Q : Sometimes you also need to participate in environment design for the game. We all know working in the game industry demands huge amounts of time and effort to deliver high-quality pieces.

How do you learn new techniques apart from your busy day job?

Before I start my day, I research and purchase sample files or pin new inspirational works and articles in the morning. I use the data that I’ve piled up when I need to. This routine is actually very helpful when working.

I look for technical deficiencies whenever necessary. Usually, I ask my colleagues or look for overseas articles and YouTube for things I don’t know. There are many ways to work inefficiently in the sea of information, but you should be able to see and choose carefully. Otherwise, I look through the thumbnails of YouTubers artists and click on the videos I am interested in.

Q : How did you know about Character Creator? In your experience, what are the merits and shortcomings of using CC to design characters?

At first, I think I saw an advertisement on the ArtStation. I was wondering if I could fix the shape of the head intuitively like it was advertised, so I downloaded it and used the trial version. The tool was simpler and easier to learn than I thought, especially in that I could use the GoZ function to replace the base I wanted for the basic model itself, and I used the function effectively in the project: “A Lovely Girl”.

Q : “Indian Girl In Saree” looks very photorealistic while “A Lovely Girl” has some CG stylization. How did you achieve different results by using Character Creator, Marmoset Toolbag, ZBrush and 3ds Max?

As mentioned earlier, I aim to make a pretty woman; and both works have this same purpose. The photo-like look as a “due diligence” is fun to make personally, but it is also a model that would not be received well in the game market. Perhaps my goal is to mix the two.

If you look at K-pop idols these days, there are artists who look as unreal as game characters. I want to make a character that expresses details realistically but gives a cool and pretty feel. To do so, I have to look at a lot of material and study it all⁠—I will continue to learn and study what I lack.

Q : Could you share three things that inspire you the most when you start a new project?

What inspires me the most are the K-pop idols these days. Sometimes I am ecstatic when I see artists who are prettier than 3D characters. Or I try to see a lot of well-taken pictures and well-drawn pictures. Because I think it is important to keep my eyes open to new material. In the same vein, I consciously watch sci-fi dramas on Netflix in my free time.

Learn more :

• Yunji Jung (Little Gold) on ArtStation https://www.artstation.com/summerjung

• Yunji Jung (Little Gold) on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/littlegold_jung/

• Character Creator https://www.reallusion.com/character-creator/download.html

• Reallusion https://www.reallusion.com/

Modeling an Outfit for One Piece Jinbe with Blender and Character Creator

Fast Way to Update Cloth Design with Free Blender Plugin

Greetings, this is Peter Alexander and the purpose of this article is to demonstrate the Replace Mesh feature in Character Creator and the workflow with Blender. You can watch the timelapse of the robe creation in the following videos and the process for making a fully functional, properly weight-mapped robe will be detailed in a future video as it is a more complicated effort.

To start off this tutorial, you’ll need to download and install the “CC4 Blender Pipeline Tool  Plugin” for Character Creator 4. >> Download here.

Then you’ll need to download and install the “ CC/iC Blender Tools” plugin for Blender. >> Download here.

Character Setup and Export

First, I start with a mostly bare character, except for his sandals and hair. I export this character using the Posed option in the CC4 Blender Tool Plugin; I’m doing this so that when I import the clothes I’ll be creating, they’ll fit the pose as a starting point.

Blocking Out Clothing with CC/iC Blender Tools

In Blender, I import the character with the Import Character function in CC/iC Blender Tools. Now I start to create the robe by adding a simple cube, then blocking out the shape of the robe. I then add more details with the use of edge loops and subdivisions. Unless you are sculpting on the base mesh or adding fine details to your item or character, you generally want to start modeling with broad shapes and add more resolution and detail as needed.

Creating UVs

After blocking out the shape and adding resolution, I create some seams to generate the necessary UVs, which are essential for most 3D models, especially their utility for this pipeline. Although I’m using a paid addon for some of the UV operations, you won’t need to do this: besides the “Quadrify UV Island” tool, everything else I use is native to Blender.

Using Proportional Editing

Here I break symmetry to close the robe. Closing the robe can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re not used to Blender. I use Proportional Editing with Connected Only turned on to restrict the effect to the mesh and the radius of your selection rather than the entire mesh. Turning up the radius will impact more of the mesh.

Completing Wardrobe

Once the robe is complete, I create a simple belt and cloak. The knot on the belt is the only thing to demonstrate from these items. Instead of tying the belt mesh into a knot, I use three subdivided cubes and polygon strips for the tied portion of the belt. I can sculpt them at a higher resolution and bake out normal maps to make them more authentic in appearance.

Exporting and Importing Accessories in Character Creator 4

This setup is mostly complete, so I export each item as an accessory. Likewise, in Character Creator, I’ll import each item as an accessory.

Transferring Skin Weights

Then I use the Transfer Skin Weights function to convert them into clothing. I usually use the “Dress” preset for items past the knees.

Posing and Second Export with CC4 Blender Pipeline Tool

The clothing is now weight mapped and conforms to poses, but it’s very rough and needs to be manually adjusted. I export this character with a pose using the CC4 Blender Pipeline Tool  plugin, which will also export all the clothing items. Then in Blender, I start a new scene and import the character.

Adjusting Items in Blender

Now, I adjust all the items to prepare them for the Replace Mesh function in Character Creator. I’m only adjusting these for a static scene, still, this process can be used to adjust items for other purposes. It’s possible to make a piece of clothing snuggly fit a highly exaggerated character and it is also possible to swap out the UVs of an item. The only limitation here is the inability to alter the mesh vertex count and vertex order. For example, I must subdivide this cape because the resolution is too low. Once I do this, it will be incompatible with the process and must be imported as a new accessory.

However, if one happens to have access to Marvelous Designer, then the draped version of the existing article of clothing can be imported, even though Marvelous Designer exports triangulated meshes. The vertex count remains the same, so the process is error-free.

Using Multiresolution Modifier to Sculpt

If you plan to sculpt with the Multiresolution modifier then remember to use the Apply Base function in the modifier which will adjust the shape according to the highest resolution. If you are adept at baking texture maps in Blender, you can create a Normal map for the additional sculpted details and import it into Character Creator.

Creating a Brush Texture

Here, I use Affinity Photo, a Photoshop alternative, to create a texture map for my Blender brush. It’s a very basic diamond design, which I will export as a transparent PNG file and use for painting onto the robe mesh.

Once this texturing is done, I save the robe texture as an image for use in Character Creator.

Baking Normal Maps

Now, I switch the render engine to Cycles, as Eevee does not support texture baking. In my opinion, the process of baking maps in Blender is a little confusing and convoluted, but not difficult once you understand it.

The main thing I must do is make sure I’m in Cycles, select my mesh item, go into the assigned shader of that item, and create a new texture map. The texture baking will take place in this image. For normal maps, I go to the multiresolution modifier and make sure the sculpting level is zero, and the render level is on a higher level, such as “3”. Then, I click Bake with Normals and wait for my maps to generate.

Normal maps can be edited like any other image, but with certain rules regarding how the maps work. If you want to remove detail from a normal map, sample the neutral blue in the image and paint over any unwanted distortions.

Exporting Back to Character Creator with CC/iC Blender Tools

With the maps saved and with the sculpting details applied to the base resolution, I export all of these items with the multiresolution modifier disabled. I use the Export for Replace Mesh option in the  CC/iC Blender Tools plugin.

Using Replace Mesh to Transfer Vertex Positions

In Character Creator, I apply the changes by selecting the mesh and using the Replace Mesh function, and choosing the exported version of the mesh from Blender. I did some minor work on this character after recording the video, which you can see in the final render. 

Conclusion

The Replace Mesh function is a simple, powerful tool, and saves a lot of time — especially for content creators. While I did not demo it here, it can also replace the UVs of an item, which previously could only be done by reimporting the item and setting it up from scratch or using the cumbersome 3DXchange process. It’s a very welcome addition to Character Creator 4, which the CC/iC Blender Tools for Blender is designed to accommodate.

Free Download :

CC/iC Blender Tools (addon installed in Blender) https://github.com/soupday/cc_blender_tools 

CC4 Blender Pipeline Tool Plugin (addon installed in Character Creator 4) https://github.com/soupday/CC4-Blender-Tools-Plugin 

Character Creator https://www.reallusion.com/character-creator/download.html 

Learn more :

• Peter Alexander (Mythcons) https://www.artstation.com/mythcons 

• Blender-Character Animation Pipeline https://www.reallusion.com/character-creator/blender.html

• Reallusion https://www.reallusion.com/

Winner Tips & Tricks Interview: The Making of Jop Gover’s “Far From Home”

The “Winner Tips & Tricks ” series covers practical workflows and techniques shared by winners of the “2022 Animation At Work Contest”. To let users see the full spectrum of the Cartoon Animator pipeline, we are introducing projects that received attention and credit from the community. Let’s now take a look at “Far From Home” to see how Jop Govers worked his magic with Reallusion Cartoon Animator (CTA).

About Jop Govers

Hello, I’m Jop Govers, a seventeen-year-old living in Eindhoven, Netherlands. I was always curious about the world around me and interested in learning new things. I was either asking questions or creating things from my imagination. Around age eleven, I discovered that producing music was something I could do myself. I watched videos on YouTube and found an online program (FL Studio) and just started to produce and compose my own music. Gradually, I refined my craft and even managed to get my first single record label deal at fourteen. I then taught myself to play the piano by watching YouTube videos and eventually with the help of a teacher who helped me further develop my piano skills.

Once something grabs my attention, as music did, I become really committed to pushing myself to learn as much as I can about it. I don’t overthink it, rather, I love the learning process; and the same has happened with animation. As a young kid, I used to watch a lot of cartoons ⁠— who doesn’t? ⁠— and I remember always wanting to understand how they did it and even trying to make the drawings myself. Having grown a bit older, I sort of forgot about making my own animations and just enjoyed watching them. This all changed when my nephew introduced me to Rick and Morty. Wow, was I hooked? Then on, I started watching all kinds of animated shows beyond the traditional children’s cartoons.

I figured if I could learn to produce and compose my own music, I can also learn to create my own characters and animate them. I researched in my free time on the internet, watched YouTube videos, and tried all kinds of different software and tools to make computer drawings and animations. One of my teachers knew I was diving into this topic and he showed me how he used Adobe After Effects and Photoshop for his graduation project, then I decided to give it a go.

The quantum leap forward occurred a few months later when I found Reallusion Cartoon Animator. I was amazed at how intuitive it was to learn and how fast you could create professional-looking animations. My childhood dream of making my own animations was finally within reach with the help of the Cartoon Animator.

Why I made “Far From Home”

I am a huge fan of Rick and Morty and actually everything on Adult Swim. Since my animation ambitions started with Rick and Morty, I wanted to create something that had the same look and feel, yet, I could still call mine.

Why I chose Cartoon Animator

Cartoon Animator allows me to create professional-quality animations faster than any other software I’ve used. Its easy-to-use interface allows me to tap into my creativity and “just do it”. I can create 360 heads in minutes instead of hours and characters run in seconds with premade motion files while rigging is a breeze with Reallusion templates. Therefore, I highly recommend Cartoon Animator regardless of your proficiency as an animator: from “new kids on the block” to those who’ve already experienced the magic of creating animations. Without a doubt, CTA will help you improve your skills and deliver your own magic.

How I did it with CTA

Step 1: Script and voice acting

I write all my scripts in Google Docs and I look for inspiration by watching and analyzing other shows and cartoons. For my voice acting, I use an amazing tool called Replica Studios which generates some of the best AI voice actings I’ve ever heard.

Step 2: Character Creation & Rigging

I draw all my characters in Photoshop using the default brush. In Photoshop, my characters are created in an 8K document to easily upscale if I wanted to. I rig my characters using a variety of templates which are, by default, available in Cartoon Animator.

If you find it difficult to come up with your own characters, just explore and study cartoon characters you love and list why they appeal to you. Search the internet for interesting shapes, funny, beautiful, or even ugly features. Mix and match all these ingredients ⁠— anything goes as long as it makes you smile. You can even do this on paper if you want. Try as many sketches as you need and don’t overthink it, let your creativity out and go with the flow. Once happy with your paper sketch, try to draw it on your computer.

Step 3: Character Customization & Animation

The one thing that no other animation software does like Cartoon Animator is Motion Clips. The results are mind-blowing and yet it is super easy to make your characters walk when rigged properly for lip sync. I just listen to the audio and apply the appropriate mouth sprites at the right time.
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Step 4: Scenes creation & composition & Camera setting

I drew all my backgrounds in Photoshop with stock brushes — nothing too special. Textured brushes were sometimes used in Rick and Morty to add details, so I decided to do the same as it adds so much more depth to the scenes, in my opinion.

Step 5: Composition in After Effects

I used a blur that was set to a lesser opacity with overlay as the blend mode. I also added some color correction using adjustment layers. This was applied to all the scenes and then everything was put together.

Conclusion

Easy to learn and intuitive to use with results that impress: that is the essence of why I love CTA, and why I recommend it to anyone who wants to experience the magic of creating your own animations. You don’t need to be a seasoned professional with years of experience. You also don’t need to be a computer whizz or have a professional animation studio, you only need the will to give it your best!

Follow Jop Govers

Instagram | https://www.instagram.com/creativejopstudios/

Subscribe Jop’s Youtube | https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnLxZn8tb7aXad3uLOu6jqA

Cutting-edge Auto-Rigging with AccuRIG

AccuRIG 1.1 updates with user-friendly features for free download

AccuRIG is the revolutionary auto-rigging technology recently released by Reallusion to the great fanfare within the 3D animation industry. In an effort to reduce production labor for 3D artists and modelers, AccuRIG is designed with fast and accurate character rigging in mind. AccuRIG makes it easy to turn static models into 3D animatable characters by following a few simple steps and have them ready for export to industry-leading platforms; from game engines like Unreal Engine and Unity to third-party 3D software like Blender, iClone, Omniverse, Maya, 3ds max, MotionBuilder, and Cinema 4D; it’s a solution for everyone.

What’s New with ActorCore AccuRIG 1.1 Update

Adopted by over 100,000 users, ActorCore’s free AccuRIG application has proven to be simple, yet powerful, for creating exceptional rigs. The v1.1 upgrade brings several user-friendly improvements as per the requests of professional modelers.

  • Force Symmetry: users can save time by having edits reflected on both sides of a perfectly symmetrical model.
  • Snap to Center Plane: precisely position the selected joints on the center plane.
  • 6 Camera Angles with hotkeys to facilitate the joint placement process.
  • 3 different Shading Options help users visualize the model and make it easy to place joints.
  • Wireframe views of 6 different colors.
  • Show Bones: bones are visible after a character is rigged.
  • Hierarchical Transformation: child joints can be moved in tandem with the selected finger joint.
  • Finger Count can be designated prior to the rigging process.

Auto-Rigging Technology Benefits All Users

Engineered to rig 3D characters with unparalleled competence, Character Creator (CC) AccuRIG comes with built-in critical functions that process multi-meshes, refine skin weights, and traverse levels of complexity with ease. On top of all that, AccuRIG is completely free of charge for ActorCore. Users can download the free program and visit Reallusion AccuRIG Technology to know how auto-rigging is designed.

Designed for Scan and Sculpt Poses; AccuRIG is made to handle both scanned and sculpted poses for any standard, size, style, and posture.

Accommodate pose variations with automatic axis correction and twist bone allocation.

Accurate bone placement for models with oversized heads, obscured shoulders, beast legs, and hand-held props.

Mimic professional riggers’ weight paint for the natural articulation of body joints for the head, shoulders, knees, elbows, and hands.

Segregates skin weights for rigid accessories by detecting individual surfaces and tracing back to their valid parent bones, instead of having weights indiscriminately permeate surrounding areas onto nearby meshes.

Correct finger rigging even when fingers lie close to one another or for creatures with less than five fingers.

Mask away unwanted joints for partial rigs on models with incomplete limbs and non-standard poses.

Users can download AccuRIG as a free tool from ActorCore, or access the advanced AccuRIG functions in Character Creator. For more information about AccuRIG technology and a detailed comparison between CC AccuRIG and ActorCore AccuRIG, visit Reallusion.