fa­cial an­i­ma­tion in iclone

Mike Sher­wood de­scribes how to get the best out of iclone’s pow­er­ful new fa­cial an­i­ma­tion tools

3D World - - CONTENTS - Mike Sher­wood Mike Sher­wood (aka 3Dtest) has worked in CGI for over 20 years, with clients in­clud­ing broad­cast, games and soft­ware com­pa­nies. Spe­cial­is­ing in char­ac­ter mod­el­ling and an­i­ma­tion, he is cur­rently as­sist­ing Real­lu­sion with iclone de­vel­op­ment.

Im­prove your work with iclone 7’s new fa­cial an­i­ma­tion tools

this tu­to­rial will take you through the many tools and tech­niques avail­able for fa­cial an­i­ma­tion in iclone 7 – in­clud­ing lip­sync, keyfram­ing, pup­petry and mo­cap – as well as time­line edit­ing. I'll also de­scribe ways to mix the dif­fer­ent tech­niques in or­der to im­prove work­flow, as well as how to fix and re­fine an­i­ma­tion at any point in the time­line.

Work­ing purely in iclone 7 with a pre-built char­ac­ter cre­ator model that has been ad­di­tion­ally polished in Pho­to­shop and Sculp­tris, the tu­to­rial will ap­ply to any iclone/cc char­ac­ters, or any non-stan­dard hu­man char­ac­ters that have been brought into iclone and cor­rectly set up for fa­cial ex­pres­sions via 3Dx­change.

When used right out of the box, iclone 7 pro­vides users with a uniquely com­pre­hen­sive toolset for fa­cial an­i­ma­tion that can be used on many lev­els – from the rapid 'block­ing in' of ex­pres­sion keyframes, through to sub­tle face pup­petry and mo­tion cap­ture.

Prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant thing to un­der­stand is that these tech­niques can be used sep­a­rately or to­gether, depend­ing on the re­sults you're aim­ing for. You can pro­duce de­cent an­i­ma­tion ex­tremely quickly just by us­ing one of the tools, or you can spend time com­bin­ing dif­fer­ent tools and re­fin­ing the an­i­ma­tion, right down to the ner­vous twitch of a char­ac­ter's lip or eye­lid.

For more in­for­ma­tion about iclone and other Real­lu­sion prod­ucts, pay a visit to www. real­lu­sion.com.

01 un­der­stand the time­line

All fa­cial ex­pres­sion an­i­ma­tion is han­dled on the char­ac­ter's ex­pres­sion time­line. This has four tracks – a clip track at the top, then mus­cle, eye and head key frame tracks re­spec­tively. Se­lect and drag clips or keys to move them, or se­lect and right-click to edit. Check Loop or Speed on the time­line tool­bar to loop, speed up or slow down a clip by drag­ging its right hand bound­ary.

02 edit ex­pres­sion clips

Adding keys or record­ing an­i­ma­tion to an empty time­line cre­ates a new ex­pres­sion clip. If you right-click on the clip you will have ac­cess to all of the usual edit func­tions, in­clud­ing Break, along with Flat­ten and Sam­ple clip com­mands. Flat­ten em­beds all vis­i­ble keys into the cur­rent clip, so you can add more keys cleanly, while Sam­ple gen­er­ates keys on every frame. Break auto-sam­ples, so for clar­ity I would rec­om­mend flat­ten­ing im­me­di­ately before or after break­ing.

03 per­fect Auto lip­sync

Use Cre­ate Script on the Mod­ify> an­i­ma­tion Panel for auto lip­sync meth­ods, which load au­dio and viseme keys into the viseme track. Keys can be moved, also edited via the right-click menu. Left-click on a key or a track to open the Lips Edi­tor to re­place or cre­ate a key, and to ad­just strength. Se­lect a range on the Lip Op­tions track and right-click for global ad­just­ments.

04 FAST Face key ex­pres­sions

The Face Key Ex­pres­sion Panel is a li­brary of ex­pres­sions. Use the top-right drop-down list for dif­fer­ent sec­tions. Build fa­cial an­i­ma­tions by scrub­bing along the time­line and set­ting keys by dou­ble-click­ing the de­sired ex­pres­sion. To es­tab­lish ex­pres­sions for nat­u­ral­is­tic an­i­ma­tion, set an ex­pres­sion key, set again fur­ther along the time­line before the next ex­pres­sion.

05 the ex­pres­sive­ness Slider

Use this slider to make ex­pres­sions more sub­tle. You can also set ex­pres­sive­ness keys by ad­just­ing the slider be­tween ex­ist­ing keys. This con­trol is on all Face Key Pan­els and has a global ef­fect, so if you've used ex­pres­sive­ness and want to set keys in the same time­line area with­out the cur­rent value af­fect­ing the new keys, flat­ten the ex­pres­sion clip before adding new keys.

06 re­fine with Mus­cle key

It is pos­si­ble to build up com­plete fa­cial ex­pres­sions and an­i­ma­tions us­ing the Mus­cle Panel alone, but it's es­pe­cially pow­er­ful when it comes to ad­just­ing and re­fin­ing ex­ist­ing ex­pres­sions, as well as be­tween keys. Sin­gle or mul­ti­ple parts of the face, as well as head, eye and jaw ro­ta­tion, can all be se­lected and ma­nip­u­lated sim­ply by left-click­ing, hold­ing and then drag­ging the mouse in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions from the black back­ground area of the Fea­ture Se­lec­tion Panel.

07 De­fault key AND zero keys

The Mus­cle Panel De­fault Key but­ton sets mus­cle, eye and head keys on the cur­rent frame to the de­fault clip state. This will be neu­tral if the clip has no flat­tened or recorded an­i­ma­tion. You can also set keys in the mus­cle, eye and head tracks sim­ply by dou­ble-click­ing in empty frames – use these to es­tab­lish the cur­rent time­line state, eg before/after ap­ply­ing ex­pres­sion or ro­ta­tion keys.

08 Ac­cess All AR­EAS with Mod­ify

The Mod­ify Panel slid­ers give you ac­cess to all un­der­ly­ing morphs, in ad­di­tion to jaw ro­ta­tions used by the Ex­pres­sion and Mus­cle Pan­els. You can see the slid­ers in op­er­a­tion each time you play or scrub through a time­line with keys in place. Use the slid­ers to achieve pre­ci­sion fine-tun­ing of the ex­ist­ing keys, as well as be­tween keys. This process is ex­tremely use­ful for er­ror cor­rec­tion. Re­mem­ber that the Mod­ify slid­ers also ac­cept neg­a­tive nu­meric val­ues if needed.

09 Face key work­flow

You could build up an an­i­ma­tion solely us­ing Mod­ify slid­ers, but this would take ages! It’s far quicker and eas­ier to start with block­ing in ex­pres­sions, then re­fine us­ing Mus­cle keys and fi­nally Mod­ify slid­ers. If you find that the clip is be­com­ing clut­tered with keys, or ex­pres­sive­ness val­ues are lim­it­ing what you want to do, sim­ply flat­ten the clip and con­tinue adding and edit­ing keys as before.

10 Face pup­pet – Mo­cap your Mouse

Face Pup­pet en­ables you to drive fa­cial an­i­ma­tion us­ing your mouse: its job is to trans­late the mo­tion of the mouse into full or part-face ex­pres­sions, or any com­bi­na­tion of these, depend­ing on what op­tions you have se­lected. It’s ex­tremely im­por­tant to re­mem­ber to pre­view before record­ing, so that you get a feel not only of how far you need to go, but also in which di­rec­tion, so you can en­sure you get the an­i­ma­tion you want. Use the Strength slider to in­crease or de­crease the ef­fect.

11 Face pup­pet record­ing

Press en­ter to record at half speed, but com­bine this with By Frame (click the Realtime but­ton to tog­gle) on the play bar to go slower still for even more con­trol. You can blend an­i­ma­tion by record­ing over an ex­ist­ing clip with ‘Blend data on next record­ing’ checked – with this unchecked, it will over­write the pre­vi­ous clip. You can blend or over­write full or part face ex­pres­sion record­ings.

12 FAST Full Face pro­files

You can think of Full Face Pro­files as the Face Pup­pet equiv­a­lent of Ex­pres­sion Keys, only dy­namic. These pro­files make it pos­si­ble for you to cre­ate an­i­ma­tions very quickly by sim­ply mov­ing the face into and out of the ex­pres­sions you want at ap­pro­pri­ate points on the time­line. There are many op­tions avail­able to you, from char­ac­ter-spe­cific pro­files to generic, uni­ver­sal pro­files for emo­tions, with both lips closed (ideal for use dur­ing lip­sync) and lips open op­tions.

13 head Mo­tion pup­petry

Char­ac­ter pro­files have head mo­tion ac­tive by de­fault – tog­gle head turns and tilts on and off us­ing the but­tons in the top left of the Solo Fea­ture Se­lec­tion win­dow. Use as­so­ci­ated head mo­tion for quick an­i­ma­tion, eg pre­viz, but keep it off for pre­cise face pup­petry and add head mo­tion in a sep­a­rate pass ei­ther via Face Pup­pet, Face Key and/or us­ing Edit Mo­tion Layer.

14 the eye have it

iclone’s auto-blink func­tion is ideal for pre­viz but for con­trol, turn this off on the char­ac­ter’s main Mod­ify Panel and cre­ate blinks your­self. Sub­tle tweaks of the eye­lids, when as­so­ci­ated with fo­cused eye mo­tion, can have dra­matic ef­fects even with­out us­ing ad­di­tional parts of the face. For eye mo­tion with­out mo­cap, use Face Pup­pet or set a key to in­di­cate a par­tic­u­lar fo­cal point, then set this again a lit­tle fur­ther along the time­line for es­tab­lish­ment before chang­ing eye ro­ta­tion.

15 re­fine with Solo Fea­ture

Use the Eraser to de­s­e­lect the cur­rent pro­file, se­lect a Solo Fea­ture and you’ll see thumb­nail op­tions be­low the se­lec­tion head. These are pro­files for dif­fer­ent ex­pres­sion vari­a­tions for the se­lected part. Use sep­a­rately to drive an in­di­vid­ual fea­ture to re­fine an an­i­ma­tion, or com­bine by se­lect­ing mul­ti­ple fea­tures and pro­files. Mix them with Full Face Pro­files if you wish.

16 Face pup­pet work­flow

I gen­er­ally think of Full Face Pro­files as a broad brush, while Solo Fea­tures are for more del­i­cate work, but there are no hard and fast rules. While you can block in whole sec­tions of Full Face Pro­files before re­fin­ing with Solo Fea­tures, you can also work much more sub­tly from the start, for ex­am­ple, by do­ing a pass of eye­brow mo­tion, then mouth, then eyes, etc.

17 work with pup­pet clips

Record­ing a pass of Face Pup­pet gen­er­ates a clip on the ex­pres­sion track in the same way ex­pres­sion keys cre­ate a clip. All clips can be moved, edited, looped or sped up/slowed down. When blend­ing (Blend check­box se­lected) Face Pup­pet passes, start at any point, and the new clip which is cre­ated will mix seam­lessly with any ex­ist­ing clip al­ready present in the same time­line area.

18 Fa­cial Mo­tion cap­ture

The new iclone 7 Fa­cial Mo­cap plug-in opens the door to true fa­cial mo­tion cap­ture from es­tab­lished third-party de­vel­op­ers. Start­ing with Face­ware cam­era-based tech­nol­ogy, fa­cial mo­cap gives in­stant re­sults based on track­ing the user’s own fa­cial ex­pres­sions, mak­ing fa­cial an­i­ma­tion eas­ier and more straight­for­ward than ever. Mo­cap record­ing cre­ates a clip on the ex­pres­sion track as usual, and can be blended with ex­ist­ing keys and/or pup­pet clips.

19 Set up AND cal­i­brate

Even light­ing and good cam­era setup are im­por­tant for mo­cap – the user’s head needs to be framed cen­trally and straight on as if tak­ing a pass­port photo. Cal­i­bra­tion matches your neu­tral ex­pres­sion with that of your char­ac­ter. You can use cal­i­bra­tion to tweak an­i­ma­tion re­sults, eg make your eye­brows higher dur­ing cal­i­bra­tion to make low brows char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion more ef­fec­tive, make your mouth smaller to in­crease wide mouth ef­fects, etc.

20 Mask­ing AND Set­tings

You can mask off parts us­ing the Mask Se­lect head for multi-pass an­i­ma­tion: that way you can record just the eyes, mouth or head, or what­ever com­bi­na­tion you like, and use the Record Blend­ing check­box to choose whether to blend or over­write the pre­vi­ous pass. Use Strength slid­ers to ex­ag­ger­ate or re­duce the rel­a­tive de­grees of an­i­ma­tion, as well as Smooth to re­duce noise/jit­ters. For lip­sync, you can record au­dio si­mul­ta­ne­ously by us­ing the Au­dio Record­ing check­box.

21 com­bine the tools

You can mix iclone’s fa­cial an­i­ma­tion ap­proaches in any way, and in any or­der, but it makes sense to con­sider best work­flow, es­pe­cially lip­sync. Adding lip­sync later to an an­i­ma­tion that al­ready in­cludes the lips or jaw open­ing can be tough to re­solve. So if the an­i­ma­tion in­cludes speech, lip­sync first, ei­ther by auto lip­sync or dur­ing mo­cap, before mov­ing on to use other tools.

22 ex­am­ple work­flows

Again, there are no rules, but pos­si­ble work­flows could be: A) Auto lip­sync (in­clud­ing man­ual viseme re­fine­ment) > face key ex­pres­sions and/or face pup­pet full face block­ing > face pup­pet solo fea­ture and/or face key mus­cle/mod­ify re­fine­ment.

B) Fa­cial mo­cap > if needed, blend in lip op­tions fil­tered auto lip­sync to au­dio recorded dur­ing mo­cap (par­tic­u­larly use­ful for adding tongue mo­tion) > face pup­pet solo fea­ture and/or face key mus­cle/mod­ify re­fine­ment.

23 pol­ish AND Fix

Once your an­i­ma­tion is blocked-in, it may be time to stop if it's for pre­viz. But if you're pro­duc­ing an­i­ma­tion for pro­duc­tion, it's time to start pol­ish­ing. This is all about it­er­a­tion – re­peat­edly play­ing and scrub­bing through the time­line to check for ar­eas which need im­prove­ment. Use Face Key Mus­cle and Mod­ify for fine tun­ing, com­bined with time­line edit­ing, for fi­nal an­i­ma­tion fix­ing.

24 clip prob­lem Solv­ing

To re­set/zero an­i­ma­tion for all or part of a clip, use Face Pup­pet with Blend data… unchecked and record with­out mouse move­ment to zero in­di­vid­ual fea­tures, eyes, head or all an­i­ma­tion. Mo­cap with mask­ing/zero strength record­ing and no blend­ing does the same. To clear is­sues with­out re­set, break and delete the prob­lem clip area and ei­ther re­work it, or sim­ply use clip tran­si­tions to blend be­tween the sep­a­rated clips.

25 Model For An­i­ma­tion

A char­ac­ter's face may look great when static, but could ap­pear blocky with ver­tices bunch­ing dur­ing an­i­ma­tion, par­tic­u­larly at the mouth, eye­lids and brows. This is due to mod­el­ling: for best an­i­ma­tion re­sults try to keep the fa­cial mesh bal­anced, main­tain­ing good ver­tex po­si­tions that re­late well to the de­fault mor­ph­ing mesh for an­i­ma­tion.

26 less is More

Fi­nally, with so many tools and pos­si­bil­i­ties avail­able in iclone 7, it's all-too easy to overdo an­i­ma­tion. So al­ways try to keep your fo­cus on what the char­ac­ter is com­mu­ni­cat­ing, and what's needed to clearly get that mes­sage across. Good an­i­ma­tion can speak vol­umes with just a sim­ple rais­ing or low­er­ing of an eye­brow, and over-the-top ex­pres­sions are gen­er­ally re­served for comedy and ex­treme sit­u­a­tions. Please do bear these points in mind when cre­at­ing an­i­ma­tions. •

Au­thor

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