| | PRICE £199.99 / $199 COMPANY Reallusion WEBSITE www.reallusion.com/iclone/
Is iclone still the best app for creating 3D animations?
S ince its earliest versions, iclone has enabled people with little, or even no, experience in 3D computer graphics, to start creating their own animations. Its intuitive and easy to learn interface, combined with its real-time render engine, avoided the need for long training periods and expensive hardware, offering a viable alternative for indie animators and fans of computer graphics.
With every new version, iclone has been adding new features and shortening the gap with professional animation applications. In this way, the recently released iclone 7 stands out, demonstrating a huge improvement in render quality and adding features usually reserved for applications that are much more expensive and difficult to learn.
iclone 7 supports PBR (Physically Based Render) textures. You can combine props and characters shaded with traditional or PBR textures in the same project, and you can also convert the old textures in PBR, as iclone 7 creates the new Metallic and Roughness maps from the original specular maps. You can tweak these maps directly in iclone 7 or use an image editor to get spectacular results.
An improved IBL (Image Based Lighting) enables you to use HDR images to illuminate and provide reflection maps to the scenes. You can bake your own HDR image using a dummy object usually placed in the middle of the scene, and you can also add HDR effects like blooms, tone maps or glares. Also, an improved Ambient Occlusion generator includes more controllers and an AO viewer that gives you absolute control of the AO shadows.
However, we think the best iclone 7 visual improvement is the use of GI (Global Illumination). When activated, iclone 7 considers not only the light emitted by the light sources, but the light reflected on the objects in the scene. The calculations, based in voxels, are performed extremely fast and provide rendering times of less than one second per frame, even rendering complex scenes at 4K resolution.
You can edit several GI parameters like the voxel’s size, the light bounce strength, and the GI area of influence, in order to optimise the performance of your system.
iclone 7 has included even more visual improvements, like the light emissive materials that can illuminate the scene, using props or billboards texturised with images or videos that actually emit light. In this way, you can simulate the green sifted light that enters through a window facing a forest, just by placing a billboard with the forest image as texture in front
“iclone 7 Comes with Several predefined lut (look up table) filters, used to give A Cinematic Aspect to the Scenes”
of the 3D room model, and activating the emissive feature for that billboard. In the same way, you can simulate a TV light flickering effect, just by applying a video of the TV show as texture to the screen of the 3D TV model.
The emissive light feature can be applied to the particles generated by iclone 7 as well, so explosions or sparks actually become light emitters. You can control the intensity of the illumination, but you have to keep in mind that these emissive lights cannot handle shadows, so you should use them in combination with traditional light sources to get a completely convincing effect.
iclone 7 comes with several predefined LUT (Look Up Table) filters, used to give a cinematic aspect to the scenes. You can create and add new LUT effects from the neutral template provided. The process is amazingly simple, but it involves external image editors like Photoshop. You can mix several LUT effects on the scene, setting the contribution of each one to the global aspect.
Besides the visual improvements, iclone 7 has included features like the morph editor, which enables you to include shape deformation keys in the timeline of any element of a project. The modified shapes have to be previously created using an external modelling tool like 3ds Max, but then, you can collect the modified shapes in the morph editor and apply them to the object at any moment of the project.
Also, the facial editing tools have been dramatically improved. Before, if you weren’t able to get some facial expressions on the iclone characters, now, with the new Expressions tool and facial morphs, you can achieve any character’s face in the easy and intuitive way of iclone.
Finally, it is now possible to import camera movements and settings from other applications like Maya. The new camera editor also includes camera settings from pro cameras like Arri-alexa or Red, facilitating the integration of the rendered sequences with real footage recorded with those cameras.
Considering all you get for its price, iclone 7 has no rival. It’s a must-have app for anyone that wants to start creating 3D animations, as well as for professionals looking to improve their animation production pipeline.
iclone 7 renders have reached unprecedented quality thanks to pbr materials and new visual features like IBL and gi.
above: iclone 7 can create very convincing ambient lights, using global illumination combined with Lut effects.
far left: the new facial animation tools allow you to achieve any expression in an easy and intuitive way.
Left: image rendered in less than one second at 4K, using just an intel i7 pc with 16gb of ram and a radeon r9 graphic card.