PIPE­LINE TECH­NIQUES: An­i­mate faces in iclone

Solomon Jagwe re­veals his tech­niques for his Ugan­dan/african an­i­mated chil­dren’s TV se­ries

3D Artist - - CONTENTS -

This tu­to­rial cov­ers my work­flow of how i use iclone to cre­ate both fa­cial and body an­i­ma­tions for the char­ac­ters in my ugan­dan/african an­i­mated chil­dren’s TV se­ries, The Ad­ven­tures Of Nkoza And Nankya.i have had this dream since i was a kid grow­ing up in uganda, of bring­ing my sto­ries to life us­ing an­i­ma­tion, but i didn’t have the funds and team to pull it off. i tried for sev­eral years to bring the idea to life with the help of friends, fam­ily and my two close 3D artist friends Bruno ssekandi (uganda) and na­teon Ajello (usa), but the progress was slow go­ing, be­cause we all had other re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in­clud­ing fam­ily obli­ga­tions. it wasn’t un­til i started us­ing iclone, that i truly felt i had fi­nally found a pro­gram that made it pos­si­ble for me to re­alise that dream. Be­ing able to bring cus­tom char­ac­ters into iclone, us­ing 3Dx­change, opened the an­i­ma­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties to me. us­ing the iclone fa­cial an­i­ma­tion tools, i was able to cre­ate con­vinc­ing di­a­logue for my se­ries. in this tu­to­rial i am us­ing the lit­tle girl called nankya, as the case study. The work­flow is ap­pli­ca­ble to other char­ac­ters. i am hop­ing that this process helps oth­ers out there who are look­ing for an af­ford­able so­lu­tion, to get their dream off the ground, and take it from pa­per to the screen.


Pre­pare your char­ac­ter and en­vi­ron­ment in order for your cus­tom char­ac­ter to work well in iclone and 3Dx­change, it is cru­cial that you pre­pare your char­ac­ter model to have all the re­quired blend shapes/ morphs for the fa­cial an­i­ma­tion to work.

Reallusion has done an awe­some job of pro­vid­ing de­tailed steps on how you can pre­pare your char­ac­ter. Visit their Youtube chan­nel for that in­sight. i also ex­ported the set where the char­ac­ter was go­ing to be an­i­mated, in­clud­ing all the props they would need to in­ter­act with, such as the phone for nankya to call her grandpa.


Im­port char­ac­ter into 3Dx­change Once you have a cus­tom char­ac­ter with all the morphs needed for the fa­cial and body an­i­ma­tions, ex­port your char­ac­ter as an FBX file, and im­port it into 3Dx­change. You can use FBX 2011 or 2012. You need to have the 3Dx­change Pipe­line edi­tion to get the best re­sults.


In­spect and ex­port char­ac­ter to iclone Take the time to check that your model’s morphs match the morphs that are listed in 3Dx­change un­der the ex­pres­sion edi­tor. click on each tab for eye, Jaw, Viseme and Mus­cle. if any of them are miss­ing, click on the miss­ing one then tog­gle the auto key and shape your char­ac­ter to match the 3Dx­change shapes.

This step is ex­tremely im­por­tant be­cause iclone and the Face­ware Fa­cial plugin need all those listed morphs in order for the fa­cial an­i­ma­tion to work prop­erly.


Or­gan­ise your project fold­ers in order to get your char­ac­ter into iclone, 3Dx­change of­fers two main op­tions. You can ei­ther send the char­ac­ter di­rectly by click­ing on send to iclone or you can use the ex­port­ing to iclone con­tent di­a­logue op­tion.

in both cases, i rec­om­mend first creat­ing a folder struc­ture bro­ken down into char­ac­ter, Props and An­i­ma­tion sub fold­ers un­der the con­tent Tab in iclone. This has saved me count­less hours of search­ing for files, and also makes it eas­ier for iclone to load your con­tent faster.


Plan your Di­a­logue Shots This is the stage where you need to re­fer to any sto­ry­board or an­i­matic you have cre­ated to gauge what your char­ac­ter needs in terms of fa­cial an­i­ma­tion and di­a­logue. i broke down nankya’s an­i­ma­tions into Ac­tive Fa­cial An­i­ma­tion and Pas­sive Fa­cial An­i­ma­tion. Ac­tive is when she asks her grandpa a ques­tion and Pas­sive is when she is lis­ten­ing to her grandpa an­swer the ques­tions. That ap­proach en­abled me to de­cide which iclone fa­cial an­i­ma­tion tool to use.


Pas­sive an­i­ma­tion us­ing Fa­cial Mo­cap for Face­ware i broke down the pas­sive an­i­ma­tion fur­ther into blinks, smiles, amaze­ment, sur­prise, quizzi­cal, ques­tion­ing and af­fir­ma­tion. i po­si­tioned my­self in front of the we­b­cam and recorded a long take of those in­di­vid­ual an­i­ma­tions, mak­ing sure i gave each take a start­ing ‘no’ an­i­ma­tion pose and one for the end, with an av­er­age of two se­conds of act­ing in the mid­dle. The pur­pose for that is to make sure they can be blended with other each other af­ter i cut them into in­di­vid­ual imo­tions.


Ac­tive an­i­ma­tion us­ing Fa­cial Mo­cap for Face­ware i cat­e­gorise Ac­tive Fa­cial An­i­ma­tion as the char­ac­ter Di­a­logue. When nankya calls her grandpa, i used the Face­ware iclone plugin to cap­ture that di­a­logue. iclone of­fers sev­eral tools to achieve that in­clud­ing au­to­mated au­dio file and di­a­logue script pro­cess­ing, but my favourite and pre­ferred ap­proach is with Fa­cial Mo­cap for Face­ware be­cause of its abil­ity to cap­ture nu­ances. Make sure to cal­i­brate your face be­fore you start cap­tur­ing. A cam­era that sup­ports 60fps will of­fer the best re­sult. i use a Log­itech hd we­b­cam, but you can use any other type you can get your hands on.


Mo­tion LIVE for combo fa­cial and body if you have ac­cess to a Per­cep­tion neu­ron suit, this is a great way to cap­ture both the fa­cial an­i­ma­tion and the body at the same time. it can be time-con­sum­ing to cap­ture the face sep­a­rately and then try to line up the body mo­cap later, which in some cases works well, but by us­ing the Mo­tion Live ap­proach, you are able to see your char­ac­ter re­spond to both the mo­cap suit and the Fa­cial Mo­cap for Face­ware in real-time!


Cre­ate fa­cial an­i­ma­tion bank iclone of­fers a neat struc­ture that en­ables you to re­use the an­i­ma­tions you have cre­ated for your char­ac­ters face. i of­ten find my­self work­ing to­wards a set dead­line for a shot, for ex­am­ple if i need nankya to blink. To save time, i use the Fa­cial Mo­cap for Face­ware to record var­i­ous blinks of my­self play­ing out the emo­tion i can re­use later on, and i save it in the Face folder. i make sure no other an­i­ma­tion is on the timeline, that way when i load those saved blinks and smiles, they layer nicely on the timeline.

if you have ac­cess to a Per­cep­tion neu­ron suit, this is a great way to cap­ture both the fa­cial an­i­ma­tion and the body at the same time

Solomon W Jagwe sowl.com Bio Ugan­dan 3D artist and an­i­ma­tor based in the USA, with over 15 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence creat­ing con­tent for games, cin­e­mat­ics, sim­u­la­tions and vir­tual re­al­ity apps.

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