So there I was at New York Comic Con in October, all ready to do an interview with a company by the name of Reallusion which specializes in 3D animation. The product that I was going to be demoing and talking about was something called iClone5, which is a piece of software that allows you to animate 3D models like puppets using the Microsoft Kinect. I was all ready, super excited, had my recorder prepared for an interview …
And then a puppet came in and interrupted my interview with an interview of their own. No I’m serious, this really happened. It was a puppet, talking to a guy about 3D computer puppet animation software. The irony was not lost on me. So instead of an interview you get an article from me talking about how awesome iClone5 is and where I hope to see it being used.
At it’s core, iClone5 is 3D animation software suite that allows you to important 3D models in and setup animation cycles for them. This is currently being used to help you create your own cartoons or animations that can be quickly uploaded to YouTube or your favorite online video site. There are other programs out there that do that, but they are super expensive and aren’t exactly known for being user friendly, especially for someone who wants to animate a model or asset that they have.
So what Reallusion did was take the Microsoft Kinect and make it useful. They have a converter that allows you to hook up the Kinect straight into your computer and into the iClone5 Software, and then once you calibrate, can allow you to puppet your 3D model in a more realistic manner. If you want your model to dance like it’s Disco Fever, just do it yourself in front of the Kinect, hit record and the rest is done automatically! Pretty cool eh?
How accurate is the movement and recording? Extremely accurate. On the off chance though that you have your model doing some clipping or the hand / arms / legs / whatever isn’t exactly where you want it, you can go into the recorded timeline and adjust the limbs as you see fit. This will then fix it for the rest of the animation. You can also edit finger / toe positioning and go through and give facial expressions and feelings to your model as needed. In addition to everything else, you can also setup background situations through the iClone5 tool as well. IF you want the setting to be in a forest, island, or even outer space, the tools are all in there so that you can do an entire animated short right within the tool. This is again, all on top of the motion capture that you can perform for each character model through the Microsoft Kinect. Pretty cool.
If you aren’t good at making your own 3D Models, but are still interested in a product of this type, iClone5 connects to a central marketplace that may be of help. Here, artists can upload their own creations and creatures that can be used within the program. People then have the opportunity to buy these models and creators can actually get paid for it! This is a great help to the community as it can easily lead to people making contacts and networking together, and can also get some much needed money into the hands of Modelers that are trying to make a living and break into the industry. For those that have the vision of what a scene should look like, but don’t have the technical aptitude to create that set piece, this is a much needed time saver.
As I mentioned earlier, this is currently being offered just for animation purposes, but that will soon change. In the near future, Reallusion is going to be allowing you to export your animation routines into a format that game engines can understand. This is when I got really excited, because I feel like it can get so many more independent developers, or people who are interested in joining the gaming industry, some practical skills that they can use for a resume. When this functionality is added, the complaint that it’s too hard and too much of an investment to get involved with video game development, will hopefully be alleviated a bit.
iClone5 is currently out for Windows based systems, but for all the Apple people out there, if you have Boot Camp installed that will work too. The actual software is currently being priced at $199, the Kinect Converter for the computer is $99, and then the only other thing you need besides a sturdy computer is the Kinect for about $120 right now. So for about $450 you can be ready to animate and do some amazing things that can get you can put on your animation or gaming resume.
That’s not a terrible blow and definitely has us around here very excited. Maybe we’ll start that g33kWatch animated series about a Penguin and a Snail living in Cleveland. =P