Although there are huge benefits to real time workflows you still need to fit into a given pipeline to make the most of the opportunities the advances can offer, which is something Reallusion has taken note of with iClone 6.
iClone is a hard application to pigeonhole. It makes for easy animation and scene layout, with a number of options for material, lighting and cameras, but none of the tools to create assets.
This is a mixed blessing for studios; a production team can quickly and easily build previz animatics, with little need for specialist skills, however there's still a need for a skilled 3D artist to model specifics.
However, iClone has some neat solutions. Moving files between iClone and the major 3D apps is good with the 3DXchange app (version 6 is on it's way).
More importantly, Reallusion has built partnerships with key companies to deliver a particularly strong set of scene creation tools. Substances are supported meaning animatable, realistic materials are a cinch, and SpeedTree tools are included for a multitude of assets. These additions are powerful and easy to master, unlike their standalone versions, which require more learning.
iClone aims to get a finished product of the best quality, in the shortest time and with ease. Nvidia's PhysX is supported, as are particle controls, various lighting solutions (including HDRI and Ambient Occlusion) and camera lens effects.
The preset motions and characters allow for blocking out scenes quickly and new mesh modifiers make attractive geometry. You can animate characters with options for actor's personality, lip-syncing tools and full, layer-based IK animation.
These options build in to a substantial toolset topped off by a new output option. Depending on the version/bundle you buy, you'll get a copy of IndigoRT, a physically based render engine that produces beautiful imagery impressively quickly. You can output 4K video formats, including mattes for quick composites.
Workflow and comfort
iClone 6 delivers on workflow and comfort during use. There's a very adaptable interface and tabbed approach to scenes and dedicated areas for assets, cameras and so on. This means less clutter and the right tools in view for your task, and if you prefer it a different way you can click and drag to rearrange panels.
Although there are options for physical based rendering and substance texturing, they cost extra and have a time penalty. They break the purpose of iClone a bit but probably at a worthy cost.
Starting from $99/£67, iClone is now a very capable piece of software. Its strengths as a previz tool are impressive and the additional I/O options are well worth the upgrade. You can find more information on iClone here.
Words: Rob Redman
Industry veteran Rob Redman is the creative director at boutique VFX and animation studio Pariah Studios, as well as a regular presenter at events from FMX to Siggraph.
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