The space of 3D animation in film has long been dominated by familiar powerhouse programs like 3ds Max, MotionBuilder, and Maya. However, their price has barred numerous creative minds from entering the field of 3D animation. Smaller creators struggled to find tools capable of matching or even surpassing the quality presented by these programs. So, these same creators have begun to find new ways to create professional quality animations and films, and with these new 3D animation programs, even professionals are realizing the strength of these new tools.

The Upstart

In 2004, Nildo Essa founded FX Animation Studio and began creating TV ads and PSAs for his local Mozambique market. Over time, Nildo’s studio began to use the tools available to them within the iClone8 (iC8) ecosystem, and would discover an incredible new standard for the space of 3D animation. An easily accessible tool that could provide all the creature comforts of well-established programs, while still being powerful enough to create professional grade animations that could stand toe-to-toe with any other professional product. 

In 2011, Nildo’s studio would start the project Os Pestinhas, aka The Troublemakers. While being completely self-funded, the studio would produce 2 award-winning shorts, over 15 PSA’s, and a few comic book stories under The Troublemakers. In making these projects a reality, Nildo and his team would find the offerings of Reallusion’s Character Creatorand iCloneinvaluable in ensuring their professional quality.

Versatility Beyond Measure

With the support of Reallusion and an Epic MegaGrant, Nildo’s team, consisting primarily of himself, his wife, and an administrative member, would set out to create their very first 3D animated feature film, Kibwe. Nildo’s team would discover the toolsets offered by iClone and Character Creator, and soon these programs would become the backbone for the development of the film’s spectacular 3D animations.

“We also learned about Reallusion studio, mainly Character Creator, iClone, and 3DXchange, and how they worked seamlessly with Unreal Engine.”

Nildo’s team found the versatility and flexibility offered by iClone and Character Creatorto be invaluable in their workflow, as it allowed them unprecedented freedom in how to approach their desired animation style and workflow. The team would use iCloneas a bridge to quickly and easily, port motion-capture animations to Blender, which would then be modified and adjusted as needed within Character Creator. The results were beautifully tailored body animations that were on par with the creations of other more established products.

The high-quality character models were created solely in Character Creator. The program allows for the easy creation and modeling of stylized characters, and full compatibility for the models to be completed in Blenderwith custom morph, hair, accessories and clothing. From there, it becomes a simple matter of importing into Unreal Enginefor final render.

Flexibility and Power

As the team put the finishing touches on the trailer, Nildo’s team reached out to Reallusion’sPitch and Produce program and were offered access to the new beta for iClone 8. Having been using iClone 7 for the majority of their project thus far, it was a revelation for the team even though iClone 8was still in beta. The tools and flexibility offered by iClone 8 were so invaluable to the team that they decided to not only finish the project using iClone 8, but could easily see themselves using it for all future projects. 

I don’t even know how to begin explaining the improvements that this new version has…So we decided we would be using iClone 8 for the rest of our project and most likely for our future clients as well.”

The new iC8 integration with 3DXchange saved the team countless hours of manpower. They would find the ability to simply drag and drop FBX onto their custom models and have all the animations and rigging function astonishing. The speed and seamlessness of its integration with other programs made using iClone 8the clear favorite for the project. It was the primary factor for making the production of the film flow that much faster and easier.

To add to its flexibility, Nildo’s team would also find that the frustrations of learning new navigation and adopting new workflows through other programs so that they would play well with Blenderand 3ds Max was a non-factor when using iClone 8. With how well everything is integrated and how easily everything translates from program to program, there is no longer the barrier that normally exists as one transitions from one program to the next.

From its iClone Unreal Live Link plugin that allows perfect integration into Unreal Engine 5, to its Reach Target Interaction that allows for perfect object manipulations with their models, everything simply works and is as simple as can be. Even tasks as complex as facial animations were made simple through the tools provided by iCloneallowing for one-to-one facial tracking. From the stylized to the ultra realistic, iClone provides numerous tools that have allowed creators like Nildo and his team an incredibly accessible and simple solution to making their art a reality.

Into the Future

With Reallusion’s Pitch and Produceprogram shining the spotlight on Nildo and his team’s fantastic work, the production of Kibwe has increasingly demonstrated the versatility that iClone and Character Creator can offer to any type of content creator. Combining both the seamless simplicity of being able to work across numerous tools and the sheer power of handling the creation of professional level models and animations, Reallusion’s suit continues to provide creators of all walks of life the opportunity to make their voices and stories heard.

“…the studio is heavily utilizing the power of real-time creation and animation tools like Character Creator and iClone where they take advantage of features like advanced Motion Editing , Reach Target Interaction, Optimal HIK control, and Pro-level Curve Editing.”

To learn more about Reallusion’s suite (Including iClone 8and Character Creator) that was used to create both The Troublemaker’s Kibwe and numerous other projects, please check out: Body Motion Control | iClone | Reallusion