New on the iClone Content Store, Fierce Animals Pack 2. This joins the recent Pack 1, and there’s a discounted bundle offer if you buy both. There are also discount codes floating around, so check your email if you’ve previously purchased an animals pack. They’re non-standard characters that come with their own specific motions. In the case of the gorilla, it seems a pity he couldn’t have also been rigged for the standard human motions — I’d love to have a comedy gorilla in the library.
Google are doing their bit to biff Flash on the nose. They’ve just released a conversion utility that converts Flash .swf files to HTML5. It’s called Swiffy, and is currently available online-only at Google Labs for quick and simple conversions.
An NTD report on the crisis in animation production in Russia, a nation that once had a thriving animation industry which could churn out funny movies even amid the horrors of socialism. Some of their techniques even influenced Miyazaki. Today the Russians still love their old animations, and some new ones such as the fairy-tales mega-series Gora Samotsvetov, but there’s a lack of talent (partly due to the long-term compounded effects of corruption and nepotism in government, and consequent lack of support for the industry) and a law banning TV advertising to kids (which makes producing for TV unprofitable in the face of cheap high-quality Western and Japanese imports).
For a more in-depth treatment on the crisis, earlier this year Russian Life magazine had an eight-page article titled “The End of Russian Animation?” (it’s behind a paywall), which opened with…
“If the artists themselves are to be believed, Russian animation is in its death throes. After barely surviving the turmoil of the Soviet breakup, this beloved art form can no longer count on state support, nor can it embrace advertising [due to laws against advertising to kids], making its future uncertain at best.”
The participants of OpenGameArt have paid to get a professional character designer and rigger (‘thecubber’) to make a low-poly dwarf, in order to give away for free for Blender. It’s just been released, and it weighs in at a mere 12,000 polygons. I got him into iClone, but the .fbx conversion badly links the armour and cloth to the body. This means that although he looks OK in the static pose, if you edit motion using Motion Edit then the armour and cloth only half-follow with the body and the upper arms and feet thus “poke through”. The eyes also blank when the head turns. Still, this is what he looks like in iClone. If anyone who knows Blender can work around Blender’s nearly-always-rubbish .fbx output, then I’ll try again with a new file.
There’s a new comic-strip template on the iClone Marketplace, for those who want to make online comic-strips using CrazyTalk Animator. It’s 350 points on the Reallusion Marketplace, is packed as an editable Project file, and you get…
“the same strip as you see in the preview pictures [...] It includes a special new ‘comic-strip panels’ prop, a vector prop which makes four “windows” into your scene. This prop instantly gives you the classic layout of four comic-strip panels, inside CrazyTalk Animator!”
A couple of items that might interest iCloners in the latest 3D World magazine #145, on sale in the UK from 30th June 2011.
Issue 145 has six hours of video tutorials for 3DS Max, taking you through the process of creating a “big space” interior that’s game ready (and thus by implication also iClone ready). The videos are free online, and the assets and scene files used are on the magazine’s free DVD.
There’s also apparently “10 mazes for games” on the free DVD, which sound interesting. They are going to be 3D rather than 2D tiles, so they might have some interest for us — especially if they’re clad in fantasy and science fiction themed artwork.
A new official CrazyTalk Animator tutorial, posted on YouTube mid-June. “Creating Voice Scripts with CrazyTalk Animator”…
New page added to MyClone, for the freebie background packs.
The U.S. Supreme Court has today issued a final ruling that videogames qualify for First Amendment protection under the U.S. Constitution. Although the Supreme Court ruling seems to me to be a completely obvious and common-sense decision, this is being reported as a landmark ruling and apparently sets a major precedent — one that may also affect machinima in future.
APIStudios has kindly just released some of their concept art and game tile assets for their online game Gods and Idols on OpenGameArt, under a generous Creative Commons Attribution licence. So you can use these backgrounds commercially if you want. You must include a Web link back to www.GodsAndIdols.com in your attribution / crediting of this content if you use it in your animation, graphic novel, webcomic, etc, or if you use one as a base layer for your overlaid digital matte painting. I’m afraid I’ve been unable to find the name of the original matte artist. Possibly it’s the game’s Swedish developer himself?
They’re all supplied as square 512px tiles, but I’ve gone through and cropped and converted to character-free and FX-free backgrounds at a background size of 1280px x 720px widescreen. Some filtering and blurring and cloning has gone on to hide most of the jaggies that sometimes resulted from the Photoshop upscaling. The 36 background mattes that survived the selection process generally stand up fairly well. If you’re planning to scale down your 1280px x 720px widescreen machinima movie by 50% for online viewing, most of the artifacts will probably be erased by the downscaling and the video compression.
A new version of Sculptris is out. It’s the highly-acclaimed virtual sculpting tool that’s now being positioned as the free “starter” software for eventual progression to ZBrush. Sculptris is no longer Windows only, and the new version is now also for Mac users.
Sound. It’s what makes a cartoon come alive. So, where to get high-quality sound FX for toons? There are two big studio CDs of sound FX that you can currently buy used at fairly cheap prices on Amazon.
1) The ”Hanna-Barbera Cartoon Sound FX” CD was published in 1994 by Rhino. “No commercial use”, but presumably amateur use is fine.
Apparently this was a budget digest CD culled from an earlier and much larger four-CD collection (no longer available for sale) which is described on Wikipedia…
“Sound Ideas released a four-CD set entitled ”The Hanna-Barbera Sound FX Library”, featuring nearly all of the original H-B sound effects used from 1957 to 1990 [...]. The sound effects were digitally remastered, so they would fit easily on new digital soundtracks. A fifth CD was added in 1996, entitled ”Hanna-Barbera Lost Treasures”, and featured more sound effects including sounds from ”Space Ghost” and ”The Impossibles”.”
2) The Warner Bros. equivalent CD is Crash Bang Boom: The Best of WB Sound FX published by Rhino in 2000. There are apparently 98 FX on the CD, but it’s less useful because you’ll need to rip the CD and then edit — as the CD is padded out by having the sound FX linked by narration and voice skits. This is apparently the list of FX on the WB CD…
Merry-Go-Round Broke Down
Daffy’s Plane Crash
Big Blow Up
Seems Like Yesterday…
Big Fat Kiss
Ain’t I a Hoot?
Nuttin’ Like a Little Shut-Eye
My New Car
Something I Said?
There They Go Go Go
Paper Parasol Commercial
Marvin the Martian’s Message
Ooh, That Smarts
More Funny Animal
Welcome to Wackyland
Daffy Duck Tries to Read Poetry
To Drink, Beep, Chain Saw, Paper Rattle, Flying Duck, Voo-Bah Voo-Bah,
Funny Cork Pop
Out of Steam
Tunnel Paint Commercial
Pepe le Pew’s Message
Two Dogs, a Bird, and a Bone
Goofy Gizmo Explosion
Hair She Comes
Marching Pink Elephants
Daffy Duck’s Message
Porky Pig’s Message
Big Balloon, the Big Gulp, Tarzan’s Last Swing, Going Down?, High W
Happy Birthday from Bugs Bunny
Happy Birthday from Marvin the Martian
Marvin’s Lab I
Earthquake Tablets Commercial
That’s All Folks/Merrily We Roll Along
Keep in mind also that WB are a company with a record of being very trigger-happy on claiming copyright infringement.
While looking through the Odd Job Jack files I found a useful toon flipchart prop. Ideal for poking fun at office meetings and those spouting trendy jargon etc. Alternatively, cover the pen and eraser with little paint pots, and make it an artist’s easel. Non-commercial use only, as the usual Odd Job Jack assets licence applies. I’ve packed it with Bitterjug’s public domain “holding a pen” hand from OpenClipArt.
I was asked to have another look at the Odd Job Jack assets, looking specifically at getting some animated FX prop files for CrazyTalk Animator. Many failed the test of too many shapes or torn vectors on conversion, or were just not very useful-looking. But a set of 14 animated FX props made it to CrazyTalk Animator in the final cut. These are licenced as Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic. If you use these then please credit Smiley Guy Studios and the fine artists of Odd Job Jack in or alongside your movie, comic, illustration, or videogame, and include the original licence details.
The Smith Micro store is having a big two-day Poser sale this weekend. I see Poser Pro 2010 at $175.00, down from $499. I see Poser 8 Standard at $100… but keep in kind that Amazon.com currently has Poser 8 at just $88.99 with free shipping. And also keep in mind that a great many Poser users still prefer Poser 6 — that’s why v6 keeps its used prices higher than v8 on Amazon, and it can no longer be purchased from Smith Micro.
Poser takes some learning, and newcomers to Poser may be more comfortable with Poser Debut at a mere $20. At that sale price it’s really a “why not?” purchase if you don’t already have Poser. But why might you want to spend even $20 on Poser, when DAZ Studio is free? It might be useful if you want access to Poser’s excellent sketch-like and toon rendering capabilities (the toon shaders are apparently included in Poser Debut, along with the powerful SketchDesigner for sketch renders). Very useful if you plan to use Poser for its original purpose, artist reference images for making a figurative painting. Maybe even for CrazyTalk Animator backgrounds, using the toon rendering. It might even be potentially useful to help create 2D CrazyTalk Animator figures.
But if that’s all you want it for, then keep in mind that we might well get nice sketch and toon rendering with iClone 5 (due Q4 2011). But then again, iClone 5′s toon/comic presets might be as bad as DAZ’s, and it may not even have sketch shaders and presets. Even if it does do sketch, it’s very unlikely to match the quality of Poser’s FireFly-powered SketchDesigner module.
As a tool for extracting Poser/DAZ content, DAZ Studio 3 is superior. Not only is it free and able to load and export 95% of Poser content (although some of that 5% is superb modelling and character-making) with a little tweaking. It also has the great advantage over Poser that it exports models with textures, without which it wouldn’t be possible to get most DAZ/Poser models into iClone. (Update: the new Poser Pro 2012 now exports Collada)
Either Poser or DAZ will both render you excellent still 3D images to use as impressive static backdrops for iClone movies, using their immense range of stock content and scenes. They can also be useful for animating the sort of obscure and/or ultra-high-quality content you’re never likely to find in the iClone store — you’d get it to iClone as a green-screened video clip via Reallusion’s popVideo software.
Announced a month ago, Mixamo Auto-Rigger looks like an interesting if very expensive service. I must have missed it when it first went live last month.
It’s now out of private beta, looks from the videos as though it really does making rigging a five second snap, and apparently currently costs $89 for a month of use. That doesn’t include the rather expensive individual motion-captures that you can apply to and export with your finished character. The monthly billing method and expensive per-motion pricing suggests the service is aimed at small indie game-developers. Although I guess someone with a large DAZ character library could probably rig a lot of characters in a month if they had the cash. But they’d be spending a lot of money… if you added twelve animations per character, and converted your favourite thirty DAZ characters that you’d spend a whopping $7,000 or more. For that kind of money, I’d hope the DAZ characters would be keeping their custom morphs through the process.
Even if you only have one favorite DAZ character you’d still pay $200 for one month’s access and six motions from Mixamo. Now admittedly… that does compare well to paying an iClone developer $300 to spend a day rigging your DAZ character in Max or Maya with the official iClone RL bones, and probably wrestling to keep the morphs along the way. But once the RL rigging was done then your character would load not just half a dozen motions — but thousands.
If Mixamo could auto-rig morph-retained DAZ characters with the official iClone RL bones, it would be an absolute wonder. Sadly, it doesn’t.
As an alternative to hiring an iClone developer, you might consider it better to invest in DAZ Studio Advanced, with its addon AniMate Plus and Digimi Game Developer Kit plugins, as a pipeline to 3XChange 4 Pro. Together those might cost about $500, although some people may already have bits of that pipeline because they took advantage of introductory prices and discount periods. But once you have them all then you can convert as many DAZ characters as you like for iClone. The only drawback is that morphed (i.e.: body customised and tweaked) DAZ characters won’t look the same by the time they hit iClone — 3DXchange 4 Pro throws away the morphs. Your fancy morphed DAZ character will turn back into plain old Victoria or Micheal. That’s a fairly annoying stumbling block to hit without warning, once you’ve spent that kind of money.
But that pipeline will work for some of the simpler and more unique-mesh characters — such as the 3D Universe toon characters, less complicated robots, etc. The process is… load your DAZ character in DAZ Studio as usual, Decimate the character’s polygons with the Game Kit if needed, then apply a whole load of aniMate motions (these apply to any DAZ character), bake the motions to Studio keyframes (right-click just above the special aniMate timeline, select “Bake to Studio Keyframes”, and your animations are transferred over into the regular DAZ Studio timeline — only then will they be loaded into the final .fbx), and finally export as a motion-loaded .fbx for conversion to iClone with 3DXchange Pro 4.
DAZ Studio 4 Advanced should be available for sale any day now, according to an official statement on their forums in early June. If you’ve already purchased the new Genesis figures’ auto-fit tool now (currently discounted to $80, it fits most of the old DAZ clothing to the new figure type), then you also apparently get $50 off either the straight or upgrade price of DAZ Studio 4 Advanced when it appears.
It’s not such a good deal, though. They’re doing it because they’ve made a decision to include the auto-fit tool in the Advanced version. You’d be $30 down on the deal, if you’ve already bought the auto-fit tool and then buy DAZ Studio Advanced. It’s best to hold off on buying DAZ Studio plugins until it’s known what’s included in Studio 4 Advanced, I’d say.
A thoughtful new illustrated essay on the design inspirations for the WETA Dr. Grodbort’s rayguns.
You can get one of the WETA rayguns free here for iClone.
I also have a rayguns pack from the Google 3D Warehouse raygun challenge, which includes two steampunk-ish ray-rifles.
Want more? Renderosity has a very cool Steam Rifle Construction Kit for DAZ Studio and Poser. Currently it’s just $7.50. In DAZ Studio, find the main trigger-sections in “Figures”, and all the other compenents in “Props”, all under the label “Steam Rifle”. The chosen sections all fit into their correct place when loaded, there’s no fiddly positioning needed. Most rifles you’ll make with this are around 60 to 80k in terms of poly-count, but you can always reduce them with the DAZ Game Kit if you need them below 30k.
You’ll need to dial down the strength of all of the reflection maps once you get your rifle exported into iClone, since these will come in with a model-swamping 100% strength. It might be better to just delete all the reflection maps from the DAZ textures folder first, and not have them load up in the first place.