How to have props do a constant 360-degree spin in iClone?

Panthar has just posted a useful video-clip on YouTube, giving some basic hints on how to have an object continually spin on a 360-degree rotation in iClone, apparently just by using three keyframes per 360 frames…

“This has been available for a long time, but the current iClone 4 documentation failed to include it. This [tip] is from iClone 2, but still applies today. Hope this helps someone who needs the ability to keep an item spinning on command.”

Click the image to view his video.

There was once the possibility of using a helper_rolling object (apparently introduced in v2.5), to have wheels automatically rotate. But then when version 3 came out that helper apparently no longer worked. There’s an old iClone 3 video-tutorial available on the subject — but that makes the new process of getting four wheels rolling seem incredibly convoluted and time-consuming.

For version 4 the marketing materials said…

“Added: Allow set pivot for any object to create rolling wheels”

…but I can see nothing in the manual that shows how to do this to get a constantly-rolling wheel or propeller, nor can I find anything more on this via a Google search.

The version 4 marketing material also talks of the inclusion of…

“Basic iMovement Helper types: vehicles, car, helicopter, plane, human, or other basic animations, rotation.”

…but the v.4 manual has no mention of “iMovement”. And I can’t see any such helpers in the Animation or Props palettes.

And while there are ‘wheel helpers’ for version 4, they’re buried deep in “an add-on pack for an add-on pack”, namely the iCar Body Shop’s ‘Mechanic Tool Kit’ — and the process there seems almost as convoluted and time-consuming as it was in iClone 3.

SmallWStudio is also finding wheel rotation a pain, and has resorted to keyframes…

All the average user wants is a simple drag-and-drop rotator. I have a prop, I drag a helper onto it, and the prop automatically spins a complete 360 degrees in x number of frames. End of story.

But while we’re waiting for that, it seems Panthar’s simple solution (although certainly it needs some further explanation) may be the most useful one for now? Anyone know different? And can anyone explain more fully exactly how his and/or SmallWStudio’s keyframe solution can be made to work, step-by-step?

Free set of particle effects for iClone

Free particle effects are always welcome for iClone, despite the fact that with a bit of experimentation you can make and save your own presets. The set of 20 free preset effects that came with the first Fantasy pack from Evil Force (Effect_Pack_Volume_I_Beta.exe) is quite literally magical.

Four of the animated effects (including the two seen above) show up in Props, three show up in the very top level and are character-specific, some appear under Actor / Accessories, and others appear under Particles.

Fossil-hunting among the old 3D models

Those occasionally using Google SketchUp may have noticed that the import function for .dxf files has vanished in the latest free version (v7.1). Why this should be I’m not sure (maybe Google’s licence to give it away free expired?), but getting those pesky old abandonware .dxf files — many of which seem to be low-poly — into SketchUp can still be done. Just install this free plugin (AllowDWGImportInSketchUp7.msi Windows installer).

To be frank though, it’s not usually worth the round-trip to 3Dxchange. Putting the .dfx into SketchUp, then the resulting .dae into MeshLab, usually results in a final .3ds file that iClone’s 3DXchange just refuses to load. A sad end for a file format that was apparently supposed to be about “enabling data interoperability” among different software packages.

Organica – a free low-poly “blob balls” (metaballs) modeler

Want to model low-poly organic 3D shapes? Organica 1.0 (Windows) is an old but still perfectly-workable application from some years ago. Designed as an intuitive organic “blob balls” (aka metaballs) modelling package that anyone could use, it’s now available free in an unrestricted version from the makers Imagine 3D (formerly Impulse). I can tell you it runs fine on Windows 7, and the .3ds files it exports are low-face (less than 3,000 for the mesh in the picture) — and they import quickly and easily into iClone’s 3DXchange. The Organica download page is deeply uninspiring, but as you can see from my screenshot…

Click the picture for a larger version. The blob colouring is just for identification, not texture.

…the application is just as simple as I remember it was, it’s fun, very intuitive (I seem to remember it was designed for use by children?), and is able to quickly form complex organic shapes using a simple clay-like modelling process. The clay blobs kind of glom onto each other, and as they do so they automatically form nice seamless blends. But each blob can still be positioned and deformed separately. Selective mesh reduction can make “dents” in shapes. Right-click on the top-right window to get a range of extra options including view-rotation. It comes with a 77-page color manual in PDF form.

If you’re fed up with working with blocks in 3D, and need to quickly make a complex organic base-shape (eg. a big mass of twisty tree-roots) without spending a fortune in both time and money, have a look at Organica.

    * Running the finished model through the free MeshLab should offer various smoothing and face-reduction options, if needed.

    * Organica’s .3ds export has a 65,000 face limit, which actually seems like quite a useful back-stop if you’re making base props destined for iClone.

    * It installs in C:/Organica but if you want to keep a tidy Windows directory structure, just copy the folder to C:/Program Files — it’s a self-contained app and still launches happily from there.

* Keep in mind that 3DXchange has a nice mesh shoothing function, which should smooth out any anglar faces.