iClone DirectX graphics mod from Tom Jantol

If you really can’t wait another four or five months for iClone 5 and its cel-shading and other similar goodies, here’s Tom Jantol on how to get some basic post-processing “trace edges” and bloom effects directly onto your iClone Editor’s real-time playback, via modding the DirectX output of iClone. And possibly more, if you’re willing to tinker further. Thanks to Tom for delving into this!

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iClone DirectX Mod (May 2011):

By Tom Jantol.

iClone is probably the most installed and uninstalled software on my PC. I like to toy with it, but until now some of the limitations have always put me off. And such is the dance that I and iClone have danced since its very first version. But a few days ago I decided to look into iClone 4 more seriously, and see what can be done with what I feel are the dry and over-clean 3D CG visuals.

Here is a result of a little experiment. I used the wonderful DirectX hack by Boris Vorontsov, his popular ENBseries Mod for improving the visuals of DirectX games. His trick is basically in the use of an alternative d3d9.dll file, together with two text files for settings — an enbseries.ini and an effect.txt file. Every videogame has a different configuration file, and after countless trials of different settings for different games, and after altering some settings in the .ini file… I found one suitable for iClone!

Using this mod you can modify things like depth-of-field, bloom, shadows, ambient occlusion, motion blur, per-pixel lightning, colour correction and a lot more. It is even possible to toy with basic post-process effects like trace edges or pseudo cel-shading (or whatever you want if you know how to actually write shaders — I don’t).

I am not the author of this mod, Boris Vorontsov made this for use with various videogames. I just changed some settings in enbseries.ini so it can be used with iClone. Therefore, Boris Vorontsov’s website is the best place to look deeper — it has full documentation, instructions, and explanations of every possible setting in the files.

INSTALL:

1. Download the files and unzip the .zip archive.

2. The following files must be placed in iClone’s root directory [ Ed: if you find that you already have a d3d9.dll file in there, then don’t forget to back up the original first! ]:

d3d9.dll
effect.txt
enbseries.ini

enbpalette.bmp (this one is optional — it is a palette texture for colour correction. It must be in a .bmp file format with a 24-bit colour depth).

3. Then you can modify enbseries.ini and effect.txt (this is a preset file) to suit your need. Windows Notepad can be used to open and edit .ini files. See the config screen capture in the files you downloaded, and Boris’s website, for the fine detail on settings.

Important note: you can have only one effect.txt file active at one time (and it must always be named “effect.txt”). So, if you want to use “cell shader effect.txt”, you will have to rename to something like “effect1.txt”. Of course, if you don’t want to use any effects, just move this file out of the relevant directory, or rename it so you don’t have any effect.txt in the directory.

Important note: you must restart iClone after every change in enbseries.ini file — but this is understandable and no big deal.

And now the major drawbacks. Nothing too serious for old school Machinima authors, but it can be crucial for some. You must use FRAPS or some similar videogame movie-capture software, for screen capturing of the video [ Ed: I think here that Tom means ‘as it plays back in real-time in the iClone Editor window’ ]. iClone’s actual file-output rendering will always be the default one, whatever you do in the above configuration files.

I don’t have time or knowledge to go much further with this. Somebody who knows what he or she is doing can probably make wonders with this. So, Somebody, please do!

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Further editor’s note: don’t forget you can already have all kinds of plugin-based graphics FX on your video (Akvis is particularly good, if rather slow) by outputting each frame of an iClone movie as part of an image sequence, and then running these as a batch through a Photoshop pre-recorded Action (‘Actions’ are Photoshop’s name for macros), and then finally recompiling them all into a video. But that’s certainly going to take a lot longer than this process — if you can get it working!

Update: or you can use Photoshop Extended’s video filtering option.

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2 thoughts on “iClone DirectX graphics mod from Tom Jantol

  1. A great side-effect of my posting here; your tidying up of my Croatian/Semi-Russian/Tarzan English is a wonderful learning tool for me. Thanks for that, also.

    And yes, by root directory I meant the iClone root directory.

    Maybe it is important to say that this pseudo-cel shading is highly customisable inside iClone — with Depth of Field, fog, lightning, IBL… also, overlays of normal video with pseudo-cel shaded can be done inside iClone – by putting one video as texture on a 2D plane and blending it with cel-shading. This way you don’t even have to use FRAPS.

    I wonder what Mitch Gould can do with this. Mitch?

  2. Of course I find this interesting and impressive. I haven’t had time to really digest it, but my first thought is why don’t we launch a campaign to lobby RL to incorporate something like these kinds of things directly into iClone 4? After all, the product is hardly dead yet — we won’t see iC5 before September.

    Just wanted to say in regard to Photoshop, don’t forget the more recent versions of Photoshop Extended are quite happy to process video files. And as I mentioned at the RL forum, there is a free filter kit from Adobe for Photoshop CS5 called Pixel Bender with a spectacular filter called Oil Paint. The other major treasure chest of non-photorealistic treatments for images, and possibly video, is Topaz Simplify. It’s like ToonIt but I find it easier to get great results from Simplify.

    The geniuses who program effects for Red Giant (ToonIt) warn you that the general problem with filters on video is that the sharper-edged kinds often cause “boiling” artifacts if they were not designed to account for frame-to-frame “temporal coherence.”

    I had not heard of Akvis. Looks very interesting — thanks!

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