John C Martin  shares his 8 tips on improving your game character animation flow

Creating game character animation ranges from the big finishing move all the way to Sonic tapping his toe. It takes a variety of character motions to fill the needs for games, but creating them is normally left to others due to lack of expertise or tools.

The iClone Animation Pipeline is an assortment of character creation and animation tools that are designed for any level of game developer. Build characters in iClone to quickly populate a game prototype or fine-tune a final character animation for the hero using the iClone MixMoves, motion puppet, HumanIK editing, facial animation and mocap tools. Lip-sync and Facial puppeteering tools are also included for a total character animation solution, with the lip-sync engine saving time by automatically syncing with imported or recorded audio. iClone has tools like motion puppet that makes basic human motions you are likely to need first-and most frequently-in a game(WASD).

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The iClone Animation Pipeline allows you to build and fine-tune game characters

Another accelerator is Motion Capture for game character animation using the new Noitom Perception Neuron suit and Microsoft Kinect. iClone enables game developers to use their game character for live motion capture. Record motion clips and view them instantly to know if they will work. Use real-time viewing to embody the character and get a feel for how the mocap device will move your character and how you should adjust to get the performance you want.

The mocap accelerator is all about quick production, creative control and affordable implementation. 8 more tips on the animation tools to speed up game character animation in iClone 6 are included, along with an invitation to download a full evaluation of iClone.

The iClone Animation Pipeline is aimed at small studios and indies with FBX support for Stingray, Unity and Unreal.

ONE  Animate Any Rig

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The iClone Animation Pipeline includes iClone, 3DXchange and the Mocap plugin. 3DXchange is the tool used to import and convert FBX character rigs into iClone characters.  If the FBX model is HumanIK, Biped or DAZ Genesis, you can accomplish a full retargeting of your character’s face and body to iClone in a couple of clicks. Characters converted for animation in iClone can use the Motion Library, Puppet and Mocap tools to animate with the assistance of HumanIK motion layer editing.

TWO  3D Game Characters

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Import your game character model via FBX or if you need a fast tool to create a character on-the-fly, there’s the iClone Character Creator. Start with a base character and morph the body-style and face. Add conforming clothing that adapts to any body-shape. The character design process is aided with Allegorithmic Substance engine integrated for clothing, skin and cosmetic dynamic materials.  Export the final custom character design to iClone for animation. Character Creator actors are fully rigged with face bones and blendshapes.

THREE  Essential Moves

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Access to a good bank of motions and some clever editing can immediately get characters moving.  iClone MixMoves blends natural human motions to generate a string of moves like sit, crouch, stand; automatically sequencing motions together in a natural, believable manner.  Select from 600 motion files or import additional via FBX/BVH.  Motion files are represented as tracks in the timeline and can be edited to quickly mix a series of motion files.  Break, copy, paste, time-warp and blend motions together. Edit motions with motion-layer key poses using joint rotation and HumanIK.

FOUR  Motion Puppet

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Animate common idle, walk and run game motions to fit your character’s persona.  Audition and edit motions in real-time with parametric sliders to change the motion behavior from head-to-toe.  Save a Motion Puppet profile for next time and the slider settings will be saved. Once satisfied with the preview you can record the motion clip to the character’s timeline.  Save the motion to your library and then use the whole recorded motion or find a loopable section and collect the clip for 3DXchange where the file is exported via FBX.

FIVE  Facial Animation

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Creating talking 3D characters for games is possible with the Create Script animation option in iClone that imports an audio file or records audio and automatically lip-syncs your character. The lip track with all auto-assigned phoneme keyframes can be edited for full customization of the automatic lips-sync. Record real-time emotion with the face puppet panel, a tool that morphs the character’s face by the selected facial features and uses the mouse to control the puppet. Select face profiles for quick animation of happy, sad, angry and scared face morphs.

SIX  DIY: Mocap

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Build-up all the motions necessary to complete a character controller for your game. Choose from the Microsoft Kinect or the Noitom Perception Neuron to use as a motion capture device and audition and record mocap instantly and in real-time to iClone using any character. The mocap process is designed for novice users and pros alike. Motion capture can be edited using the motion-layer editor and HumanIK to make any necessary adjustments. Save mocap for future use or export for the game-engine of choice via FBX.

SEVEN  2D Game Characters

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Game developers can output 3D models and animation via FBX using iClone 3DXchange. 2D game developers can use the iClone animation tools to generate PNG sequence output for sprite sheets. Character animation, SpeedTree, environmental props, etc.. can all be exported as 32 bit transparent PNG sequences. Setup an iClone project resolution to match the single frame resolution you want for your character, add a camera and lock it to the Root of your character and animate with the Motion Puppet, Mocap or Library to create the necessary motion loops.

EIGHT  Export Unity, Unreal, Stingray

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iClone and 3DXchange handle the game-engine FBX file prep. Use Collect Clip to define the area of the timeline to clip as your animation. Right-click on the collected clip to send it as MotionPlus to 3DXchange. Export as FBX using options for Unity or Unreal and support for Autodesk Maya, 3ds Max and Stingray. Choose to save as one of the optimized presets for FBX that will load your character and animation just as expected and keep you working on finishing the game.

The full tutorial is on 3D WORLD Magazine

More information about iClone Animation Pipeline

More information about iClone Character Creator

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