By Michael Burns | on January 26, 2009
Price: 133 . 146
Pros: Relatively inexpensive; real-time interactive engine; enhanced actors; tree, plants and grass system; particles; independent, transferrable animation on characters, MPEG4 and Flash Video export.
Cons: Requires iClone 3DXchange2 to import 3D objects not from Reallusion’s content store; manual could be improved.
A floating timeline lets you assemble a series of motion clips together, fine-tuning the clips by tweaking positions of the actors bones via the Motion Layer feature. The timeline could do with being dockable, but it offers the ability to edit animated properties for multiple actors, lights and cameras.
Director mode allows you to record a movie while you navigate your scene, with actors and props moving automatically and effects rendered as if you were in a game. Export options include image sequence, HD AVI and transparent Flash Video iWidgets for Web export. This mode offers higher-quality scenes and controls than we were expecting, displaying content in a realtime 3D viewer with a variety of shading settings. The most advanced of these is pixel shading, which offers effects such as reflection maps and refraction effects, translucent water, fog, self-illumination and shadows, depth of field and animated textures.
You can customize props and terrains, and import 2D pictures as image layers and backgrounds. While the vegetation is not a patch on Solid Growth in Vue, trees can be attached to any terrain or prop, cast shadows and sway in the wind. Grasses can be planted using an instancing feature, grown from seed templates and only fully rendered in Director mode. You can add a variation setting to the parameters in the Dimension section of the Modify panel, and even use a mower gizmo to cut the grass to the appropriate length.
There are limitations – for example, you can only apply one terrain to each project, so you would have to record a scene for each set, then assemble the results in a video-editing package. There’s also a maximum time for recording of 18,000 frames. The controls also take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’re used to animating characters in something like Maya. Though obviously not aimed at the high-end film CG market, iClone Pro makes a great pre-viz toolkit.