Reallusion iClone – great software to practice storytelling

December 23, 2011

Screen shot from iClone video tutorial 'Scene Creation'.

There are many reasons why people are attracted to making animated films. If your overwhelming desire is to use animation to tell a story then the iClone computer animation package is definitely worth a look.

It uses the same sort of technology that powers the animation in computer games. As you create the animation it can be played back in real time to see how it is progressing. It can also be rendered to various movie formats for upload to YouTube and such like.

Some years ago enthusiasts were using the computer games like Quake to create their own stories. The characters from the game would be controlled to record short scenes of action that could be edited together to produce an animated story. In response to this people wrote software to make it easier to record game characters. Over the years this has resulted in animation software such as iClone.

I downloaded the 30 day free trial from the Reallusion website to see what it could do. It is a hefty download that took several minutes. The actual install went smoothly and I was soon ready to have a go. I opened the software and then ran a tutorial video from the Reallusion website in a window alongside it. That way I could stop the video and practice the commands on the software.

The first thing demonstrated was adding a terrain. This is achieved by selecting ready-made terrains from a menu. I clicked on the hilly terrain and was greeted with the need for another hefty download. However, it turned out that it was downloading several terrains and various props to go in them. I guess that if you purchased the software on a disc the scenery and characters would be included. With the download complete I was able to add the hilly terrain and move around it in real time with the mouse controls. The next step was to add a sky background by selecting from various offerings. Then water was added to make a lake. The cloudy sky was automatically reflected in the water. Now here’s the fun part; you could click the play button to watch the water ripple just like the real thing.

I soon had a tranquil scene with trees, flowers, a house and a white horse. When I clicked the play button the flowers and leaves moved in the breeze. The horse trotted in the direction I had set, complete with the sound of hooves moving through grass. I felt like a movie director creating my own story.

iClone has lots of ready-made male and female characters, animals, monsters, props and animated movements. The characters can be altered by swapping hair and cloths. They can be made fat, thin, strong or small with a few clicks. Another instruction video runs you through this process. If that is not enough to tell your story you can purchase more characters and sets from Reallusion. You can use them inside iClone, royalty free.


Screen shot from iClone video tutorial 'How to Create Instant Animation'.

On the negative side this software is not really suitable if you are hoping to build your own characters or to fine tune the animation movements. There is some add-on software to import characters created in another program but if this is your intention it would be better to choose a different animation program in the first place.

On the positive side you can become a story teller in a very short time by using the ready made characters, sets and movements. One user reported they were producing a regular sitcom for YouTube consumption. This would be easy with the Chuck & The Neighbors characters set from the content store.

iClone comes in two versions; standard and pro. The pro version includes adding lip-synch automatically from your own voice track. An extra plug-in can connect the software to the Microsoft Kinect motion capture tool so you can use your own body to control the virtual actors.

The software can be purchased from reallusion.com but it was cheaper on Amazon when I looked.

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