3D Artist
Jan
18

Create natural and professional animations with iClone Curve Editor

Tips & Tutorials
by
Carrie Mok

Discover how to create vivid character animations, step by step with the iClone Curve Editor plug-in.

Create natural and professional animations with iClone Curve Editor
This tutorial has been written by Andy Fang, senior 3D artist at Reallusion Inc.

This tutorial starts from preparing a character and designing the performance. Then, we will progress to cartoon style animations creating pose to pose keys, adjusting timing, and using the Curve Editor to add details like; ease in, ease out, anticipation, and follow-through moves. Finally, we will head to the camera settings and lighting to complete the entire project. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Prepare a character

Create natural and professional animations with iClone Curve Editor
A character gives the first look to an animation. So, it should be charming and easily identifiable. The most important thing is that it has to be the best actor candidate for your performance. In this example, we use a simple blue man to do a cartoon style movement. This character has a streamlined head shape, long hands and big feet which are suitable for flowing animations.

Step 2: Design performance

Create natural and professional animations with iClone Curve Editor

After choosing your character, then you imagine how it moves. Be sure to design the personality of the character. Think about whether the actor is energetic, or sluggish. Then, you will get an idea on how to animate it. Sometimes, it is better to start with performances like throwing a ball, jumping or being shocked as these kinds of animations can easily add personality, attitude and likability to a character.

Step 3: Set pose to pose key

Create natural and professional animations with iClone Curve Editor
Simplifying your animations with key poses can be a good way when animating. Most of the time, key poses include anticipation, main performances and reactions. Based on the perform strength, we adjust the level of anticipation and reaction to keep consistency in movements. Also, you can add some squash and stretch curves to increase the tension between animations.

Step 4: Adjust timing

Create natural and professional animations with iClone Curve Editor
After setting the initial poses, play your animations a few times to get a feel. You may find that some parts of the performance may be too fast or slow. So adjust the distance between the keys and try to make them flow better with the strength. In this example, we can see that the second to fourth keys are close to each other. The second keys are for the anticipation, allowing the third and fourth keys to provide a powerful jump. You can try different ranges between these keys, helping you better understand and visualize the relations between distance and strength.

Step 5: Use the Curve Editor to fix the moving path

Create natural and professional animations with iClone Curve Editor
The Curve editor is a good way for dealing with moving animations. Take jumping movements for example, you may have a curve down for the start position, the highest point and the ending position. Use tangents to edit the curve shape for quickly adjusting positions. This process is just like assigning a path to characters, making animation simple and intuitive.

Step 6: Use the Curve Editor to add ease in/ease out performances

Create natural and professional animations with iClone Curve Editor
Most of the time, linear animations look very robot-like. A natural movement consists of a smooth curve with different curvatures. In this example, you can see that the left motion line is straight and sharp, causing the performance to suddenly status. In the right motion line, we use tangents by adjusting transitions to make it smooth like a curve. This will lead to more fluent movements without unnatural position changes. Furthermore, with different tangent angles and lengths, you can control more accurate pacing when animating.

Step 7: Use the Curve Editor to enhance Anticipation

Create natural and professional animations with iClone Curve Editor
Sometimes, anticipation is short and not easily observed. By using the Curve Editor, you can enhance the strength of the anticipation in an easy way. In this example, I adjust the spine and arm degree to emphasize the strength of anticipation in order to bring a more powerful jump movement.

Step 8: Use the Curve Editor to add follow through animations

Create natural and professional animations with iClone Curve Editor
A natural movement never stops immediately after a powerful performance. It must extend its strength for a while. In this example, we use the Curve Editor to release the jump power with little movement through feet and arms. The picture shows the editing process of the left leg which lifts higher after pushing the ground to jump.

Step 9: Check the results

Play the animation again and again. Check the performance to see if it matches the character style and the personality you designed.

Step 10: Set up camera and light

After finishing the animation, find a camera angle to clearly observe the entire performance. You can also adjust the focal length to increase the tension of the scene. For lighting, making the character stand out from the background is always a challenge. A good relation between key light and rim light could lead the audience to focus on your character at a first glance. In addition, iClone provides great real-time rendering as you animate, strongly reducing the time needed for production. Furthermore, it makes it easy for animators to immerse themselves into the scene when giving life to characters.