Reallusion has launched Cartoon Animator 4 (formerly CrazyTalk Animator), the complete professional 2D character system, and it’s new Facial Mocap Plug-in (Motion LIVE 2D), which allows users to animate characters with their own facial expression in real time. In the last decade, Cartoon Animator has been widely used by million-subscriber YouTube channels to online businesses, graphic designers, marketers and award-winning directors.
“Cartoon Animator 4 is one of the most accessible 2D character design and animation tools in the current market for both entry and professional users.” said John C. Martin, VP of Product Marketing, Reallusion. “CTA 4 is a complete 2D character system with tools to design and animate in a new way with a unique motion UI and the industry-breakthrough 2D, 360 degree head creator. Indie, pros and first time animators can apply speed to creativity with a new approach to 2D animation.”
Cartoon Animator 4 is a total 2D animation toolbox that can turn images into animated characters, generate lip-sync animation from audio, accomplish 3D parallax scenes, produce 2D visual effects, access content resources, and wield a comprehensive Photoshop pipeline to rapidly customize and create characters.
With Cartoon Animator’s Facial Mocap Plug-in, anyone can animate character with their facial performances via webcams or an iPhone TrueDepth camera to track expressions with head and eyes movements, and natural body animations driven by head position. This solution is designed for virtual production, performance capture, live TV shows and streaming web broadcasting. Key features include:
Real-time Face Tracking via Webcam and/or iPhone Users can utilize any webcam or iPhone X to capture real-time face tracking via Facial Mocap Plug-in, the facial expressions will instantly project onto virtual characters in Cartoon Animator.
Head Driven Body Movement During facial mocap, users can also add upper body motions by capturing head movements, blending values, and adjusting arm or forearm rotation that can be directly blended during live performances.
Real-time Lip Sync and Audio Recording The Timeline editor can edit motion clips, alter speeds, blend and refine captured phoneme expressions. Turn on the PC microphone for simultaneous audio recording for complete control over talking lip shapes.
The 360 Head Creator streamlines the workflow for head creation and expression setup, while directly applying it to the animation core through face key editing, puppeteering and the timeline system. It transforms static 2D art into 3D-styled characters with up to 360 degrees of motion for deeply rich performances. Artists can also use the Photoshop round trip in/out integration for editing multi-angle characters.
The Smart IK (Inverse Kinematic) Animation’s simple and functional design sets Cartoon Animator apart from other 2D applications, as the intuitive IK/FK system auto-switches for a fluid, and logical workflow. Smart Motion Retargeting correctly applies any motion files to different body shapes, while automatically aligning new characters to the original motion pose.
Cartoon Animator 4 is available for $ 199 (Pipeline edition) or $ 99 (PRO edition). PC/Mac webcam facial tracker is a separate module along with Motion LIVE 2D plug-in ($ 199). More information at www.reallusion.com/cartoon-animator.
***This article originally appeared in the February ‘19 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 287)***
Back in the early 2000s, when Andrew Koehler and Benjamin Martin lived in Minneapolis, they loved to write elaborate scripts inspired by their passion for fantasy, animated shows like He-Man and Masters of the Universe and Liquid Television and games like Magic: The Gathering. The two friends, who met at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, would then adapt these stories to live-action shorts. Little did they know that their homemade fantasies would inspire a new animated series called Tigtone that begins its run on Adult Swim this month.
The quarter-hour animated show, which is exec produced by Koehler, Martin and Blake Anderson (Workaholics), follows the adventures of Tigtone (Nils Frykdahl), an oblivious quest-hungry hero who slashes his way through an absurd fantasy universe, aided by his sidekick Helpy (Debi Derryberry). Produced by the talented artists and technology wizards at Titmouse, Inc. in Los Angeles, the series mixes highly rendered, hand-painted fantasy art with mo-cap performance, 2D animation and what is described as “pseudo-3D” vfx.
Koehler and Martin tell us that they’re quite happy to see their wild vision come to animated life after some 13 years. “We are such fans of the genre, and we knew that live-action fantasy films were outside of our budget,” says Koehler. “We had no money in Minneapolis. At that time, compositing technology had just been made available on a consumer level. We were just throwing up green sheets in the woods and shooting stuff. We finally managed to get a couple of live-action sequences, so we had this proof of concept for [our short] The Begun of Tigtone!”
About eight years ago, Koehler began to experiment with a rudimentary motion-capture animation technique. He filmed himself with craft beads glued to his face, and then applied this three-dimensional information to 2D pictures. This resulted in a strange new animation style which was perfect for the surreal world of Tigtone. “It looked so eerie, better than it had any right to,” says Koehler. “It’s so convoluted that it made perfect sense for the show.”
Martin, who used to star in and work on the trailer parody series Homemade Movies, jokes, “Andrew told me that he came up with this elaborate motion-capture technique because he’s a lazy animator, but it turns out that it’s actually way more complicated than just animating it.”
An Email That Launched the Show
Soon after their short The Begun of Tigtone was posted on YouTube in 2014, they got an email from comedian/producer Blake Anderson out of the blue, who told them that he really liked their work and wanted to take it to the folks at Adult Swim. “It was extremely fortuitous that he saw our short and like it,” says Koehler.
“We didn’t even have to pitch it, because everyone knew the show because they had seen The Begun of Tigtone,” says Martin. “We made the pilot at Titmouse, using the technology that Andrew had come up with. We shot the mo-cap in our garage. Because all the characters are two dimensional, we only have three or four angles, so we don’t have the liberty to turn our heads to get different angles. We have to shoot all the motion-capture data for whatever specific angle we need the character, which is completely counterintuitive to why you would shoot 3D mo-cap,” Martin explains. “Once we shot the pilot, we built these chairs at Titmouse that we harness our heads into to get that data. It’s pretty much a weight bench with a medical head restraint attached to it!”
Today, the series has a team of about 40 people who are mostly based at Titmouse. Interestingly enough, the show’s illustrator is Yigit Koroglu, a 2D artist based in Turkey, who did the painting for the original Tigtone short. “We got him back for the series because he gets it 100 percent,” notes Martin. “We found his work on DeviantArt. That’s where I always go to find good artists. Sometimes I go to fantasy websites and search for fantasy terms that are spelled wrong, like wizard spelled with two Zs!”
Both Martin and Koehler are quick to praise the talent of the team that works on the show at Titmouse. “The show looks so good, and every day we’re in awe of all the artists,” notes Koehler. “The first thing I think when I step back is how impressed I am with the talent that Titmouse has been able to assemble.”
Martin add, “We had to build this entire production from scratch, and it had the opportunity to go off the rails at any time, but everyone is so awesome and enthusiastic about the project. They have all made this a very enjoyable and exciting production experience. One thing we try to do is to maintain the charm of the visuals, and to let the seams of the process show in the visuals. Tigtone’s face can still go weird and we let it show, because it’s part of the character tics. But having said that, it still requires a ton of work to get everything to look as good as it does.”
A Warped World
Martin says the writing process for the universe has its own set of challenges. “The show has a specific voice, which on the surface it seems like it makes a lot of sense, but when you peel it back you realize that the structure is total nonsense,” he points out. “I love playing with the expectations of the audience through Tigtone and his adventures. I love coming up with these concepts and handing it off to the team, and then to see it in full color and animation coming back to us — it’s incredible to see.”
One of the biggest challenges, according to Koehler, is that the main character of the show doesn’t fit into any of the normal storytelling pegs audiences are accustomed to seeing on TV. “The pilot was really tricky as how we tell a 12-minute Tigtone story because we had never written for that format before. It was a lot of developing that way and going back and forth about the cast of characters.”
If you have any doubts about much love Koehler and Martin have for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, you just need to know the homage goes way beyond the storylines and character. Martin explains, “We use the exact same sound effects library and font choice for our episode titles and credits as He-Man!”
Now that Tigtone is finally getting his moment in the spotlight, the creative duo are excited for fans to see the 10 episodes they have cooked up for Season One. Koehler says, “One of the best things about the show is sharing the creative process with a team of people who are also big fans of the genre. You talk about having a catapult made out of dead trolls, and everyone gets it.” Martin adds, “When we started this adventure, it was just the two of us writing fantasy stuff in my apartment, and now our insider world is shared by all of these people. It’s both a weird and cozy feeling to have all these people join your universe.”
Tigtone premieres Sunday, January 13 at midnight on Adult Swim.
Rokoko (rokoko.com), the company behind the popular Smartsuit Pro motion-capture suit, announced a partnership with Unity Technologies (unity3d.com), creator of the world’s most widely used real-time 3D development platform, to provide Unity developers access to Rokoko’s products, Smartsuit Pro and The Motion Library via the Unity Asset Store. The partnership marks the availability of The Motion Library: an extensive motion asset marketplace with Hollywood-quality animation files accessible for preview and purchase via a plugin and on the Unity Asset Store. The Motion Library saves time and money on animated projects by allowing for instantaneous uploading of animation files to existing projects.
For free, Unity developers can get access to the plugin, along with a collection of demo assets and 3D previews of thousands of premium assets made by Rokoko’s featured publishers, which include top-tier professional motion-capture studios like UK-based Audiomotion (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ready Player One, Horizon Zero Dawn, Dying Light) and Centroid (Assassin’s Creed, Godzilla, Doctor Strange). Publishers have used professional actors and million dollar motion-capture systems to create assets that are now available in the Motion Library for as little as $ 1 per asset and a $ 10 monthly subscription.
“The partnership between Rokoko and Unity is an excellent blend of two companies who are breaking the barriers for development – in this case, providing access to tools that have the potential to transform the way developers work with character animation,” said Peter O’Reilly, Head of the Asset Store at Unity Technologies. “This has previously been a very costly, and time-consuming endeavor. We’re excited to work with a passionate team who shares our vision to solve hard problems for our community.”
“This is a dream come true for Rokoko,” said Jakob Balslev, CEO at Rokoko. “Unity took the expensive and restrictive tools of game development and made them available to all the creative people who had so much to contribute but never had access before. That is exactly what we want to do with character animation. Understanding human motion is the next frontier and Rokoko will be at the center of it.”
Rokoko is best known for its Smartsuit Pro, an entire motion-capture studio in one markerless suit, enabling creators on all levels to turn any space into a professional motion-capture stage. Popular among game developers and filmmakers, the suit has made a once cost-prohibitive process affordable, accessible, and intuitive to use. The
Motion Library is available to all Unity users today as a native plugin through the Unity Asset Store. Later in 2018, Rokoko will launch The Motion Library to developers on all other platforms at www.motionlibrary.com.
Check out Rokoko’s tech in action in this video featuring mo-cap actor TJ Storm (Deadpool, Iron Man, Godzilla) performing a very empowering Haka:
Conductor Technologies launched its Conductor cloud rendering platform for VFX, VR and animation studios. The first enterprise-grade rendering service of its kind, Conductor is able to offload regular workloads and burst renders in whatever configuration works best for a particular pipeline or project. Fine-tuned through an extensive beta development cycle, it has already enabled productions to scale to more than 36K simultaneous cores and render over 30 million core hours for big-time flicks like Deadpool, Star Trek Beyond, Transformers: The Last Knight, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales and The Walk. Studios which have used Conductor include Vrtul, Riot Games, Atomic Fiction and Magnopus.
Conductor is a cloud-agnostic platform, initially backed by Google Cloud Platform. Support for Microsoft Azure is now in private preview. The platform currently supports Autodesk Maya and Arnold, Foundry’s NUKE, Cara VR, KATANA and Ocula, Chaos Group’s V-Ray, Golaem, Ephere’s Ornatrix, and Miarmy. New partnerships with Isotropix for Clarisse and Pixar for Renderman are being announced at SIGGRAPH, with more to come. Stop by the Microsoft Azure booth #923 for live demos or earn more online.
Epic Games revealed advancements in real-time CG production workflows. Datasmith, a workflow toolkit to simplify moving data into Unreal Engine for architectural and design visualizations (private beta in August; unrealengine.com/beta) was previewed publicly for the first time at the Unreal Engine User Group. Using data from Italian architects Lissoni and designers at Harley-Davidson Motorcycles, Epic’s Chris Murray showed how Datasmith’s 3ds Max plugin and CAD importers enable users to import files that retain visual fidelity to the source, saving hours in data transfer and preparation time, taking the user most of the way to creating a fully interactive, photoreal, real-time visualization experience.
And an Alembic-based pipeline for the creation of high quality animated content in real time was demonstrated. This workflow enables the integration of quality animated mesh transformations with skeletal deformations in the engine, in real time. Developed for the Fortnite cinematic trailer “A Hard Day’s Night,” the tools are available in Unreal Engine v4.17, due early August. More on Epic at SIGGRAPH here.
Google Spotlight Stories is showcasing amazing animated VR projects at the show. In the new VR Theater, catch work-in-progress screenings of Son of Jaguar from Jorge Gutierrez and Sonaria by Scot Stafford and Chromosphere. On Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. in South Hall K, the directors will be joined by Kevin Dart (director, Sonaria), Theresa Latzko (Technical Art Lead, Chromosphere), Cassidy Curtis (Technical Art Lead, GSS), with Max Planck and Chris Horne from Oculus Story Studios’ Dear Angelica for the “Behind the Headset” Production Session. Gutierrez will also feature in the VR Theater Director Q&A with Eugene Chung (Arden’s Wake), Eric Darnell (Rainbow Crow) and Tyler Hurd (Chocolate) that day from 2:50-3:30 p.m. in Theater 411, and hold a Production Gallery Meet & Greet at 4:30 p.m. in the Concourse Foyer, Level 1.
OptiTrack has delivered the “missing links” for arcade VR with two key advancements on display at SIGGRAPH, which mark a huge leap forward in quality of experience and usability for single and multi-site deployments of out-of-home VR.
Designed to deliver accurately moving avatars for each of the participants in a multiplayer VR game, the latest in Full-Body Motion Tracking delivers a low latency, real-time stream of every player’s position, orientation and skeletal pose in the entire playing area. Now participants will see other players through their VR HMDs, significantly enhancing multi-user experiences. OptiTrack Active “pucks” are attached to the hands and feet of each participant, delivering real time animation for each player present in the experience. The pucks are small (3.75? x 3.75?) and lightweight (3 ounces), powered with a rechargeable battery and are designed for the rigors of VR Arcades.
Significantly reducing the day to day operational complexity, as well as the staffing expertise required to run even the largest VR arcades, OptiTrack’s Self Calibrating Tracking Systems remove the need for the “wand wave” that has been a daily component of motion capture and tracking systems for over 30 years. No calibration maintenance is required following initial installation, and there is no longer a deterioration of the calibration over time. It simply produces the very best accuracy that OptiTrack is well known for 100% of the time. Stop by booth 731 or visit OptiTrack online to learn more.
Reallusion revealed real-time face and body motion capture for its iClone 7, following the tech’s award-winning debut. Created in partnership with industry leaders, the dedicated tools turns a single PC into a streamlined (and affordable) ig for character creation, animation and live mocap.
Faceware RT for iClone is a totally independent face mocap tool that uses a highly accurate markerless capture using a regular PC Cam and iClone 7 to achieve real-time facial motion capture recording. This gives indies and studios of all levels access to tools geared for ease of use and performance results for any project, previz, or production. (Available from Reallusion September 2017.)
In order to fully animate the facial capture detail, iClone 7 updated the Character Creator 3D Character Generation Systems to Faceware standards, with up to 60 Facial Morph capability. Features include: compatibility with iClone, Character Creator and DAZ Genesis characters; custom character import via FBX; two face simultaneous capture; feature-based facial strength filters; live face capture and imported image sequence face mask for selected capture; optional mouth blend with audio lipsync viseme; refinement and face key timeline editing; and character morph animation export via FBX.
In partnership with Xsens, iClone 7 is enabled with the Xsens mocap suits and MVN motion capture software. The forthcoming Xsens Mocap Plugin for iClone will join the currently available plugin for Noitom Perception Neuron and add to the live motion capture options for indies and studios.
Check out the new toolsets at booth #1219 or see more online.
Vancouver’s Animatrik performance capture and virtual production house has licensed LEI/Giant technology from film production company Lightstorm Entertainment for use in its work for film, TV, games and animation.
Giant offers a sophisticated suite of tools which provide increased accuracy, realism and efficiency to the performance capture animation process. The technology has been used in films like Avatar and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as videogames.
During the integration of the LEI/Giant into Animatrik’s pipeline, the team managed to push the limits of performance capture beyond what is considered the current world record. Using Giant, Animatrik was able to capture 21 performers in a live capture volume at one time. You can check out the video of the record-breaking achievement here.
Freshman director Soundarya R. Ashwin, daughter of Indian film star and pop culture icon Rajinikanth, will have the distinction of launching the country’s first-ever entirely motion-capture animated feature film next month as the action-packed epic Kochadaiiyaan hits Indian theaters May 9. Rajinikanth himself will voice three of the leading roles in the period film based on the exploits of the 8th century warrior emperor.
Ashwin had previously been developing another 3D animated film starring her father, Sultan, which was shelved due to funding issues. Kochadaiiyaan, a production of Eros International and Media One Global Entertainment, was reportedly budgeted at roughly $ 21 million U.S.
“Animation is a word, a process. In India, people think animation is cartoons. Avatar was animation, but it is not a cartoon,” the aspiring filmmaker told The Times of India in an interview last fall. “Avatar took seven years and so much budget and a James Cameron. There was always the insecurity of the unknown, but we have taken a road never taken in India and broken rules and have completed the film in just a year and a half.”
Video game studio Ubisoft Montreal is going markerless, striking a deal with Organic Motion to use its OpenStage 2 motion-capture system.
OpenStage 2 is designed to reduce costs and increase animation output and quality and is the world’s only professional markerless motion-capture system.
“OpenStage was designed primarily with animators in mind. They greatly value its accessibility combined with professional-level accuracy,” says Evan Simeone, chief product officer of Organic Motion. “Animators can previsualize scenes in order to maximize their time in expensive motion capture studios. Additionally, animators that rely on keyframing rather than motion capture are also finding substantial benefits from OpenStage 2 system. It truly is mocap for animators.”
OpenStage is always on and requires no special suits or markers to operate. It therefore allows animation teams to jump right into the system and immediately begin collecting accurate motion-capture data for previz.
“Iteration is a key factor for increasing significantly the animation quality of any game production and OpenStage 2 is the perfect previz system for us to do this very effectively; it allows us to iterate and validate animation concepts in minutes. It also optimizes the time we spent in our larger motion capture facilities, keeping the animation cost of our productions under control”, said Marc Beaudoin, Technical Director at Ubisoft Montreal. “We evaluated many different systems but chose Organic Motion’s OpenStage 2 because it was the only one that combined ease of use, professional level data quality and extremely low processing time.”