Family Portrait

According to an irritating little pop-up I get every time I open my iClone trial version, I have nine days left to figure out how to use it.

Not likely to happen.

But I have made progress. Because the software as a whole completely overwhelmed me, I decided to focus on just one aspect of it at a time. It’s taken the entire month, but I’m confident now about puppet creation and the face mapping technology unique to this platform. I’ve learned to make and import hair, retexture and alpha-edit clothing using  iClone’s built-in features (as opposed to using Milkshape and SimPe, as I had to do with Sims 2), and tonight I experimented with motion layers. Saving, recording, and filming a scene is still beyond me, but I did succeed in photographing my little puppet family in some very convincing poses. I’ve uploaded a few for your entertainment—or for use as scarecrows when you plant your garden next spring.  :-0

I still have much to learn. Set creation, shadows and lighting. Camera technique. Animation sequences. Soft body and hard body physics. Motion capture. Gaah! Makes my head hurt just thinking about it.

But you know, seems like I remember feeling exactly that way when I downloaded the trial version of Milkshape. And when I opened a SimPe package file for the first time. Two things occur to me: first, just as it is today with those programs, so it will be after I’ve spent a little more time with iClone. And secondly, all those hours I spent meshing and recoloring and pulling my hair out trying to learn 3D modeling for the Stonehaven machinima were NOT wasted. That experience is paying off in spades now.

The iClone process is actually much simpler than anything I’ve done before. Retexturing is done within the software itself—there’s even a “launch” feature that opens my graphics editor from the main panel. But for all this ease of use, if I didn’t already know how to alter a texture file or do a clean alpha edit, I would be even farther behind the eightball. Six months of creating custom content for the Stonehaven video put me ahead of the curve and gave me an excellent foundation to build on.

Now for the pictures.

First, the real deal. This is a group shot of my family taken a few days ago while my son Jay was visiting:

Next are screenshots I made of us as iClone puppets. I made the Scott puppet first, and I see such a difference in quality between it and the others that I’ve decided to remake him. That will be my project for tomorrow. I was fairly satisfied with my own likeness, and Jay’s turned out pretty well, too. (He chose this hair for the puppet while he was here, because it looks like his did before he went stupid and buzzed it all off.) But the Laura puppet (my daughter)—holy cow. It looks more like her than the photo up there. How does that happen, I wonder?


10 responses to “Family Portrait

  1. That’s just amazing! The whole thing sounds complicated, though. I still don’t understand how it’s done, not having ever tried these programs before. It’s pure magic to me.
    And you have such a cute family! 🙂

  2. Well done, Rhonda.
    I love the puppets you’ve created.
    You’re so sensible in your thought process too. That calm, still voice inside guides you on a straight path. You should always listen. You know you can learn, and you’ve given yourself an extra shot of patience.
    But tell me, will you need to purchase the software to continue? I heard a whisper about you entering a competition to win the package free. Have you done that?
    How wonderful to work with clones of your own family. The technical aspects astound me but you’ve achieved wonders.

  3. Another thought about:
    ‘But the Laura puppet (my daughter)—holy cow. It looks more like her than the photo up there. How does that happen, I wonder?’
    What we see and what we perceive are mixed. The camera is all about reality. Our emotions influence our acceptance of that. I guess everyone sees a different thing. Like different people’s memory of an event. The mind is powerful.

  4. Thank you, Amanda. I think my family’s pretty cute, too. 😉 It’d be a darn nice picture if you just snipped me out of it. . . .

    Anyhoo, I’m anxious to get started on Sygyzy. But I don’t know if files I create with the trial version will work in the full version–they should, shouldn’t they? Still, I’ll probably wait until I have it to create anything for the trailer.

    Which leads me to Francene’s question. Yep, I did enter Stonehaven in the Harb40 Passion Competition this year. The deadline was November 12, so now we’re just waiting for results. There were some strong entries, so I’m not feeling very smug about winning that software. I’ve put my request in to Santa just in case.

  5. WOW! I am amazed at all this. Beautiful job Rhonda.

  6. “Bring me to life” – you have such a gift for that, Rhonda, along with such a lot of hard work and persistence behind each image you create! How fun to see your family photo moving around (think “Harry Potter”) and changing poses! And what an all-star cast – you all look GREAT – Scott looks like an actor but I can’t think who. If you use these clones in your films, ooh, what a way to become actors! How FUN! Next time the work load is daunting, keep reminding yourself this is **Fun**. And ditto what everyone else said. Your technical skills are far beyond me. I can’t wait to see Syzygy! (And to hear the contest results!)

  7. It’s nice to finally meet you and your family!
    I am also playing around with iclone. Unlike you I have been running around unorganized so I have grasped nothing! After reading your post I shall slow down and take it one step at a time!
    Thank you for sharing!
    I’m also hoping you place in the competition so Santa can get you something truly special!


  8. Hey Rhonda! Nice to meet you:) Lol. I agree, your family is cute. So you’re one of the lucky ladies that got your boy and your girl huh? (I do love my two boys but always wished for a girl) Anyway, all the best with everything. You did a fantastic job. Iclone seems to be way more versatile than the Sims, not that I’m playing down your skills. I’m sure it took some doing. Keep going, we know something great will come out in the end.

    Ps: How in the world do you pronounce: “Sygyzy”? I’ve never seen a word with so many ‘y’ s. Lol!

    • Okay, Amanda Borenstadt. That’s your cue. How in the world DO you pronounce “Sygyzy?” LOL!

      Odara, you are absolutely right that iClone is more versatile than Sims. And in its own way, much easier. What makes it so challenging is that the puppets don’t do anything whatsoever on their own. You have to direct every single movement or expression. You can even control the eye blinks. But I think this will be advantageous in the long run. By the time I finished filming Stonehaven, I was pretty much doing that anyway–custom-making all my animations and controlling the Sims like puppets.

      I do find myself missing The Sims very much. So I’m quite sure I’m not finished with it as a medium. But I know I can never use it commercially, hence the experimentation with iClone. I see no reason in the world why I can’t produce machinimas with both. 🙂

  9. LOL Rhonda. You’re as bad as I am. I’m is so few of our family photos, the kids will one day forget they had a mother. 😛

    Syzygy = Siz-i-jee.(both i’s are short) Or you can go here and listen to a guy say it.
    To be honest, I never pronounce the z sound. Sloppy talker, I guess. I always make it sound siss-i-jee.

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