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Featured Artist - Richard Clifton

Richard Clifton

For those wondering where my username originated (C)1st Letter of Last Name + (Ricky) a nickname for Richard = C+Ricky.

My real name is Richard Clifton
I have resided on two continents and in six U.S. States beyond North Carolina. I'm originally from Virginia but currently live in North Carolina.

I am a retired Federal and State Employee. I graduated from St. Leo University with a degree in Liberal Arts. I started in graphics by learning to use 2D animation packages and timelines for editing, but found out that even though I had an Arts degree, I couldn't draw worth beans or draw a straight line with a ruler, which 2D animation required. I then discovered iClone and adapted what I already knew and I've continue to use it since version 1.0 was released.

I have BETA tested quite a few packages related to 3D animation but always come back to iClone as the backbone package. The interface is a lot simpler and the program is easier to use and with better results than some others I have tested. I enjoy using supporting software packages that enhance the iClone output, and when I use them, I always consider how they can be used to further my iClone experience and outcomes.
I have used iClone to visually design plumbing layouts, floor plans for interior layouts, and of course just to let the creative mind expand. I rarely let my mind relax as it then becomes lazy, and dies.

A little background about me: I started off originally in 1986, by playing with coding and learning structure of BASIC (Basic All-Purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) and became certified. My final coding coding assignment was to write a Cash Register program that would ring up separate items, apply a tax, remove items from the register, and eventually tally and print out a register tape similar to what is produced when most people shop today. I doubt they currently use my assignment code, but it was a vast learning experience in code and structure. I later became interested in database management and learned and wrote a program to maintain government accounting of property and receipts, which I left behind when I retired from Ft. Bragg N.C.

I will likely work in some way, shape or form creating for the rest of my life. One day I may create something like Velcro, and become a millionaire. We can all dream can't we?

With this write up actually being stuck in the WWW archives for all perpetuality, I'll stop there. I don't personally contribute to sites, Weblogs and things like Facebook, Twitter, and similar information sites who are busy collecting data. I provide only the bare minimum to the world. Privacy is hard enough to maintain nowadays without exposing your soul. Data Mining is an industry I prefer not contributing to more than necessary beyond what I have stated here which I hope gives you a small understanding of who I am. That's all you get because it's already a matter of public record.




Explore the Development History & Pipeline of iClone

Q: What's your suggestion to new users about iClone pipeline since we have so many external tools like Max plug-in, CrazyTalk, 3DXchange, Nature Builder?

A: I use all mentioned products above, plus a few more. I think people should use what they are capable of using. Not all software is equal in ease of use. I always download a trial version of a new package before deciding on it. If it doesn't give me at least a few days of full use without limitations, then I will not even consider it. I need to know whether it will produce exports that support iClone. I would recommend the following as minimum for new users.

3DXchange4 Test Video - Tuen Static Model to be Animation-ready Content

3DXchange: With it's import and export capabilities, it is a necessity for any and all iClone users.

Earth Sculpture Terrain Editor: One of the easiest terrain editors out there. It allows painting of the terrain and creation of land formations that suit your scenes. So if flat planes just won't do, this is a necessity to have. Take the time to learn it, and you can create just about anything as landscape terrain.

Nature Builder: The basics are this; Even if you only do inside scenery, most buildings usually have windows, and doors leading in. You need some sort of plants or vegetation for your scenes. If it weren't for vegetation and plants in real life, we wouldn't be able to breathe. In iClone the plants breathe life into your scenes.

Photo Editing: Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements are as a minimum the recommended Photo Editors. I also use and recommend Paint Shop Pro for those who need an alternative photo editor. Both work well and can easily be set as a preferred editor in iClone.

popVideo Converter is definitely recommended. It allows image sequenced TGA or PNG to be used as imaged products inside iClone much like displaying a movie in a movie. Placing yourself in a scene or creating image sequenced characters for use in a scene from inside iClone allows an expansion of the base iClone product that stretches your abilities to extend your project without increasing the physical project size other than an external reference to the popVideo itself. Creating and organizing your library of popVideos will, over time, become indispensable in your project building.

With the facial puppeteer option in iClone, CrazyTalk is not a necessity as it was before, but it does have it's own uses such as lip-synchronizing songs or for those needing it's webpage addition abilities.

The following support my efforts but are strictly a personal choice of mine:

Argile: It is a recent trial package I have tried. Considering it has come through with flying colors on import of the iClone /3dXchange object exports and then saving for re-use in a format that can be piped back into iClone, I think it is a great tool for mesh manipulation and painting. It has a small learning curve, but the documentation is well written.

Sketchup is a tool that can create or manipulate existing 3DS or OBJ products if you have the Pro version. Sketchup Pro is a lower cost alternative to 3DSMax, approximately a third of the cost actually. The Google Warehouse has a lot of products created by users to choose from, but they will not always fit your requirements. A personal choice to make if you want to design your own or use pre-made meshes. The free version will edit products but exporting back out is it's limitation. Items created in the Free edition can of course be placed in the Google Warehouse and pipelined back to iclone using the 3dXchange import option.

Blender is a mesh creation and editing tool. If the user interface were better designed it would be a choice to go to for people who need a no-cost alternative to 3DSMax. It has strong abilities, but is built for a specific user base. It takes a determined user of the product to grasp it's interface. It does work however and will export products that can be used or pipelined to iClone via 3dXchange whether they be static props or animations.

Particle Illusion: Create your own sequenced particles and either export to video and re-use in Clone or export them as sequences and pipe into iClone via popVideo Converter. The creations are not individually controllable as the particles in iClone are, but they can effectively enhance your productions in iClone.

The bottom line is, there are many people who want to help you put it all together and iClone is the vessel where it all mixes and happens. If you don't want or are incapable of creating support items for your scene, then admit that limitation and buy from those who do create things for you. There are many sources from which to do this. I support Reallusion and their efforts and products. I currently hang my hat at Clones2go and have to admit, teamwork is always better than individual efforts any day. Find a team to work with or choose to support the ones that support you. It will make your production faster and guarantee that the future will continue for iClone and it's related support tools and developer team efforts.

Q: When did you start to use iClone? How did you know it?

Since Version 1. Initially, I found 'It's Me' and found it an interesting little program. I was informed by Reallusion that it was about to be replaced by a better version. iClone1 was indeed better. I was however fortunate enough to be able to try It's Me as a trial only and eagerly awaited the iClone initial release, which sold me as an instant hit. iClone has continued to get better over the course of its history.

Q: Why does iClone interest you?

Initially I wasn't sure what I would use it for, but it has come in handy for designing plumbing layouts, room layouts for furniture planning and interior positioning, creating personalized videos for peoples birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, etc.. From Head, to Hand, to Hard Drive, your mind is constantly being exposed using iClone.

I was originally using a 2D animation tool before iClone, but the editing of characters required the ability to draw the character first and then physically divide and break the limbs and head away to animate them. It became cumbersome. I have a good imagination, but getting those images from the head to the hand required artistic drawing abilities, which I could do, but "Stick Characters" only go so far. (SMILE)

Q: What do you use iClone for?

A: It allows me to express a bit of my creativity. I look for ways to make others have a better outcome by creating products to support their efforts. Sometimes a hit, sometimes not, but at least I gave it a shot.

Q: How do you observe the change or history among different iClone versions?

From it's initial days, iClone was only capable of doing limited animations based on canned motions pre-defined by the software package and Reallusion developers. Personally I tired of seeing all the dancing videos out there and hoped for more. I did a few myself, so it isn't a detrimental statement saying this, it just got tiresome knowing what the next video clip was going to contain.

The original motion editor was cumbersome to use, but with determination it could be utilized as a separate component to build additional motions. Having a persistent personality, I managed to make it work even though it was a limited output in the early days. With animation software, people need motions, but if you spend all your time making the characters move, then you produce less end results.

iClone developers stepped up and with the current state of the software. It is so much easier to animate using the integrated motion editor. Collecting, Reversing, Breaking, and Merging of existing motions allows an immediate library expansion.

Couple integrated motions are the most difficult to do. When Reallusion Developers come out with a mirroring of motions -vs- reversing only, then they will have created a motion editor that has few boundaries.

The lighting and sound abilities have come a long way also. with the addition of HDR and IBL you can produce Studio quality results where lighting is concerned.

Facial Puppet tools allowing expressive faces, along with more and more external products exports allowed to be piped in, make iClone a collection and production center for any animation people can think of.

There's always room for improvement, yet the developers of the program have always listened to the public. iClone will continue to be a pace-setter software package to be reckoned with when it comes to combining innovative solutions and giving people more than they expected inside a single package. If you put in the effort, the software will give you the tools to build it.

With the current status of iClone as it stands, there are more people showing up on the 3D Stage making increasingly interesting content videos than ever before. So with the evolution of the product there isn't a whole lot that anyone with an imagination, and a mind to get it done, can't do.

Q: What's your experience in iClone 3DXchange? How do you think about this product?

A: I've used 3DXchange since it's release. It started with the basics of importing and adapting OBJ and 3DS exports from other products such as 3DSMAX, Blender, etc. into the pipeline for eventual use in iClone.

3DXChange's upgrade to allow the use of Sketchup models, added yet another source of products for conversion to complement peoples scenes. Much like what the typewriter did for the written article or published book author. It gave them the ability to expand on what they had faster and the ability to expand the chapters of creativity.

Q: In 3DXchange4, Reallusion provides lots of new features, which one interest you mostly?

A: The ability to take existing animal props and convert them to non-human characters is one of the best features out there. It allows joint edits beyond what someone else thinks an animal should be capable of. Now your prop Pig, Dog, Goat, Fish, or Frog can talk, walk like a human, have a drink, sit in a chair, etc.. It's only your efforts and imagination holding you back. If the prop has a bone system, it can be turned into a Non-Human character. Time and money being considered also, you double your animal prop pack contents just by converting them to Non-Humans.

3DXchange4 Test Video - Transform any 3D model with bone-skin into animated characters

The ability to reverse pipeline iClone props or characters back into 3DXchange4 and further edit them using external applications such as Argile, 3DSMax, Blender, Sketchup Pro, etc. and then bring them back again. I'm sure there is more coming to this feature than what I have been exposed to.

3DXchange4 now having the ability to import FBX exports and animations from external products, almost literally does away with the need for the plug-in currently associated with 3DSMax for props and characters. The animations can be further captured by clip sequence or as a whole inside 3DXchange4 and exported for use inside iClone. You can also collect the overall animations inside iClone4 and saved for later use on similar products.

Q: How do you think 3DXchange4 will benefit other users?

A: By having the abilities as stated above, your iClone library will grow leaps and bounds with it's editing capable tools for import and reverse pipeline exporting. It doesn't do it all yet, and it would be a cumbersome tool to learn if it did, but it has come a long way since it's initial days. The ability alone to import FBX more than makes it a required use tool for people who create animated props and characters which are non-standard and external to iClone in anticipated use later inside iClone. 3dXchange4 all but eliminates the need for an additional plug-in for products such as 3DSMax.

For further information visit these videos:
YouTube Main Page
That'll Do Pig 3DXchange4
Grande Piano 3DXchange4
Ghost Writer Prop
Benny On Spiral Stairs
Centaurs Using Dylan and Jana
Rowboat and Motion
MovieBox Prop



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