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Featured Artist - Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong

I started out at a very early age in 1978 as a commercial Photographer. Old Nikkormats that weighed half a ton and dish processed BW prints made the cornerstone of my career thereafter which progressed into Industrial and Specialised Glamour/Portraiture Sepia large format photography like to Ansel Adams (Who Pioneered Photography as an ART form for the very first time!) with old 5x4 and 10x8 plate cameras..... but not the Donkeys.

Once Computers had been invented properly and Kodak launched their first online picture library, Digital Photography had to take over because the entire Photographic industry in Europe Shrivelled in 20 months. Flicking back and forth from Aix-en-Provence and Oxford I got involved in internet design and as a freelance gained small contracts with names like RollsRoyce-Caterpillar, Jaguar, I.C.I., Zeneca, S..A.S., to name but a few.

Currently I am a Freelance Journalist, was an Author, am still a writer, who knows too much about the technologies of the Internet but Freelancing reluctantly in that field pays the bills as well as training in Martial arts and Chinese Arts. The days are way too short for my liking. My biggest activity in life?.... Animation. I wanna be Walt Disney II.


When his talent of art meets iClone......

Q: What first got you interested in Reallusion software? How do you know iClone?

I was asked to create something that spoke to the client off a web page. The brief was, "It has to directly address callers. Make them feel as if I am talking to them off the page." I was shown something like palsite that they liked or something equally as disgusting. It was an embarrasing little flash head with wild eyes that followed the mouse (yawn!) like a Zombie. It spoke patronisingly. I thought it was disgusting and hated the site of it. It was phenominally expensive then and would be dependant on the sellers server, NOT mine. Equally disgusting. If you're a Designer/Artist you'll know how annoying that is NOT to be in control.

I put in the search words "TALKING HEADS" into Altavista. I found this wierd company called Reallusion. Their website was appalling I thought. Not corporate enough. But anyway the name sounded like an office presentation so... I looked over the site. Like you do. It all seemed too good to be true. The usual sales hype, I thought. Probably another ugly flash talking head. Anyway... cut to the chase.... I downloaded the trial, as you do, over a cup of tea. I started looking at this Character, a Knight or medieval soldier. I stuck on a wave file, the interface was dead easy to understand. I pressed the play button. My God. The character sync'ed its voice to the mouth and wave file and spoke to me with my voice. "You have to be kidding me!" I said. I cannot cannot explain the feeling of that first sight of this amazing little 3D character suddenly standing there all smug and smarmy with this funny cocky attitude with a simple ambient motion, saying my speech.

Now, I was shocked. I hate being the last to do things. I love being the first. I love new. And THIS, wierd Reallusion eyecloak, or i-clothes or whatever it was called, I couldnt stop talking about this Reallusion to the client. "THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED!" After that contract it was, "GO AWAY! I'm busy!" And Thi-Mai and Chellah started to come to life right from the start. A story I wrote in 1981. I never ever thought it would ever be a Disney production of my own making.

Q: What do you use iClone for in the beginning and what are the ideas for your creations?

After the current Chinese Exhibition in Medieval England.... I am currently theorising on and working towards a wonderfully beautiful 5 miniute short where Thi Mai is flying with me and on my shoulder as I walk down a country lane talking to her. The BioSPhere pack here blends well with real life trees in the background real life footage. Just like the animation enhanced film "Uncle Remus". I am real life "me" video and she is animated mapped footage made in iClone. I am currently working hard on a shadow system to incorporate the actual daylight values of the real world system as the basis for the shadows made by Thi Mai in iClone. I also have a process that allows me to "grain out" the final footage to match the actual video quality of the real life footage, this is 50% of the realism I needed.

I love simple solutions. This is like Uncle Remus Mk. II. And has taken over 170 hours already theorising and testing. I also love impossible challenges. But I will win. I normally do. I have used iClone, otherwise, for simple things like www.rfcmed.com and so on. Clients either loved it to death. Or despised it. Most love it and assume it is chronically expensive to have implemented. My creations? Thi Mai and Chellah are storybook stuff and a perfect ill matched Duo i a love-hate relationship. Thi-Mai always bad tempered in her way, Chellah, Noble Knight and patience stretched by her.... This gives me license for every kind of person of every size from every background with every dietary variation and skin colour and wings and build..... Everything is at your fingertips in iClone. And I mean everything. If you have a winning storyline, the rest is easy.

The latest idea is to incorporate my own real life traditionally created Chinese Paintings by mapping photos of them onto the waving cloth of iClone and hanging them like 15 foot wide Flags on Torch lit flag poles across a wonderful medieval riverside harbour village of old England in the 15th century. The entire setting is right out of my imagination from a Story I wrote 27 years ago. With the advent of BioSphere and all the plants in there, suddenly the film set has become a rich humid environment that now wreaks of the English countryside. Add some Water, the sea. Bridges. Old buildings.. Easy. And thats a fact. It IS easy. Other ideas? F.A..Q. engines. I have one underway. This will be another world first. (Just love those world firsts, eh? :o) ) No one has done this before in this style. You'll see it when its done. Its all hush hush stuff and I have some big name sponsors discussing it currently. Thats all you get there! Language training. "Ease and de-frighten patients by explaining and teaching and educating!" Hospital sites. "Design your own T-shirt" systems using flash as well as iClone generated 3D scene elements. Like iClone but in 2.5D like Crazytalk but simply for fast T-shirt image design, greetings cards etc etc. Faces, eyes, environmental props.BG's. And so on and so on and so on.

The Nature Building Tutorial - 3D Chinese Painting

Q: How do you get the idea to create the video “3D Chinese Painting Exhibition” using medieval pack?

The 3D Chinese Painting exhibition came about because I wanted something that was a 10 minute SHORT that I could use as a months project to display what could be done on a months project in iClone to tempt Clients BUT.... to also entertain anyone who called in to see it. AND.... that they'd watch it again and again because it touched the heart and soothed the senses. My own brief was to make sure it was SO BEAUTIFUL and SO CAPTIVATING that people would be able to watch it over and over again all over the world because of its simplicities and not feel threatened, or see any bias, or find any evil, or see any element that had a negative issue associated. Something that was simple, fairytale, cute, lovable, quant, DISNEY. Now, currently I am annoyed at Europes China-Blindness. Europe refuses to acknowledge China as a Country or have anything of its Art here. So...... After this contemplation I realised it WAS possible to have a silent agenda within my Movie Short. To try and make Europe realise that Chinese Art had been around thousands of years before the West ever picked up a quill. And that China used Writing while we were still slapping our hands on cave walls with coloured mud. Mix my Traditional Paintings with an Ancient England....... I now have something not loud in message to be TOO political, but it carries as a vehicle my own point. At the same time delivers Beauty and Peaceful entertainment and a Musical Tranquility at a "Disney Level".

Q: What’s the benefit of iClone when dealing with 3D scenes and environments (trees and biosphere)?

I would say the biggest benefit of iClone to ANY Animator of ANY level and that means ANY level and age... at version 3.* is the enormous scope of environment that is available even as the standard install. Put in 2D background images or install the ones supplied or build them yourself with the 3D blocks or buy some someone elses made as a third party for a few dollars. Now take the Biosphere pack, with 400 plus variations of Tree, bush and shrub in seasonal differentiation... grasses and meadowland growth and you're now playing God in your own custom World. The main benefit of iClone now is that, in a loose way version 2 to 2.5 was an animators tool for storylines. Now, with the real world environment and Biosphere is the root of this, Rainforest preservationists striving to deliver a friendlier but more powerful message, councillors planning the towns waste lands and wishing to promote their ideas to the people, sports trainers and rugby/footballers discussing tactical advantage and player placement strategies or looking for new talent, estate/landscape designers and garden centre designers (big money) can more convincingly create new sites, school teachers delivering gritty grey education in an entertaining way.... now all have a very simple tool to develop thier clients ideas for very little money but in a way that is super rich with atmosphere and oozing the fantastic. Inspire to Win!

Q: What will you suggest to the new beginners in 3D animation?

If they're an animation wannabe? They'll have already downloaded the trial. But... Don't think about it. Buy iClone. Once you start using it, if you've got Animators blood in your veins, it is not difficult to learn, you'll constantly want more than it can give you. You'll start sretching its limitations very quickly because the learning curve may be initially steep, but its short. Familiarity is all importantly gained very quickly. Once you see your Character speaking in your own custom world, if that doesnt set your hairs on end.... you're not cut out for animation. If it does... you'll have a "DO NOT DISTURB!" sign on your door for the next ten years. It's dangerously addictive. The Two pitfalls I see many people fall into are these. Error 1. Trying to make a character juggle three caterpillars with one hand, write a letter with the other, answer the phone with one foot while cycling to the shops on a monocycle. Leave that to seasoned iCloners. Don't be too ambitious. Build a set. Light it. Add atmosphere. Add some props. Add some colour. Add a voice recording. Do it slowly a step at a time. 2 Kisses for you. K.I.S.S. 1 Keep It Super Simple! Error 2. Singularly the most important thing to newcomers using iClone..... your "takes" should all be between, geenrally, 7 to 17 seconds. Work in this format, add each clip together afterwards, and you'll see that all Disney animated movies are made this way. Next time you see a Disney ANimation start to count at each take, Thousand and one, Thousand and two, Thousand and...... you will rarely get over 7. More over, you'll make progress four times as fast. I promise you. Take it from me. So many poeple I see are daunted by trying for a take way too long. Way too many Camera changes. Far too many lighting conditions to keep track of. Don't do it all in one go.. Be professional. Aim big. Shoot small. Another K.I.S.S. for you. Keep It Super Short. The Chinese have a saying for this... "The beautiuful Mountain is made of many small stones."

Q: What would you suggest the super use for iClone?

Digital Comics of course. www.SiouxieSioux.com iClones very FIRST very sexy Marvel Comic Superhero. Oh yes, she's my creation too. I also do Digital Comics with iClone. Living proof that even iClone version TWO rocked the world. In Europe at this time Japanese and Chinese Digital Comicry doesn't seem to suffer anything about recessions. Markets are still very high and demanding. Personally I think stills for Digital comics, coupled with the amazing Camera systems in iClone NOW means it is ever more easy to create stunningly powerful stills for comic frameworks and also, with iClone, even from version 2, you can create manuscripts to slap on a publishers desk that, if your imagination rocks, will knock his socks off. The other primary issue here is this and I think this is important. It opens that continually overlooked doorway that now allows the Deaf to participate in the 3D world now in this fashion which, if you study the figures.... Digital Comicry is just as money rich as anything else.

Packs used in this artist's creation

City Element - Medieval Village

Biosphere Collction



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