Reallusion iClone4 Pro review

Price when reviewed

Such object animation is the easy part; the real challenge is making your avatars move and act naturally. iClone4’s all-important figure animation capabilities are already seriously impressive, starting with drag-and-drop preset animations based on realistic motion capture data. These tracks can then be fine-tuned by interactively changing poses, including improved control over hand gestures.

The biggest changes are to facial animation. Again, the existing power is pretty extraordinary, with the ability to record or type text-to-speech tracks, which are then automatically lip-synced. iClone4 improves this with bone-level morphing, which lets you take interactive control of your avatar’s facial features as either muscle groups or points.

Yet more powerful is the new Puppeteering panel, which lets you select the facial elements you want to control and set an overall mood, such as sad or happy. Then interactively preview your animation in real time simply by dragging your mouse onscreen. Depending on your choices, your character’s face might follow the cursor, smile broadly, grimace and so on. When you’re happy with the effect, switch to Record mode and quickly build up sequences to bring your actors’ faces to life.

iClone4 Pro

After adding your movements, speech and facial expressions, your finished production is ready for output to AVI, WMV, MP4 or Flash format video. This is where some disappointment creeps in. Even with its newly added support for HDR, IBL and facial animation, iClone’s results are clearly software-generated – more computer game than Hollywood blockbuster.

This might seem inevitable when rendering footage rather than capturing it, but iClone4 Pro might just have the solution with its new video-handling capabilities. You can load video onto any object surface, complete with texturing and blending effects. With Reallusion’s popVideo Converter you can even prepare existing footage with a dedicated mask track, so you can bring in multiple videos of live actors, say, or titles and other special effects that can then be combined with iClone’s 3D capabilities.

Such video compositing is certainly a major feather in iClone4 Pro’s cap. However, in some ways it ends up highlighting rather than closing the gap between genuine live footage and iClone’s generated efforts. The bottom line is that it will be a long time before you can create truly believable movies on your desktop.

Nevertheless, many users will be amazed at what they can already achieve with iClone4 Pro, and it’s certainly good enough for previz, virals and special effects. It’s also – after an unnecessarily steep learning curve – an awful lot of fun. It could pay to take a look at the free EX trial and consider the cut-down Standard version ($80) before committing yourself, but all in all we’re impressed with what iClone4 Pro can do.


Software subcategory Graphics/design software

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