a) I am writing in response to this post in the "Filmmaking versus Animation" thread: https://forum.reallusion.com/FindPost354832.aspx
b) You don't have to read that entire thread but plead to read at least the one post I linked to.
c) This could, and probably should, become its own thread, but I'm not quite ready to start it yet. But I wanted to step out of the established thread for this side conversation.
I am going to reference one of my own projects. Not to boast, since I know it's full of flaws, but I think I can use it as a good foundation on which I can make some comments.
ANIMATING TO A SCRIPT:
In this case, I wrote the script, nearly in its entirety, before starting any significant iClone work. So in that case, I was animating to a script.
I did some technical proofs-of-concept before getting too far into the project, but I did not do any storyboarding I went straight from script to iClone.
BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE SCENE:
A man has kidnapped a lady. Until now, we haven't really known why, or what the connection was between them. In the scene immediately preceding this one, her boyfriend (Pinhead) was asking for help in rescuing her, and that person suggested Pinhead tell him more about the kidnapper. That is where we cut to this scene.
It should start at T=19:27 and run to 21:07 (1min 40sec)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnASRNU8vn4&feature=youtu.be&t=1167
A core feature of this "film" is it was a semi-musical format, using *existing* songs. That meant I had limited control over the duration in some places. It also made the script writing very challenging in places. There were a couple songs I really, really wanted to use, and the lyrics were perfect, but the genders were wrong. You can't have your leading man sing with a female voice half-way through the movie. It really made me appreciate a filmmaker who can have custom-written music, performed specifically for his movie.
Because it involves singing to a music track, the normal audio-to-viseme method would not work - the music interfered with the words. It also meant the text-to-speech method would not work because the speed and timing would change drastically. My solution was to speak/chant the words into my microphone in time with the music for audio-to-viseme generation. It still took a lot of viseme cleanup to make it better. I think I did a pretty good job of cleaning up a few songs, and some parts turned out pretty well. The song in this scene represents a mediocre "singing/viseme" result. (A couple others were left in a horrible state because I of the project's deadline date.)
MY FILMMAKING CRITIQUE - POSITIVE:
This scene is a bit of backstory and exposition, but I had to explain WHY the villain kidnapped her. I thought I did a reasonable job of it. (Others may disagree, of course.)
I think most the "acting" is reasonable. I still like most of the basic gestures and hand and body motions in terms what the director (me) wanted.
Is "acting" in this sense a filmmaking or an animation critique? Consider when she gasps and covers her mouth at 20:35 as she realizes this is all the result of a romantic obsession. I call that "directing and acting" which I think puts it into the filmmaking category.
MY FILMMAKING CRITIQUE - NEGATIVE:
My wife really thought I got too "dark" as the scene faded out. Not in terms of the lighting, but it may have implied an even darker turn of events than I intended. I wanted her to be in a certain amount of peril, but no, he is not going to rape her.
At 20:03-20:08 I wanted her to follow his hand motions because I thought that would be a natural thing to do. I think I overdid that a bit (I'm calling that a "director's" error, not an animation error.)
I'm mostly satisfied with my camera work. There is always room for improvement, but overall I'm okay with it.
MY ANIMATION TECHNIQUE - POSITIVE:
Repeating myself, I am generally pleased with the main "acting" animations - the hand motions and most of the head motions.
I was also quite pleased with the "physical" interaction between the characters, such as when he grasps her hands at 20:52 and also when she pushes back against him at 20:57. The hand interaction is not perfect, but acceptable to me (especially if you don't go frame-by-frame).
MY ANIMATION TECHNIQUE - NEGATIVE:
Well, that could fill a book.
The faces are largely expressionless. This scene was typical of my lack of "eyebrow" and other facial animations. I did it in small places, but again it fell victim to one person working on a large project with a deadline. It sure would have been a great time to have Faceware to capture all the emotional acting without all the painstaking animation.
There is also a lack of "life" when they aren't doing any specific acting. They typically become mannequins when they are waiting their turn to talk. The standard "idle" motions wouldn't work, but some breathing would be nice, and any small motions to add some life.
I also cheated where the villain "walks" forward at 20:42. He just slides forward. That's partly because I still find it challenging to have avatars walk short distances and stop at precise locations. In a different scene I tweaked a similar "glide," adding a touch of up-and-down motion to the body, which still isn't perfect but is a big improvement to a simple translation.
Lighting was close to default lighting. Sadly, that was one of the main things I wanted to do a better job on when I started the project, but it got left on the back burner again.
My "jail cell" set has some very rudimentary textures. What I used helps tell the story, but they are certainly nothing to be proud of.
And the shadows! I had trouble with them. They were so blocky. In some scenes they were even worse than in this scene. Part of that was my fault, I'm sure, but it also shows again the huge improvements made from iClone 5 to iClone 7.
Hair. The girl's hair had no physics, and goes into her body. The villain's hair it a bit too big for his head, but I couldn't simply scale it down or it had other problems. This predated Character Creator with conforming hair.
I don't know if this added to the "filmmaking versus animation" discussion or not. Feel free to comment here, especially agreeing or disagreeing with my comments in this post.
You can also critique my video if you wish. Technically, most of my iClone videos end with what I would call a "pre-vis" quality. As a personal focus
, I'd rather tell a decent story with low-quality video than the inverse
. As a film, I feel the first third or so is rough, and could use some editing to make it tighter, and at least one of the songs is sort of forced into the script and should maybe be cut out, though I'm pretty satisfied with the "film" aspects of the second half (relative to the vision I had).
iClone 7... Character Creator... Substance Designer/Painter... Blender... Audacity...
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