iClone7, 3DExchange Pipeline, and Character Creator 2
Long Post but may help others. Also have some nice pics to show differences. I have done searches for good detailed reviews of iClone# and Character Creator 2. The pickings are slim. Also to do a good compare to DAZ is solid since it is obvious that RL made CC2 with A LOT of DAZ familiarity with morph sliders and such. Even the models are really close...but just slightly different.
I will start off by stating that i am looking for solid fidelity in both animation and characters. The game is leading edge right now but with a 'Solid' computer I am easily running 60fps so the tech is here.
For visual fidelity...this is what the character/player will run around in. Trees not shown since this is a landscape render test...but everything on this 'Fits'
And my long time partner and base model...Brighid (Generation 4...and highly customized G2 model). Brighid and Clothing all comes in at less than 80k Poly with 2k textures. You can see she looks fantastic with perfectly fitting clothing.
This is rendered in my special Unity v2018 'Black Room' designed to test how textures and normal maps are working in a 3D real time environment.
I have been with DAZ for a long time now. At first the system was frustrating but as DAZ Studio Pro improved and I became better using the tech (a lot of trial and error/notes) it can be a very good character development platform. Genesis 3 and 8 improved/changed some things but Genesis 1 (Creatures/Humanoids) and Genesis 2 (Player and NPCs) are the go to in my opinion. Yes they have to be optimized...but I can get them down to 8 draw calls in a game engine at 32k poly. Not bad and UE4 and Unity both have no complaints. So what about this new iClone7 & CC2 look?
I purchased iClone5 and 3DExchange PRO but did not like the iClone Characters. Just too Ugly. I quickly found out that I needed the PIPELINE version and it was NOT very clear on the web page! I was just a bit irritated...so iClone5 was simply deleted. Now I know better so I had a good email deal with RL and had a good look at this new iClone7. I also took a solid look at the CC2 and the upcoming CC3...looks great. Time to buy! So I bought...then bought some packs I HAD to have to make some Real Comparative Tests...so down slightly over $1,000 USD in the RL iClone7 stomach punch. Not an issue IF I can use it still as an animator for DAZ G1/2 (is built right in...mainly).
iClone7 and 3DExchange Pipeline:
First thing first...DAZ G2 to iClone7 and animate then back out to UE4. Done and Done. Easy Easy. The only part that is easy to miss is ADDING the imported animations to PERFORM...I mean...not really complaining BUT I am already Importing the Animations that I want to export...why the additional step?
The process is excellent and the results work really well. There are some nice tutorials to get the process in the head but all in all...very painless. Ok...Huge Win for iClone7!!! I also simply love the ease of animation and the facial animations via blendshapes (morph targets). Crazy easy and I am now implementing my voice generics into the 'pipeline' to have that facial live flavor. I was doing all this via scripts! Ohhh the agony of making blendshape recipes then scaling how fast they are supposed to change during an emotion or speech 'sound'. Uggggllllyy! Now...iClone7 is super sexy and easy! Love it.
Character Creator 2:
So I fired it up and of course make good attempt at creating Brighid in CC2, without upsetting her. =). So that I did and with lots of fiddling and learning all the CC2 mechanics I finally came up with a good workflow to make characters and Brighid actually looks really good. Here are some pics. The pics are rendered in iClone7 at the highest possible rendering I could do as well as a lot of tinkering with lighting. Too much tinkering to be honest.
You can see here there is a little nipple poke through on the iClone7 provided bra. Easy enough to fix with a morph target adjustment when changing clothing in game (If even morphs can be exported...not sure on this one yet =) ). All in all she looks great and would be suitable to walking around in a high fidelity environment. The lighting will be better in UE4 and Unity and I would have to heavily modify the skin textures to give them a bit more 'feel'.
What is surprising...is the poly count on both my optimized G2 and CC2 are almost equal. So the fidelity is definitely in updating the skin textures on CC2.
So here is the RUB on CC2. RL has a DRM .fbxkey that makes the creation of things inside the 'iClone' environment...specifically Character Creator...and it is completely undocumented on HOW to make that. I downloaded all the Base Files from RL which also HAVE key files within them. Not one of them worked with CC2 (and iClone 7 possibly). So I watched a few youtube videos and saw how they were importing clothing and hair. Mike Kelley (@Kelleytoons <= I think??)
has some fun videos about making the dress dummies. When he exports it looks like he is not using the base...in any case. After 2 frustrating days of making Dressing Dummies for Male and Female I was just about to throw in the towel on CC2. Then over breakfast coffee I decided to try the Base Nude Female. Whalla...it completed the Export and I had a key file. Cool...next step...import my FBX from Blender! Epic Fail after Fail after Fail. This IS JUST F-ING Hair! Come On! It is Rigged TO the Base Nude that was exported! I KNOW what I am doing! Well...I ACCIDENTALLY did not Unclick the CC_Base_Body after I did the Weight Painting step...but I did go to Object Mode as normal then exported. THIS TIME it imported. Which means the actual model must be in the FBX when importing back in. WTF? What kind of stupid....gahhhhh. Here are the pics of the Export and the error it gives if not exporting the FBX properly from Blender (using v2.79b).
Mesh Matching in DAZ (much easier I found than doing it in CC2). Grey is G2 and Purple is CC2 Base Nude OBJ
The only one I was able to get to work. No cloue how to do the male. lol
So now that I was able to get the Hair in I had a look and it was 'Ok'. Need to set up the textures in a different way so that they will render properly in the sbsar that iClone uses. I set to both PBR and Traditional (??...the other one =) ) which looked better in my opinion. Ok...so now to bring in the clothing that is shown on Brighid in the first pic up. That will be a comparative test. Well...I got it in but it needed work. Meaning there was a number of textures I left out of the mix that iClone7 needs to do things. Meaning xNormal magic and Photoshop painting. Really? What? How? Why o Why? The clothing when I bring it from DAZ into UE4 requires 'a little work' to resize to 2k/1k square then also to make a good normal map. If various colors are needed...make layers and chop chop and sandwich in Photoshop. Easy Peasy. Easy to switch the textures at runtime as well. Yes...I know the texture can be changed in CC2...but when you click on the button it very often does not remember what folder the previous texture selected was from. Software bug likely (I do not install in Program Files folders and RL allows a custom install)...but how does this get past QC? So the work around is to copy the desired textures to the folder iClone7 and CC2 choose....and continue testing and playing.
The substance layering takes some getting used to but has some really nifty features. Then simply bake them out in a texture. This makes for A LOT of textures for changeable clothing style system in an RPG/Survival type game. The result looks great and the layering of the normal maps work really well. Plus here!
Also...iClone7 and especially Character Creator 2 like to 'Phone Home' when they are executed. iClone7 is simply much more quiet about it but Character Creator 2 is simply in your face reminder! I despise Phone home software. I bought this version with Pipeline for a solid chunk of money. I have license numbers and plugged them in while enabling the software. I do not want or need to be 'connected' to 'use' the software. If it works...it works...if not...I complain and/or grab a patch to make it function. Then pull the plug on RL. This kind of practice leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I do OWN iKinema Web Animate standalone and it is happily running without being connected. And works as good as iClone7/3DXChange for converting animations to a skeleton.
iClone7 and 3DExchange Pipeline is really the must buy unless you will be very specifically NOT doing any exporting. Eventually you are going to want to export and try things out. Or better yet when you show off your nifty 'stuff' someone says hey...would you mind doing work for us...we use C4D for our other work...can you mesh with it? Ummm...nope. So if going the iClone7 route for some serious development or even the future development projects....have to buy Pipeline. You can see the RL ploy here as well. They also charge a hefty premium for the Export version...ok...I get it but it is a steep increase (DAZ just changed to the 'Interactive License' on products which in the same line of thinking). I don't blame them though. They are a business and need to make money. Ok I get it...but it is a bit deceiving. My opinion.
I am convinced now that I will be using iClone7 and 3DExchange Pipeline for the UE4 workflow fully. iKinema Web Animate does the animation solving/conversion but iClone7 just has sooooo many more features and is really easy to use. Which allows me to do 3D Art and Game Coding. I am not an animator...I tried but it is simply just 'different'. So why not let a tool do the heavy lifting for me? iClone7 has done that very well. 3DExchange is the connection (DRM Party) powerhouse that converts the iClone7 proprietary formats to FBX/OBJ Real World usables. It works really well. No issues at all.
Character Creator 2 is just a play toy wanting to be a dutiful character creator in a 'True Design' workflow. The sliders work identical to DAZ and they do exactly what you would expect them to. When opening CC2 the window layout is loaded into an setup that requires adjusting of the Side Panes....every time. I have hit Save Layout many times but it simply does not 'Remember' the saves....or perhaps it never saves them in the first place. CC2 does not state it is a Beta...but with the new CC3 being released soon-enough...it sure still seems like it is a Beta. It does function and making custom avatars works. There is simply too much clicking to make this a fluid workflow. After some time (I did an 8hr character creation assembly test with coffee and lunch breaks...so 10hrs total time) it chews on the wrist. I find that I am really mashing the mouse buttons to keep from having to Z/X/C while making adjustments. What i ended up doing to help 'Soften' this is to purchase the really good RL Heads Pack (again...Export Version) along with Essential Skins (Export) along with some Hair Packs (Export) along with.....anyhow!..moving along.
CC2 is just not there. The quality is good enough but the workflow process is just not fluid. So I am simply sticking with DAZ Studio Pro and Blender since the fluid workflows already set in place for character development. iClone7 and 3DExchange are becoming integrated in the animation workflows now. I have someone that wants to do this stuff as long as they have a process to follow in place...I can do that for them. Which also allows me to do some animations that I have ideas for and lets me play.
Thank you for reading and thank you to RL for making a really solid iClone7.
Olander (Don Anderson)
Edit: added a facial shot of DAZ Brighid
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