Never one to sit on its heels, Reallusion has released an update to iClone 8’s Motion Director that gives us a powerful new animation tool with its React to Surface feature. One of iClones longtime weaknesses was the ability to climb objects like stairs, hills, and mountains. If you had a terrain with a proper bounding mesh, one that mimicked the terrain then you could go up and down that terrain while reacting to the bumps along the way.
The trouble with this method is a lot of prop and terrain bounding meshes are simple rectangular shapes or other primitives. These primitives do not mimic the actual shape and do not allow an object to follow the terrain properly. This also presents problems with planting trees, grass, and other plants that follow the terrain contours. They will generally stick to the top and sides of the bounding box… not the terrain mesh.
In iClone you can always check the bounding mesh with the mesh toggle in the Scene Manager. Each item has its own toggle within its row. The terrains are different in that you must convert them to props before you can view the bounding mesh. I have no idea if this process assigns a simple mesh or uses a native bounding mesh that comes with the terrain.
The new Snap to Surface toggle and the controls for tweaking the surface contact including climb and fall limits.
While we’ve had terrain physics for a long time it is still primitive in its end use so not really an answer to every need. With vehicles, it could work but characters were another story.
Even snapping the path to things like stairs became problematic because of the jitters the character would have when constrained to that path as it traversed the steps. It was painful to watch and hard to control the view via camera angle. You can’t out-angle a jitter… just cut away and there are only so many cuts before that gets tedious.
Now those days are behind us, and I hope we continue to get improvements, but this first iteration is much easier to use. It accomplishes the task to move a character just about anywhere or any terrain within point-and-click or gamepad control. While it does have some ability to anticipate height changes it’s not perfect. There will still need to be some creative editing, but the process is much simpler and can take minutes instead of hours.
In fact, walking in general has proven to be a source of frustration for many new or less experienced iClone users. This new feature makes this a point-and-click endeavor using Motion Director with your mouse and the alt button to set waypoints and that is just one way.
The new feature is easy to use as it only takes a few minutes to learn depending on how familiar you are with Motion Director already. If you’ve never seen Motion Director before then you may have to learn a few basics but as it matures and allows us to make custom motions this will become a valuable, go-to tool for movement.
I have had a lot of fun throwing different obstacles out there and seeing how a character reacts to walking over them. Even in some extreme cases finessing the camera could make it a workable scene. Climbing a hill or mountain is now possible with minimal effort once you practiced the route a few times.
Motion Director’s React to Surface is just another great feature from a company that is serious about animation tools.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.