Using Reallusion Tools for Animation Projects

Okai-Farayi Chinyanga shared information about using Reallusion tools and Unreal Engine to create an animation video.


My name is Okai-Farayi Chinyanga (but everyone just calls me Farayi). I am a medical Doctor by Training, with most of my experience being in the emergency department space. My first 2 degrees – Biochemistry and Medicine were completed at the University of Zimbabwe, while my postgraduate training in Health Economics and a Master's in international business were completed at the University of Cape Town and the University of Liverpool respectively. I have always had an interest in how societies work and how to make them work better. It is probably this interest that led me to such a diverse range of studies.

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I am currently working full time on building Formation Animation into an organization similar in scale and ability to Lucas Arts or Pixar. As you might imagine, this is taking up most of my time. We are determined to showcase the wonderful duality of diversity and unity that exists across the continent, and thus we are being very intentional in spreading our recruiting net across Africa.

Our current team is very diverse, with members of the different teams coming from places like Kenya, Ghana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia, and the DRC. Many are individuals that I have worked within various capacities over the years, while others were introduced to me by colleagues who heard about the project and knew of individuals who would be a good fit. As the project progressed, larger organizations such as Sound and Motion studios, which is a cutting edge studio that is responsible for the sound work behind numerous Netflix blockbusters, and Pressure cooker studios, which focuses on music scoring for cinema, joined us to add their expertise to the mix. Azania Rises is a truly authentic African production.

Azania Rises Project

Azania Rises is Formation Animation's flagship project. The story imagines a fully realized African continent in the not too distant future. This version of Africa has overcome its historical challenges, and the 54 counties have united to become a single nation, AZANIA. The story follows Azania's Murwi Unit members, peacekeepers that travel the world to offer humanitarian aid, guidance on infrastructure projects, and was necessary military intervention. Without giving too much away, some forces are not happy about Azania's prosperity and seek to undermine and divide the nation once again, leveraging advanced automated robots to achieve this.  We are working hard to ensure that Azania Rises focuses on people and their stories and shows Africa what can be achieved if we pull in the same direction. 

Reallusion Tools

We were looking for software that would help us create our characters and animate them quickly and easily. Through trial and error and a ton of research, we decided upon CC3 and iClone 7. As a pipeline, they offered everything we needed.

Designing our characters in CC3 saves a massive amount of time that would normally be used to sculpt and model features in other 3D programs. The interface is super easy to use due to it being mostly based on sliders and drag and drop functions.

The awesome SkinGen plugin pushes the realism of the character design, which is what we are going for, allowing for designing intricate skin details right down to the subsurface of the skin. It’s amazing how much control you have in designing subtle imperfections that make every human unique, from scars and blemishes all the way down to the different textures of skin through adjusting Normals.

Animating in iClone is intuitive and easy. Transferring my character designs from CC3 to iClone is as simple as a click. Once the character is in iClone 7, adding animation is as simple as selecting one from a side panel and dropping it onto your character. You can even chain different preset animations together and blend them smoothly. What’s great is you still have full control of the animation as you can use an Edit Motion Layer feature to place your character’s body parts exactly where you want them at any point in the timeline.

I set up the camera in iClone. When I’m happy with the camera settings and movement, I then use the Live Link to send the camera(s) to Unreal Engine where I can then record the character in the Unreal environment. Doing it this way allows me to focus my camera movements as well as character animation in iClone.

As mentioned already, I use an iClone plugin called the Unreal Live Link and What’s great about that workflow is how I can focus on doing all the character animation and camera work in iClone, which is then picked up in Unreal Engine in real-time. It allows me to make tweaks to the animation pretty quickly and on-the-go. It also allows me to then take advantage of Unreal’s VFX capabilities and post-processing volumes and really start to push the cinematic feel of what we’re trying to create.

I think a whole lot more time would have been spent on sculpting, modelling and texturing characters without the Reallusion tools. Not to mention rigging the characters too! Now coming up with a character is as easy as sketching my idea, then getting into CC3 to execute. Animating is as easy as sending the character to iClone for customizing movement, and sending my character to Unreal Engine allows for real-time updates to movements of the character and cameras directly from iClone, thereby bypassing the learning curve of character animation in Unreal Engine. We would never have gotten to where we are now without the time saved by using the Reallusion and Unreal Engine workflow.

Okai-Farayi Chinyanga, CEO at The Formation

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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