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3D Animation Clothing Design (aka my nightmare)

Much like the other base assets provided with Character Creator, clothing options are severely LIMITED. There are a few dresses, a few pairs of standard jeans, some unisex button-ups, and some pieces of fantasy outfits scattered here and there. In short, nothing like what I was wearing in the reference footage I took. Foolishly, part of me thought for the production of this assignment (and for my major research project) I would simply buy assets like hairstyles, shoes, and clothing from the iClone marketplace. I took a glance over their online store right before I bought the software and was immediately impressed with the scope of beautifully designed outfits they had for purchase. I don't know what I was doing or where my mind was (likely tunnel-visioned by the task of buying the software itself), but my brain didn't actually register the listed prices of such assets. They are EXPENSIVE. One, single outfit typically sells for around $20 - $40 USD, and clothing packs (i.e. multiple outfits of the same genre) around $200 - $300 USD.


Examples of "cloth packs" available on iClone Content Store


So, my initial plan would have to be placed on the back burner because I currently don't have the extra funds to be spending hundreds of dollars on clothing - and yes, I would need 20-30 outfits of various genres for my final MRP. Much like the enticing nature of Character Creator's "Headshot" that seemingly offered a quick fix to my production, I had to choose instead to conquer this step the old-fashioned way.


iClone 7 has yet another plug-in available for purchase called "3DXChange" (3DX). Retailing at $399 USD, 3DX is a pipeline used to convert other 3D animation assets from platforms like Maya, Unreal, DAZ, Blender, ZBrush, etc. into iClone 7 compatible elements. The official description reads "3DXchange is a robust, streamlined conversion and editing tool that connects iClone to a universe of 3D content, allowing users to import and export characters, props, and motions."


With a quick Google search, I realized that although there weren't many free iClone 7/Character Creator assets, there were tons of independently designed Blender, DAZ and Maya items available to download at no cost. Better yet, iClone 7 offers a free trial period of 3DXchange for 30 days with a maximum of 15 exports. So I downloaded the trial and, subsequently, some free clothing assets from other 3D animation platforms. A tutorial I found on YouTube by WarLord720 helped me figure out how to import DAZ clothing into iClone 7 and conform as needed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qN8hQsfEPA&t=252s&ab_channel=WarLord720


Although WarLord720 made it look fairly simple, with the 2 main tools being "conforming" the clothes and then "transferring skin weights", I found the process didn't go so smoothly on my end. 3DXchange was only letting me export my DAZ asset as an OBJ file (Objects). So, iClone 7 wouldn't read them as clothes but rather as props. I did an extensive search online on how to convert a prop into a clothing item (so I could conform/transfer skin weights as WarLord did) but came up with nothing! This is when I started to get frustrated. I spent around 2 full days trying to troubleshoot this problem and kept running into walls. I don't know if this is just a feature of the trial version of 3DX or not, but ultimately for the sake of time, I felt I had to move on.


So, I bit the bullet and decided to buy some of those and bought a piece of clothing from the iClone content marketplace. Ultimately, I think that was a rash decision due to extreme stress and frustration, but little did I know my problems would not end there. I ended up purchasing a user-designed "K. Possible" full outfit for $18 USD (not a bad deal). "K. Possible" is obviously the copyright-friendly version of the animated Disney series "Kim Possible" but who am I to judge? I bought the "export" license version of the outfit, which basically means you can use it in your exports and may use it royalty-free.


"K. Possible" not to be confused with the heavily copyrighted "Kim Possible"


I immediately knew I couldn't just pop the outfit on my character and call it day. Really, all I needed was the turtleneck and nothing else. Maybe the pants and wig would come in handy for my MRP, but as far as I was concerned I spent $18 USD on a black sweater out of sheer desperation. The problem was, it wasn't even the RIGHT black turtleneck- just the closest option to match my reference footage. I do not wear crop-tops ever and I certainly wasn't wearing a crop-top in my video, but I knew there had to be a way to fix that. Just my luck, Real Illusion's official YouTube page (which to be honest I hadn't really been watching up until this point) had a REALLY helpful tutorial on how to modify clothing assets in Character Creator. In addition to "conforming" and "transferring skin weight", this tutorial also taught me you can make a "mesh" out of your outfit - manipulating specific aspects of the asset like width, height, and scale. Also, I learned you can pinpoint specific vertexes of your mesh and manipulate your cloth section by section (i.e. stretch out the back, the front, or the side of the asset). What that meant, in my case, is that I could pull the sweater bottom of the sweater down without affecting the neck/top of it. There is also a really helpful sculpting tool that allows you to mold sections of the cloth and smooth out any errors. It's time-consuming, yes, but it works. Using these tools, I manipulated and sculpted the turtleneck AND created a pair of simple pair of black jeans. The jeans were a Character Creator base asset (low-rise "trouser" pants), but I needed them to be high-raise, covering the stomach. So, using the tools described in the official Real Illusion tutorial, I went to work. What the timelapse below shows is not my first attempt, nor was it my second attempt at cloth editing. I believe this was my third or fourth attempt to finally get the clothing manipulation and sculpting tools right. But eventually, I did it.


Don't be fooled, this timelapse was actually 40 minutes of screen recording (and my 3rd or 4th attempt)


Real Illusion Cloth Editing tutorial here (highly recommended): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvZWoN-isks&ab_channel=Reallusion


At the end of this experience, I can't say clothing is my strongest suit. It was frustrating and time-consuming even when I took the "easy" way out. I'm not proud of the fact I couldn't make my own assets or properly convert a Blender sweater into an iClone compatible outfit but at the end of the day, I'm learning so much and can only do what my schedule allows. I'm happy with the end result and it was the product of time, sweat and tears. This might be, so far, my biggest challenge heading into my MRP.


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