How Cartoon Network Africa leveraged iClone real-time software for dance challenge

Indie director Benjamin Sokomba Dazhi shares his behind the scenes.

When Cartoon Network Africa was looking to produce the dance instructional series ‘Dance Challenge’, they brought on Nigerian animator and director Benjamin Sokomba Dazhi (popularly known as Benny Dee) to bring a range of animated characters to life.

Using motion capture and keyframe animation, Dazhi delivered the dancing characters using Reallusion’s iClone as his central tool. Indeed, as an independent creator in Nigeria, the animator says it has been iClone’s ease of learning and ease of use that has enabled him to produce professional animation almost entirely on his own.

Making ‘Dance Challenge’

The process Dazhi followed to craft the characters for Cartoon Network Africa’s ‘Dance Challenge’–in which kids are taught different African-inspired dance routines–started with concept and reference art. Then he used Reallusion’s Character Creator to build the base characters. “I used the parameters in Character Creator to make them more stylized and more kid-friendly, not too realistic.”

“After I was done with the creation of the characters, I went into the animation process,” adds Dazhi. “This is where I used mo-cap suits from Rokoko for the dance motion capture. That was later transferred to iClone for the final set dressing and to set the stage for the final result. So I used iClone for the final software to create the whole cinematic camera lighting and the overall look of the project.”

Dazhi hired a professional dancer for reference.
More dance reference from the pro dancer.
A Rokoko mocap suit was used to get the dance moves into 3D space.

Lip-sync, done easily

For Dazhi, iClone became a way to ease himself into the animation process that he might not have been able to do so quickly with other tools.

One feature the director used, in particular, inside iClone was the lip-sync system AccuLips. “That helped me a lot in the creation of the Cartoon Network project,” advises Dazhi. “As an indie creator, it aided me to achieve better realistic facial animation and lip-sync. Since it is being driven by text and audio technology, it was easy for me as well.

“Mixing and matching the AccuLips lip-sync with the body mocap brought the whole character to life,” adds Dazhi. “It is something that has really been a major challenge for indies, since having to get a very expensive facial mocap camera is not easy for indies to do. The AccuLips technology brought out the facial animation accurately and the body mocap done with the Rokoko suits also came out well.”

Dazhi’s home set-up.

iClone as an indie tool

Reflecting on the Cartoon Network Africa dance project, Dazhi is thankful that he had adopted iClone early on in the process, and that he could master it quickly.

“iClone was easy to learn because iClone itself is a very user-friendly software,” says Dazhi. “It’s a software that, at first glance, I am able to understand most of the fundamentals, the parameters and the user interface. The tutorials and guidelines that were offered on Reallusion’s YouTube page also helped me.”

“I highly recommend iClone for independent creators,” continues Dazhi. “Not all animators are able to set up a big studio with a large workforce. iClone has simplified the animation process, and made the workflow very flexible and user friendly. For any indie creator looking to do big projects but don’t have a big team, iClone is the best tool available right now.”

Brought to you by Reallusion: This article is part of the befores & afters VFX Insight series. If you’d like to promote your VFX/animation/CG tech or service, you can find out more about the VFX Insight series here.

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