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Review of iClone 3 With 3DXchange

Finalizing iClone Creations - iClone Review Part Two

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

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iClone
Image Courtesy Reallusion

Director Mode

I found this feature confusing at first, but once I got a handle on it, I liked it. iClone lets you play a movie in director mode while you edit live changes. You can use your keyboard or a game controller to move your characters as you go.

Timeline Editor

The iClone Pro offers an advanced timeline editor with tracks for every character, element and prop. This is the sort of control you need for advanced editing, and it's the main difference between the standard and pro edition. Ask yourself if this feature is worth $100 to you. If you do any sort of precise editing, it probably is.

Multiple Cameras

You can add multiple cameras to your scenes. This is vital to anyone who wants to recreate any sort of cinematic experience. Cut between two cameras or smoothly fly around a scene. Add some depth of field and animate it to change the viewer's focus.

You can link cameras to objects or characters to move with a character or object or you can set them to remain stationary but pivot to follow.

Camera tools in iClone are very sophisticated for a tool at this price point. Not only can you program cameras to follow objects, you can also direct your actors to look at the camera. This makes shooting dialog scenes much more convincing.

Special Effects

You can add explosions, fog, glowing glitter, and rain to your scene with particle effects. Particle effects are definitely tools for the advanced user, and they may strain some computers to process them, but it adds a lot of depth to a scene.

Export

You can render your final movie in a variety of formats from full HD (1920 X 1080) to Flash Video. I did have trouble with some exports not showing the full animation I thought I'd created, but this turned out to be user error.

YouTube Format

You can render YouTube optimized video by selecting the YouTube optimized size option and then outputting an FLV (Flash Video) file. It would be nice if this were a preset option that didn't require two choices. Better yet would be an automatic "upload to YouTube" button.

The Bad

iClone is full of features, but those features mean that there are a ton of buttons and a lot of options. The menu is complicated and difficult to approach for beginners.

There are some great tutorials on using iClone, and Reallusion provides a free unlimited trial edition for learning, iClone EX. Even so, I'm a launch the software and figure it out as I go gal, and that just wasn't possible with iClone.

The other hurdle for iClone users is the video card requirements. To get the best effects from iClone, you should have a GeForce 8 Series or higher or an ATI HD 2400 or higher card. If you are a gamer, you probably already have an advanced enough video card. Otherwise, your computer will not handle all of iClone's features, so try the free trial first.

The Bottom Line

iClone 3 Screen CaptureImage Courtesy Reallusion
I thought the idea of iClone was pretty neat, but I didn't have a lot of expectations for the capabilities. I was pleasantly surprised. This is an affordable solution for anyone who wants to tell stories without spending a fortune on a super expensive high end software package.

There are a lot of add-on programs you could get with iClone, but 3DXchange is the addition most worth it. It's only an extra $20, but it opens up the huge library of models within the Google 3D Warehouse. You can also buy iClone Pro, 3DXchange, and CrazyTalk Pro in a bundle for $299.95.

If you're interested in iClone, I'd suggest downloading their trial version, iClone EX and playing with it yourself.

As is customary for reviews, I was given a fully functional software download for testing.

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