Wired Magazine recently published a story where writer, Tristan Cross explored how he could recreate his local pub in VR to break away from the confines of quarantine. The big challenge was to create 3D characters for his VR project that resembled his friends in order to create a virtual evening out at the pub together. Here is a brief recap of the article. For the full article: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/i-made-my-local-pub-in-vr
The journey into reproducing Tristan’s local London pub – SKEHAN’S, begins with a discussion about the nature of social experiences in virtual reality and goes directly into the creation of the 3D model using Blender. Tristan’s 3D model of Skehan’s is generated using blueprints provided by the owner of the bar. The project was developed for Unreal Engine and makes use of the Quixel Megascan library for the texturing of Skehans.
Create 3D avatars for a night of virtual drinks at the pub
Once the pub was added into Unreal Engine, Tristan decided to complete it by recreating his friends as 3D avatars for a night of virtual drink. Reallusion was contacted by Tristan regarding the article and we connected along with James Martin and Joel Mack from Georgia State University’s Creative Media Industries Institute. Tristan explained the idea about recreating his friends with Character Creator 3 and Headshot for use in the pub scene, but he wanted to animate them as well.
Tristan enlisted the help of Reallusion, who offers a suite of character animation software used both within the industry, and by people like him, who would be otherwise limited by their budgets, bedrooms and technical knowledge. So Reallusion helped equip Tristan with the tools and a crash course in character design and animation, to help him on his journey!
He diligently set about getting people he know to send passport-style photos of their faces to feed them into Reallusion’s Character Creator 3 ‘Headshot’ plugin.
“Within a few clicks, you can get something which might not be a completely anatomically correct likeness of someone, granted, but is definitely a discernible likeness of them. Given the capacity for those with more patience and talent to export these base models into other programs like ZBrush for further sculpting, or else adjust the vast array of morphs built into the plugin, Headshot is a very exciting proposition for anyone looking to create realistic, fully-rigged characters extremely quickly, cutting out a number of intermediary steps that were previously required.”
Tristan Cross – WIRED Magazine
Motion Captured friends with Xsens MVN Link and Rokoko Smartsuit
Reallusion partners, Xsens and Rokoko joined the project and even during the quarantine period, arranged to assist Tristan with suits and software.
Xsens and Rokoko agree to send me their motion capture suits, the MVN Link and Smartsuit Pro respectively. The MVN Link is a industry-standard lycra suit requiring a fairly demanding amount of set-up and calibration. The Rokoko Smartsuit is an out-the-box jumpsuit, capable of less accurate capture than a properly-calibrated MVN Link but retailing at around £2,500. (It’s around five times cheaper.) Both can be streamed through iClone’s ‘Motion Live’ plugin, into UE4. Both are far beyond the requirements of a depraved quarantine-addled attempt to bring one idiot’s memory of the pub to life.Tristan Cross – WIRED Magazine
Now with all the solutions in place, Tristan was ready to capture his friends for the virtual pub.
He organized a Zoom session with his four dear friends and fellow Skehan’s devotees; Francisco, Megan, Charles and Josh (Rokoko even sent Francisco a suit) and – with the help of John Martin at Reallusion and professional mocap men James Martin and Joel Mack at Actor Capture – he set about animating pints across lockdown.
The final project produced from Zoom video call
The final project was produced from the Zoom video call audio used for general lip sync and motion capture performed via Rokoko, Xsens and iPhone with iClone Motion Live. *Below video contains explicit language.
Even as a first-time character creator and animator, Tristan was able to accomplish the goal and bring his friends to life inside Skehan’s for this VR project in Unreal Engine using iClone and Character Creator.
However, having never animated before, in only a couple of days, he managed to produce a near-ten minute long scene with fully-opposable talking characters. This is something which – not too long ago – would’ve presumably taken a team of people who actually knew what they were doing months. Now you can do it in your room, on your own, for a laugh. Who knows, if you spend enough time on it, you might produce something even better than something which is a cross between a GTA San Andreas Rover’s Return mod and his own, specific fever dreams.