Erik Larson (Libertas)
Born in Chicago, Libertas started out with a passion for filmmaking at an early age, and since he’s had a desire to tell grand and fantastical stories featuring brave heroes on epic quests in lush and vibrant worlds, much like his Assassin’s Creed-inspired micro-short film “Modern Assassin Training Session”.
Libertas admits to always dreaming bigger than his shoestring budget could afford. Even still, he loves creating characters and their costumes to see them come alive, especially in his Youtube short films. Outside of his day job as the Manager of Videography and sole 3D generalist at his company, he spends his free time, once again, dreaming big and crafting new characters, costumes, and props for his digital actors who are instrumental in bringing his epic stories to life for the audience community and not just himself.
When I saw the trailer for Character Creator 4 (CC4), I immediately wanted to see just how good the new extended facial profile was going to be. Having worked as a videographer in a marketing department for over a decade, I have to say, I am suspicious whenever I see such impressive new features promoted in new products. I knew Reallusion was going to showcase this new extended facial profile on their best models, but I wanted to see how good it would work on a character I had already made in CC3. So I chose Ashley, one of my digital actors that has been featured in several of my previous videos.
To start, I wanted to set a baseline. I used the face calibration animation in CC4 on Reallusion’s character avatar Camila—who you have probably seen in the trailers. I was immediately blown away by the details in the eyes and slight variations in the face. To me, these subtleties brought the character to life. This showed me what was possible. But, could I get as good of results with my animated 3D character?
I then created a new scene and imported Ashely. And as an additional baseline, I wanted to use her original facial profile, which is now called “Traditional”. This would allow me to see how much the “traditional” profile varies from the “extended facial profile.”
One of the amazing things about using this facial calibration animation is it allows you to see where your character may need to adjust their profile to account for what I call “facial anomalies.” For instance, Ashley’s eyes never closed all the way. I just worked around this in the past, but with CC4 I can update the facial profile using the Facial Profile Editor.
After converting Ashely to utilize the CC4 Extended Facial Profile, I opened up the editor and looked for the eye blink sliders. Using the available expression tools, I was able to modify this morph to adjust for the anomaly. I then saved these changes and my animated 3D character no longer had issues blinking her eyes.
With the changes made to the profile, I again ran the calibration test and reviewed the results.
I feel that while the differences can be subtle, they provide a big overall improvement.
The human face is so difficult to animate, because of the small subtleties that we see daily and take for granted. And when they aren’t in the animations, we instinctively know something looks wrong. And that is why I like this new extended profile, because these improved and expanded morphs aim to capture those subtleties, therefore, they add additional realism to the character.
My only caution would be that the neck now has morph shapes, so you will need to be cautious about how the neck interacts with clothing items such as turtlenecks, as those are rigged to the armature and not the morph shapes.
Since my test showed such great improvements, I wanted to take it to the next level and test out the Digital Souls Pack which has been developed by Reallusion to fully utilize this new extended profile.
If you haven’t heard of this pack, Digital Soul is a set of facial animations focusing on character expressions. Usable in both iClone 8 and Character Creator 4, it comes with over 140 subtle animations across nine different categories.
What I love about all these are the subtle eye movements and expressions that bring your characters to life. I fully believe it is one of those “must-have” packs because it has so many applications.
For me, I use facial animation to tell visual stories. My characters are my digital actors. Therefore, I can see these expressions being perfect for reaction shots in my videos. Or, with the nice eye movements, they can easily be used as a base for a lip sync animation. Then you can further build upon them with the Face Key or Face Puppet tools, and in the end make a truly unique performance.
This can also save you a lot of time with background characters. Instead of manually animating every background character (which let’s be honest, isn’t really your top priority), just add a few of these animations on the timeline and your background characters are now telling a little story of their own.
In the end, this pack does take advantage of the new extended facial profile and I see it being such a useful and versatile tool to have in your animation pipeline. If you would like to learn more about it, check out this link to get a deeper insight into the animations it provides.
Learn more :
• Erik Larson (Libertas) http://www.libertasvideo.com/
• Character Creator https://www.reallusion.com/character-creator/