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Academy of Arts Instructor Enhances Caricature and Star Wars Actor with Character Creator and iClone


Using the Dynamic Wrinkle System on a Caricature of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lifelike Grand Moff Tarkin of Star Wars

John Blalock

John’s background and education are in the traditional visual effects pipeline, mainly as a Compositor. Over the years, he has had the opportunity to work at visual effects studios such as Rhythm & Hues, along with game companies such as Sony Playstation (SCEA) in cinematic compositing. While he enjoyed those studio experiences, he found a greater love in passing along what he has learned and has taught in the college education sector in Southern California for over 12 years, including the Academy of Art University.

He still takes on some freelance and consulting work but was bitten by the “real-time” bug back when he saw a beta version of iClone 6 demoed at Siggraph years ago — and has been entranced by their possibilities and integration with other tools, such as Unreal, ever since. John is also co-founder of the YouTube channel AsArt and also runs a tutorial-based channel, Johnny HowTo. He would love for you to stop by and join him on his adventures!

Reallusion’s Dynamic Wrinkle system

Just like how the eyes are the “windows to the soul”, expression-driven wrinkles can reveal a persons’ emotions, and at times, their thoughts. When it comes to 3D animation, incorporating dynamic wrinkles may fall short of improving a poorly executed animation, but will certainly enhance the character’s presence. Picture an old woman recounting a story: the expressiveness of her creased brows allude to years of experience and, subconsciously, the tell-tale signs from her furrows captivate and lull as she speaks. On the other hand, the fast and tense wrinkles that appear on the bridge of the nose and around the mouth of a snarling man alerts us to potential danger and keeps us on our toes.

Apply Realistic Dynamic Wrinkles on the Character.

Having digital characters act to this degree is no easy task due to the need for sophisticated technologies; Technologies that have historically been reserved for high-end digital film and commercial characters, and utilized by a few AAA game titles on occasion. Regardless of use-case, budget remains the deciding factor because having expression-driven wrinkles is just too prohibitive in terms of time and effort required to create the underlying systems.

Then came Reallusion with their groundbreaking approach to real-time wrinkles. Having done the heavy lifting, Reallusion’s solution is at the ready to add an extra level of immersion to any digital actor — and it’s only a click or two away. For both realistic and stylized characters, there is really no reason not to take advantage of this new technology, and it’s a feature I have been eager to get my hands on for quite some time.

The Dynamic Wrinkle system was first announced as a late lifecycle update for iClone 7. That didn’t end up happening, but what has now arrived in iClone 8 and Character Creator 4 is absolutely worth the delay. Simply click a few buttons and your actor is given dynamic wrinkles. On top of that,  the wrinkle parameters can be adjusted and tweaked to be as subtle or pronounced as you want. My first foray involved taking a few of my premade characters and running them through the painless setup process in Character Creator. The fact that it worked well with realistic and stylized characters was a pleasant surprise.

My hands-on experience with Dynamic Wrinkles

“Uncle Arnie” is my caricature of Arnold Schwarzenegger: He’s not quite as fit as he once was, but still has the underlying musculature that made him a household name. He’s still bombastic and expressive however, which makes him the perfect test candidate for Reallusion’s new wrinkle system.

My initial creation process used several pipeline features of Character Creator. That includes exporting a base mesh into the Wrap software, re-importing, combining with a CC body preset, and then the extensive reworking of both the head and body via morphs and other tools. While it took some time, it also worked perfectly for what I needed. Arnie being an older file, a quick conversion of the facial profile was also required, which was a single-click effort on my part. Finally, I enabled dynamic wrinkles… and that was it!

On the spur of the moment, I decided to use him for a quick one-minute opening for our channel’s video (AsArt on YouTube) covering the new wrinkle system. It involved some quick face motion capture using an iPhone Xs combined with some equally quick lighting, camera work, and subtle hand animations. The final render came straight out of iClone 8. Even without much polish, the near-instant results were quite pleasing. I would eventually use the legacy wrinkle set from the Wrinkle Essentials content pack to age Arnie even more — he’s seen some rough times, after all! All of this was as easy as pie to deploy, literally just drag and drops!

Eventually the intent is for Uncle Arnie alongside my caricature of Sylvester Stallone in a “Beavis and Butthead-esque” online series titled “Arnie & Stone”. When I get to it, Stone will surely be getting the wrinkle treatment as well!

Applying Dynamic Wrinkles on Realistic Characters

Having tested the wrinkle system on stylized characters, I decided to test it on realistic characters. Lucky for me, I had made a digital double of Grand Moff Tarkin for another AsArt video that showcased the digitization process of an existing actor. For those of you who are not as nerdy as myself, Grand Moff Tarkin is Darth Vader’s boss in Star Wars: A New Hope, played by Peter Cushing, an actor with a uniquely gaunt physique.

(Left: Dynamic wrinkle is off. Right: Dynamic wrinkle is on.)

Tarkin’s wrinkle integration was even easier, as his facial profile didn’t even need to be converted. I simply activated the checkbox, adjusted a few sliders, and that was it! Since he has a much paler complexion, I enjoyed the look of the reddening skin tones as the wrinkles activated, making his performance more immersive and believable like how real skin reacts when it expands and contracts.  Also, since he’s a much older character, I used a more saggy wrinkle profile, even though he looked just fine with the default profile.

The Dynamic Wrinkle system is the real deal of vital tools that artists can’t do without. And it’s ultra-simple to use. I plan on making some slight adjustments to the some of the wrinkles positions to adhere to the character’s distinct skin textures, but, with the already-dynamic nature of the wrinkles, it’s actually pretty difficult to even notice they don’t perfectly line up — that is, unless you’re the one doing the animation!

(Left: Dynamic wrinkle is off. Right: Dynamic wrinkle is on.)

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Learn more :

• John Blalock: AsArt. Johny HowTo

Dynamic Wrinkle Arises

Where to Find New Wrinkle Assets inside Character Creator 4 (Free Embedded Content)

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