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From Static Head Models to Fully Animated Characters

Headshot 2, the AI-powered add-on for Character Creator, enables advanced 3D real-time human creation from images and 3D models. It excels in model fitting, texture baking, and full-body animation, outperforming rivals. In this tutorial article, Peter Alexander showcases its versatility and discusses why it stands as the prime option for transforming static models into fully-rigged 3D heads.


Greetings, this is Peter Alexander. In this video, I’m going to demonstrate how to use Headshot 2 to create two distinctively different stylized characters. I’ll be using assets from the artist, Makar Malicki, and the character Fred, which is based on Makar’s work.

Makar has a wide variety of assets I’d encourage you to explore.

The head I’ll be using is from an asset named “Gustavo”, which can be found on Artstation. Makar provides a bash mesh version and a ZTL file. I’ll be using the ZTL file, as I’ll be transferring the details to Character Creator’s topology.

Choosing a Head Mesh Reference

Preparing your Head Reference

ZTL is a Zbrush format, so I’m now in Zbrush to utilize it. The character has several components, but I’m mostly focused on the base head mesh. Headshot will extrapolate textures for the rest of the body based on the texture map provided for the head; so it’s possible to design the look of the entire character from Headshot.

Optional Polypainting

I’m not going to go crazy with texturing here, as I’m not a great texture artist. In addition, Character Creator provides a lot of additional maps that make materials look nice. So I’m going to add a bit of color for the skin, the nose, the ears, and maybe some shadows based on ambient occlusion values.

Projecting Details and Extracting Normals

After some thinking, I wanted the eyebrows and stylized stubbles to be part of the skin texture and normal maps to be transferred using Headshot. This can be achieved by using the project feature in Zbrush at a high subdivision level.

I hide the meshes I don’t want to be projected onto the head mesh and then use the project feature. After which I will go to the lowest subdivision and bake normal maps.

Transferring to Character Creator

Ideally, the optimal approach would likely involve exporting this using GoZ and then importing it as an accessory. However, due to an oversight, I didn’t follow that process, yet the outcome was still successful. Moreover, I should have ideally adjusted this to match Character Creator’s scale, yet my uncertainty about the initial scale initially hindered this. Nonetheless, this minor detail is inconsequential since you can conveniently adjust the scale using Character Creator’s toolkit.

Scaling Head Mesh

The character I’m commencing with is Fred, who was initially adapted for a Character Creator content pack and draws inspiration from Makar’s design. I’m currently adjusting the head’s scale to a level that I believe will facilitate smoother transfer, requiring the least amount of effort in the later stages.

Consideration for your Source Material

I’ll pause here and say that if you’re going to use another artist’s work for a commercial purpose, you should definitely have the permission of the artist and any necessary licenses. With that said, I’ll start to navigate to the Headshot 2 panel and select the ‘Mesh’ option to initiate a detail transfer.

Assigning Reference Markers

You’ll notice a series of markers, which are designed for an optimal transfer of details. You need to match those markers to get the best results. You can try to auto assign points, and sometimes it works for stylized characters, but in many cases it’s best to do this manually to avoid losing match points in some difficult-to-see area of the mesh.

Sometimes it can be difficult to estimate where a corresponding point should go, but just do your best. The next step can assist you further, as long as you’re close to the mark.

Masking Options

The ‘Effective Area’ in the ‘HEAD GEN’ tab enables you to mask the head in order to emphasize specific details. For the purpose of this tutorial, I won’t be applying any masking adjustments.

The ‘REFINE MESH’ section provides the opportunity to enhance details even further. The closer your mesh aligns with the source, the more effectively the final details will be conveyed. If you find that your tools are causing the mesh to stick to the source too much, you can simply deactivate the ‘Conform to Source Mesh’ option.

The great thing about this addon is that it feels like it’s trying to help you every step of the way. It’s a little more intuitive than Zwrap, which is likely the inspiration for this tool. The focus on the head over the body is going to lead to more successful results, even though having body functionality would be great. Also, the ability to bake details directly from Headshot is a great feature.

Attaching Head to Body

When you’re ready, select ‘Attach To Body’. This will bring up another window, most of which is self-explanatory. I’m baking the normals from the source mesh, along with the normal maps I have provided. Ultimately, I want my maps to be 4096px in resolution.

Regarding the body, I’d like to stick with the current one loaded, which is the Fred character. It has turned out quite well. Although the head is slightly larger than my preference, I can make the necessary adjustments.

Touching up the Head in Zbrush

I’ll need to make some refinements based on my experience. I realize I should have given more attention to the nose during the refining process, which means I’ll need to address it in Zbrush. Apart from that, the outcome is promising. I intend to enhance the details before sending the meshes back to Character Creator.

Cleaning Up Normal Map

Now I’m going to clean up the normal maps a bit by sending the head normals to Krita. The base normal map color is (r: 128, g: 128, b: 255). Any distortions can be canceled out using this color.

Adjusting Other Features

And now I’m just going to adjust the eyes using the ‘Proportion Editor’. 

The character is nearly good to go. Let’s put some clothes on him and test him out.

Correcting Clothing (For Stylized Bodies)

Often with highly exaggerated characters, standard clothes don’t fit well. For a character like this, you can try to convert the clothing to its base shape and scale it manually, then reconvert it to clothing. Unfortunately, you’ll lose some of the default settings in the process.

Usually, when an attempt is successful, I’ll save the project file, along with the head and body morph for further mixing.

Second Subject

Now I’m going to do the same thing with one of Makar’s orc models. I’m going to combine it with a Troll model I create for an upcoming content page. 

I’ve only dialed in the body. Due to the exaggerated nature of this model, the body/head separation function leaves some deformation issues. I will see if I can still use it.

As before, I’m using the ZTL file and I’m preparing some very quick texture painting for demo purposes.

Correcting a Starting Body

The body I’m using is far more exaggerated than Fred, and has a significant hunch. So what I’m attempting to do here is use the ‘Proportion Editor’ to adjust some of the issues. Then I’m using the mesh editor to smooth out some of the deformations in the neck. Now I’m ready to initiate Headshot 2.

Using Auto-Detect for Reference Markers

This time I’ll try to auto-detect the markers. And surprisingly it does a decent job.

Headshot 2 does a great job with this character too. I’d probably have picked a more toned down body in retrospect, but I’d say this was a success.

Fixing the Posture of Ultra-Stylized Characters

The current posture and bone alignment challenges stem from the exaggerated proportions of the troll body. Given its default hunched stance, Character Creator attempts to make slight adjustments to rectify the posture.

Adding other Details

Now I’m just adding some additional touches in Zbrush, altering the teeth and more.

As I did with the Fred model, I’m going to use Krita to paint and blend out some of the flaws in the normal map.

Adding Assets

I’m just using some assets I created to finish off the design.

I feel that now he’s sufficiently dressed as an orc. And with that, I will wrap up this article.

In Closing

I hope this demo of Headshot 2 helps in some way. There are limitless possibilities waiting for you.  For digital sculptors, you can now transfer your sculpted details to a clean topology with little effort, and animators can collaborate with other artists more effectively.

Peter Alexander (Mythcons): ArtStationYouTube. Facebook

Know more:

Character Creator: 3D Character Design Software

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Introducing young people to 2D Animation with Cartoon Animator

Kristen Collier | 2D Animator/ Illustrator

Kristen Collier

Creating animated films and educating a younger audience about 2D animation , Kristen Collier needed to find software that was easy to use, yet could produce high quality animated films.

In Cartoon Animator (CTA), Kristen found everything she needed and was quickly able to teach herself and others how to animate, and has even been able to create her own custom actors for her projects. 

” I researched different software during the lockdown, and saw that Cartoon Animator (CTA) had the best ratings of learning curve and for being economical. I love Cartoon Animator, and it’s easy on the surface level, for beginners, and for doing short, simple animations. CTA is my absolute favorite software. When I was working on my feature cartoon, Benny the Barnacle, for months I would work 12 – 16 hour days on the animation, it was so engrossing. I was working non-stop on it, and loving every minute of it. Cartoon Animator is addictive, but in a good, constructive way. “

Kristen Collier | 2D Animator/ Illustrator

Creative Agency leverages Headshot Character Creator to animate Jeff Bezos for Community Campaign

Liam Murphy – Lead 3D Artist, Graphic Designer, 2D/3D Animator, VFX

Liam Murphy

Liam Murphy is a versatile multidisciplinary designer with a career spanning graphic design, 2D and 3D animation, concept art, VFX, Experiential design, Product design, and motion graphics.

He received a strong educational foundation in Art direction  from George Brown college, and has gone on to work for Brands and studios like Tokyo Smoke, Tendril, Momentum and Angry Butterfly. His animation work showcases his ability to infuse cinematic styling into his work in motion design.

As 3D Art became more integral to the Advertising industry, Liam transitioned into this space, using his animation, and design expertise to create awe-inspiring Motion Graphics for his clients. Throughout his career. Liam has pulled inspiration from Movies and Cinematic CG trailers such as the work from Axis Studios and Blur.

Liam is currently working as the 3D and motion design lead at Angry Butterfly, independent creative and strategic consultancy based in Toronto, where he is bringing his skills in house to create a new standard for visual production at advertising agencies.

BILL IT TO BEZOS is a community service campaign for the Jane/Finch Community Centre, where Liam Murphy used Character Creator‘s Headshot plugin to animate a photograph of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to raise funds for their campaign where they raised more funds in 5 days than in the past 3 years combined.

“Fortunately, my search led me to discover Character Creator 4 and iClone 8, which turned out to be a perfect match for the project. The software’s impressive speed and stability allowed me to keep up with the numerous revisions that came our way, ensuring we were able to make the most out of the resources we had available.”

Liam Murphy – Lead 3D Artist, Graphic Designer, 2D/3D Animator, VFX

Vector Graphic Animations For Cartoon Animals

Tamás Zsolt Nagy – 2D Animator

About Tamás Zsolt Nagy

Hi there. My name is Tamás Zsolt Nagy, owner of Cartoons and Fun YouTube channel and the founder of Crazy Cartoons – Animation Studio. Since my childhood, I have been captivated by classic 2D animations, immersing myself in the magic of thousands of timeless Disney, Warner Bros, and Hanna-Barbera old school cartoons. These iconic animations have become the foundation and inspiration for the distinctive style I strive to infuse into all my projects.

When I decided 4 years ago to jump into the magical world of cartoon animation, I began my way by testing many software products. I knew that I needed a professional platform that I could use as a beginner.  Luckily, I found Cartoon Animator 4 (CTA4), a powerful and versatile software package which had many types of useful add-ons. Consequently, I have gained lots of experience with the last 3 years working with CTA4. It does not matter if you are a beginner or a professional, you can enjoy using this software in line with your skills level.

Last year, we witnessed the exciting launch of Cartoon Animator 5, introducing a plethora of remarkable innovations. In this article, accompanied by an exclusive behind-the-scenes video, we delve into the demonstration of the latest techniques offered by this cutting-edge software version. I’ll take you through my journey of designing the charming vector graphic character, Maxi, while harnessing the power of spring bones and exploring the possibilities of the free-form deformation tool to enhance animation dynamics. Additionally, I’ll showcase the seamless application of standard CTA functions, such as Lip Sync and 360° Head creation, which played crucial roles throughout the animation process. Let’s embark on this creative adventure together!

2D Character Design in Vector Graphics Format

Cartoon Animator 5 has introduced support for SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format, offering the convenience of working with vector-based objects. This innovation has significantly simplified the design process, which I find delightful. For my first venture into creating characters in Vector Graphics, I crafted a Giraffe using Adobe Illustrator, skillfully merging the Human Head and NonHuman Quadruped SVG templates. The seamless editing experience within the right structure saved me considerable time. Importing the SVG file into CTA was a breeze, and the results were nothing short of fantastic! CTA effortlessly handles the SVG character as vector graphics, granting me the freedom to zoom in without compromising any details of the character.

“Maxi” giraffe design in Adobe Illustrator and the imported SVG character in CTA5 Composer.

360 Head Design

The 360 Head Creator is a crucial tool when it comes to infusing life into your characters’ faces. By skillfully designing the head, you can achieve a remarkably 3D-like appearance when animating facial expressions. Personally, I prefer a more subtle movement of the head, so I typically avoid setting a wide angle range for the face, opting for just enough to facilitate the appropriate animation. As part of my character creation process, I always set up the 360 Head as the final step right after importing the rigged character into CTA. This ensures that my characters truly come to life with expressive and engaging facial animations.

Spring Bones

Introducing spring bone in version 5 was a game-changer. Prior to this feature, I invested significant effort in making character parts like hair move naturally with elasticity in the wind. However, with spring bones, everything changed. When crafting my latest giraffe character, I integrated spring bones into the front hair, ears, horn, and tail. I was particularly thrilled by the newfound elasticity in the ears’ appearance. The animation’s visual appeal exceeded my expectations, portraying a lifelike giraffe motion like never before. Spring bones revolutionize the animation process by allowing you to set the bones once and forget about them. The automatic elastic motion of the sprites follows your predefined settings. If you haven’t explored spring bones yet, I highly recommend it for its game-changing capabilities.

Spring Editor view of Maxi in CTA5

2D Character Animation with Free-Form Deformation (FFD)

Prior to CTA version 5, I utilized deformation on sprites for characters, but couldn’t apply it to the entire actor. However, with the introduction of the FFD feature, we can now achieve this. FFD has significantly enhanced the dynamism of our characters. In the story of “Maxi, The Giraffe,” I made extensive use of FFD, notably in the scene where “Hunter” gets scared of Maxi. The exaggerated FFD effect amplifies Hunter’s reaction, making the character much funnier. I’d like to acknowledge Garry Pye, the brilliant designer behind Hunter, whose fantastic characters have been instrumental in bringing my animations to life!

Lip Sync Animation

Correctly designing the character’s mouth sprites enables a delightful experience with CTA’s lip-sync function. This efficient tool saves you time by eliminating the need for frame-by-frame animation when setting the mouth sprite. Lip-sync is achieved by importing the character’s voice (wave file) using the ‘Create Script/Wave File’ function. Should you find the outcome unsatisfactory, simply replace the relevant sprite with a more fitting one. Alternatively, Cartoon Animator offers additional options for lip-sync, such as ‘Record Voice’, ‘Text to Speech’, and ‘Cartoon Script’, which I occasionally utilize as well.

Export for Post-production in After Effects

I am a passionate advocate of enhancing scenes with captivating effects. One essential technique I always employ is applying a background blur to create depth, and meticulously adding shadows for the actors. These effects elevate the overall video quality, making it appear more professional and truly worth the effort. To achieve these results, I rely on Cartoon Animator, a versatile software that allows for various creative possibilities. However, for the post-production process, a third-party special software is required. Fortunately, CTA offers an add-on that seamlessly integrates with After Effects (AE), streamlining the workflow. Through this feature, we can easily export image sequences and JSON files of the scenes, which can then be conveniently imported into AE for further animation and fine-tuning.

In the following screenshot, you can see my preferred export settings. I always opt for 100% image resolution to maintain the highest quality possible. Additionally, I enable the ‘Low Memory Export’ flag, which may slightly slow down the process, but the impact is negligible compared to the benefits it brings. Therefore, it is definitely worth considering using this option.

The CTA script in After Effects functions flawlessly, seamlessly importing all objects with the correct settings, encompassing camera views, motions, and layering. Now, the creative direction lies in your hands. With your expertise, you have the freedom to design the video’s appearance to your liking. So, feel free to incorporate various enhancements such as rain, lightning, color correction, shadows, blurs, filters, and more — let your imagination take the lead!

Cartoon Animator 5 is Your Friend

CTA5 has truly been the catalyst that brought my ideas to life. Despite lacking relevant experience four years ago, today, I can proudly create animations that have captivated over 300,000 viewers on YouTube. With numerous project plans swirling in my mind, it’s reassuring to possess the necessary tools and experience to turn them into reality.

I hope you enjoyed my journey and found valuable insights in my story. Maybe, after reading this article, you’ve been inspired to venture into the world of cartoon animation. If you’re unsure about which software to use for your creative journey, look no further than Cartoon Animator 5. It will undoubtedly become your most trusted companion along the way.

Tamás Zsolt Nagy YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/CartoonsandFun

Know more:

2D Animation Software for Cartoon Maker | Cartoon Animator

FREE for 30 days & get 1,700+ ready-made assets:

2D Animation Software Download | Cartoon Animator

Maya Animator discovers iClone 8 for Mocap Cleanup and Motion Editing

Dom Fred – Director / Producer / Editor / 3D Animator

Dom Fred

Dom began his career in the television advertising industry, directing commercials using new production’s digital and 3D tools. Over the past 20 years, he has also worked on music videos and documentaries, catering to a global clientele.

Since his childhood, Dom has been a martial artist, mastering various disciplines such as Taekwondo, Aikido, and Kung-Fu. His exceptional skills in Taekwondo, particularly at the Olympic and spectacular levels, have highlighted his talent for stunt work and acrobatics from a young age.

In 2007, Dom established his own company, DOM ANIMATION STUDIO, specializing in product and post-production. With a unique touch, he incorporates 3D characters into real environments, integrates special effects (SFX), and creates martial arts and acrobatics action sequences for commercials.

In 2010, Dom directed a short action film utilizing camera tracking, motion capture, and 3D compositing techniques. Two years later, he produced and directed his first independent short films, which received several awards in Los Angeles, Texas, Las Vegas, and New York for Best Action Sequences, Best Action Director, and Best Short Film.

During the lockdown in 2020, Dom collaborated with screenwriter Alick Macaire to co-produce and direct his first international animated movie, “SPACE AGENTS: The Mysterious Ax.” This Sci-Fi film revolves around the theme of hope for a better tomorrow, serving as an allegory for Dom’s feelings during the dark period of the global pandemic.

In SPACE AGENTS, Dom used several animation tools including MAYA, Unreal Engine, ActorCore motions. Along the way, Dom discovered using iClone 8 as an alternative to MAYA for mocap cleanup and motion editing which allowed him to achieve professional-grade animations at a fraction of the cost, time, and effort spent with traditional 3D animation software.

iClone 8 simplified the process of cleaning motion captures, making adjustments, and adding other movements to the characters within our timeline. This is often a challenging and time-consuming task on Maya, requiring perfect mastery of the tools. However, with iClone, we were able to accomplish these tasks more easily, saving hours of work.”

Dom Fred – Director / Producer / Editor / 3D Animator

Reallusion Integrates iClone Live Sync with NVIDIA Omniverse™

Two-way Synchronized Character Animation Workflow Empowers NVIDIA Omniverse™ in Real-time Crowd Generation for Digital Twins and AECO.

Reallusion releases the latest iClone Connector for NVIDIA Omniverse™. The updated Connector enables a two-way real-time USD synchronization between iClone 8 and Omniverse, empowering users with a straightforward character animation pipeline to Omniverse applications.

John Martin II, Vice President at Reallusion, explains, “The iClone Omniverse Connector simplifies character facial morph animation, body animation, props, cameras, lights, and scene setup for creating inside Omniverse. With Live Sync to Omniverse, users now enjoy seamless two-way USD data transfer and have more intuitive control over the creation process, resulting in a significant reduction in workflow and increased productivity. This proves especially beneficial for industrial visualization projects involving large 3D crowds and animations.”

The Latest Innovations

Building on the foundation of a full 3D animation system integrated into NVIDIA Omniverse™, the iClone Omniverse Connector brings even greater productivity with its new Live Sync feature, offering real-time animation preview and a seamless two-way workflow. The powerful combination of iClone and Omniverse empowers individuals and design teams to effortlessly create, animate, and deploy 3D characters for digital twins and business simulations, all while fostering seamless collaboration within the Omniverse platform.

Unprecedented Productivity with iClone

Experience a remarkable surge in productivity with iClone, the fastest real-time 3D animation software, empowering users to effortlessly produce professional animations for films, previsualization, simulation, videos, and games. The seamless integration of facial performance, character animation, mocap production, scene design, and cinematic storytelling within iClone’s environment makes 3D production on the Omniverse platform accessible to creators of all skill levels. With just a few clicks, users can establish live sync between iClone Connector and Omniverse, witnessing immediate and gratifying simulations at their fingertips.

Real-time Preview & Full-frame Transfer

  • Motion Editing & Preview
    • Simultaneous real-time live preview for animation editing of the face and body.
    • Animate by applying iClone’s premade motions or use the handy editing tools.
    • Character or object interaction are made simple with Reach Target constraints.

  • Full-Frame Animation Transfer
    • Happy with your animation? Selectively send animations to their respective objects when you are ready.
    • Supports bone and morph animations for 3D characters.
    • Animate transformations for props, lights, and cameras.

Intuitive Two-Way Production Workflow

  • Selectively import Omniverse scene data/props as references for iClone character alignment or object interaction.
  • Two-way light creation and property control.
  • Synchronize camera shots and switches in iClone for Omniverse cinematography.

Collaborative Simulation for Businesses

Utilizing iClone Live Sync to Omniverse for deploying digital humans in virtual productions proves exceptionally efficient and productive. Upon entering the completely free and open platform of NVIDIA Omniverse™, users gain access to advanced Ray Tracing, enhanced speed, and seamless compatibility with prominent third-party solutions. The platform also integrates cutting-edge AI technologies like Audio2Face for audio-to-animation, rapid GPU rendering, denoising capabilities, and the real-time SSS shader. Together, these features empower advanced character animation for simulation purposes, making Omniverse a top choice for creators interested in collaboration.

Download iClone 8 for Free

Download the full trial of iClone for easy character animation and start creating Omniverse-ready productions with free online training.

Download Omniverse and iClone Connector for Free

Initiate your journey by downloading the Launcher for NVIDIA Omniverse and iClone Connector.

Learn More

Visit the Reallusion iClone Omniverse Connector page for more information.

Enhancing YouTube Explainer Videos: 5 Tips for Success with Cartoon Animator

In today’s visually-driven world, explainer videos have become an essential tool for successful communication. As content creators in the digital landscape, our goal is to produce engaging material that effectively delivers our message. This article aims to provide you with a thorough guide on how to create compelling explainer videos for YouTube utilizing Cartoon Animator (CTA).

1) Anatomy of an Explainer Video

Crafting a compelling explainer video requires careful consideration of multiple elements, each playing a crucial role in its effectiveness. By following these steps, you’ll be able to create an engaging and impactful explainer video.

Audience: Your audience is the centerpiece of your video creation process. Understanding who they are, their geographic location, age, gender (Demographics), along with their interests, aspirations, fears, and dreams (psychographics), helps you create content that resonates. The audience-centric approach ensures your video speaks directly to the viewer, enhancing their connection with your content.

Script: A well-crafted script forms the backbone of your explainer video. It’s not merely a narration; it sets the tone, voice, and pace of your video. An engaging, concise, and clear script can turn complex ideas into easily digestible information chunks.

Visualize: Visualizing your video before you start animating is a vital step. Developing a storyboard helps structure your narrative, identify any gaps in the flow, and understand how your script translates visually. It sets the groundwork for the actual 2D animation.

Audio: High-quality audio can significantly enhance your video’s overall quality. A well-recorded, clear voiceover can dramatically impact your video’s effectiveness. Background music, sound effects, and pauses play an equally important role in augmenting your video’s tone and pace.

Animate: With your script, storyboard, and audio ready, you can step into the world of 2D animation. Cartoon Animator offers an intuitive platform to bring your concepts to life, allowing you to create captivating visual narratives with ease.

Feedback: Feedback is a critical aspect of refining your video. Sharing your initial version with a focus group and taking their comments into account allows you to see your work from various perspectives, identify potential improvements, and polish your video.

Publish: Once satisfied with your refined video, publish it on YouTube. The right title, description, keywords, and thumbnails can significantly impact its visibility.

Analyze: Once your video is live, use YouTube analytics to measure its performance. Understand your audience’s engagement and reception, which will feed into future video development.

Iterate: The process of creation is never one-and-done. Analyze your successes and shortcomings to constantly evolve your content. Every video is a stepping stone towards perfection.

2) YouTube Analytics: Decoding Audience Preferences

Audience engagement plays a pivotal role in achieving success on YouTube. The level of engagement directly impacts how widely your video is shown to viewers by the YouTube algorithm. Higher engagement results in greater exposure, while lower engagement limits the video’s reach. It’s essential to bear in mind that YouTube strives to connect your video with the appropriate audience, and its algorithm works diligently to identify and target those individuals.

Now, the question arises: How can you determine the quality of your video?

It’s common to receive polite responses like “That is very nice!” or “Cool presentation! I liked it” when showing your video to others. However, it can be challenging to gauge their true level of enjoyment. Are there parts of the video that were merely “OK,” while others were dull and in need of improvement? To address these uncertainties, YouTube Analytics provides valuable insights through Video Engagement metrics.

To gain a deeper understanding of audience behavior, Derral Eves presents the “YouTube Formula” in his book “The YouTube Formula: How Anyone Can Unlock the Algorithm to Drive Views, Build an Audience, and Grow Revenue.” This formula serves as a reliable roadmap for success, and it can be summarized as follows:

  1. Try: Create and publish your video content on YouTube.
  2. Fail: Pay attention to how your video performs and identify areas that may not be meeting audience expectations.
  3. Analyze: Utilize YouTube Analytics to examine engagement metrics and gain insights into viewer behavior.
  4. Adjust: Based on the analysis, make necessary improvements and adjustments to enhance audience engagement and overall video quality.

By following this iterative process of trying, failing, analyzing, and adjusting, you can continually improve your videos and better align them with your audience’s preferences.

To analyze your video and understand how your audience received it, there are several factors you should consider. After publishing your video, it typically takes around 48 hours for YouTube to start collecting data. Once you begin getting views, you can access valuable information through a graph. Here’s how you can view audience engagement on your video:

Step 1) Visit your YouTube Channel and click on the “Content” tab located on the left-hand side.

Step 2) Hover your mouse over the video you want to see analytics on, and click on “Analytics”.

Step 3) Click on the “Engagement” tab.

Step 4) Scroll down until you see the video engagement graph.

Here are some metrics to pay attention to:

Engagement: Aim for an Average Percentage Viewed (APV) of 40%. It’s normal for viewers to leave the video midway, but maintaining an APV of 40% ensures a good level of interest and engagement.

Retention: The first 30 seconds of your video are crucial. Aim to retain at least 70% of viewers during this period. This initial engagement is a strong indicator of your video’s overall success.

Dips and Spikes: Review your video’s playback timeline for dips and spikes. These can offer insights into which sections your audience found most engaging (spikes due to rewatching) or least interesting (dips due to skipping).

  • If the graph shows too many Dips in your video, it means those sections can be improved.
  • If the graph shows Spikes, it means those parts are interesting and you should do more of that.

3) Amplifying Narrative with Animated GIFs

The use of GIFs in your video can significantly increase its visual appeal and engagement. There are various resources where you can find GIFs for almost any concept. Custom GIFs can also be created to align perfectly with your narrative.

The type of GIFs you should probably focus on getting are the ones that have a transparent background, that way they can seamlessly be added to your animated projects without any problems.

Some cool resources to get GIFS are:

4) Harnessing the Power of APNGs in Your Presentations

Animated PNGs (APNGs) are another powerful visual tool that can enhance your explainer video.

Freepik.com offers a vast repository of drawings and 2D animation sequences in a single image that can be converted into APNGs using the APNG Assembler. Once ready, they can be easily imported into your CTA project as shown in this tutorial. Images like the following examples from Freepik can be used to create APNGs or Sequences.
Like this sequence of a cat running from Freepik

Can be animated when put together into this sequence:

Or this torch from Freepik:

Can be animated to this sequence:

Let’s take the example of the torch.

Once you have the torch elements put together into a single place, you can export each object as a separate PNG so it looks something like this:

Then you take the FREE little software called APNG Assembler and put those sequences together as an APNG.

Step 1) Click and drag all images into APNG Assembler.

Step 2) Select “Delays – All Frames” to adjust the frames per second (fps). In this example, we’ll use 12 fps, so set the delay to 1/12 seconds. Finally, click on “Set” to confirm the changes.

Step 3) Click on the ellipses “…” to access the output options. Next, select “Make Animated PNG,” and you are done!

Now APNGs can be freely brought into Cartoon Animator 5.

You can learn more about GIFS and APNGS in this video:

5) Mastering Sequence Animations in CTA

Sequence animations are a powerful way to make animated video fluid and dynamic. They allow for the smooth presentation of a series of actions or concepts. Learning to create and utilize sequence animations in CTA can add a new level of professionalism to your videos. This comprehensive guide can help you master sequence animations.

Basically, a 2D animation sequence inside CTA is like having several APNGs or GIFS into a single one that you can swap or switch into with ease. It’s very simple. Once you have a sequence created in vector software like Illustrator, you can take it inside CTA and animate whatever sequence you need. For example, these three sets of explosions were added into a single file:

And in Illustrator, it looks like this:

If you pay attention, the layers show the correct structure you need for sequences created for CTA.

And inside CTA, when exported as an SVG, it looks like this:

An animated sequence that can switch between “boom_1”, “boom_2”, and “boom_3” by just right-clicking on it, selecting “Action Menu”, and then selecting one of the options.

To learn more about how to create image sequences, you can check this tutorial:


Crafting a successful explainer video requires more than just technical knowledge. You can use GIFs, APNGs, and image sequences as much as you want, but if you don’t have the correct storytelling, for the correct audience, you will not be able to create a compelling video.

How do you measure how compelling your video is? By uploading it to YouTube and checking the engagement analytics. If you have above 40% retention rate (Average Percentage Viewed) then that means your video is performing really well. The key is to use technology and the techniques you learned in this video in combination with a good story, animation, and audience understanding. If you are interested in seeing how all of this plays out together, you can check out this Webinar where I explain each step in detail.

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Pitch & Produce | Making Hundreds of Actors with Character Creator for Stop Motion Animation

Mathias Rodrigues Bjerre

My name is Mathias Rodrigues Bjerre, I’m a film director and digital artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark.m from Copenhagen, Denmark. I sometimes work on projects as a technical director and I also run a social media profile that features my animations called ZeroSum.G which occasionally receives millions of views.

I graduated from the National Film School of Denmark, specializing in Digital Art and Animation Directing back in 2020. The school offered immense creative freedom, but it did not provide its pupils with any technical curriculum in CG, so I built and learned my digital workflow on my own during my school years.

And after having seen my narratives and technical skills, the school ended up hiring me a month after I graduated to help them ‘refurbish’ their brand just in time for entrance exams. I was tasked with delivering a multitude of shorts, doc-interviews, illustrations, and animations that painted a picture of the different educations the school had to offer. My challenge was not only delivering the visual works but also coordinating with different people under time pressure. I am glad that in the end, I’ve made every individual branch of education (Sound Design, Editing, Directing, and DOP) stand out as a strong unique academia on its own, while I at the same time, made the viewer comprehend that film-production is a team effort and that no part can stand alone in the process of making film and art. (link)

Besides the National Film School of Denmark, my clients also include SONY Music, United Nations, Danish Broadcast Corp, Danish Cancer Society, and AKQA. Besides commercial clients, I’ve also worked on multiple, state-funded artistic projects. As time flew by, I started to develop my own personal style of aesthetics, which I’ve cultivated since 2016 — a form of digital stop-motion. And here are some examples of my work.


Why I created this project?

Around 2 years ago, I contacted the production company Angel Films, seeing we had a mutual interest in creating a new direction for animated content based on new technologies.

My Creative space

As a storyteller, I know one of the most time-consuming aspects of creating animated films consists of designing, modeling, and rigging characters from the ground up. The biggest animation houses here in Denmark can spend up to one entire month just to build a single character. Simply making a 3D character blink, could eat up days worth of production time! I realized this quite early in my life when I first started digging into Maya and rigging as a teenager. I was manually setting up IK controllers and skinning characters, only to realize that my joint placement was wrong and I’d have to redo hours of work. It was grueling!

Yet, Angel Films and I had very steep ambitions…

We wanted to tell stories that allowed for potentially hundreds of unique characters, so it became a very obvious goal for us to find ways to speed up that workflow. According to my friend’s suggestion, I delved into Character Creator, and after having generated only a few actors, I never looked back since then.

The place where all the magic happens!

Creating the protagonists in Character Creator

For the ‘We Are All Gonna Die lmao’ film, we wanted to create an ambitious animation about an imminent climate catastrophe that hits the world and triggers a panicked and violent reaction from the Danish youth, who end up overtaking the Danish parliament by force, with the goal of forcing the entire country to heavily reduce their CO2 emissions by cutting unnecessary power grids and transportation services. The rest of the movie would follow the new government and all of the ensuing chaos and disasters that would follow such a radical movement.

For such a project, we naturally had to re-invent a lot of things in our technical workflow, since our story required hundreds of unique characters and sets. Having recently discovered Reallusion and their many software solutions, this couldn’t have come at a better time, and was a huge game-changer for us. Character Creator alone allowed us to save thousands of hours when it came to building the characters for our work-in-progress political satirical feature film. Having spent 6 months creating 20 unique characters for my graduation film by hand, using Reallusion cannot be understated as an enormous revolution for my workflow. It’s a game-changer: since 20 characters took less than 5 days to create with this workflow.

We managed to build a key scene from the film that required dozens of unique characters as they stormed the Danish parliament in the wake of the before-mentioned potential climate catastrophe. 

Using Character Creator, in combination with the huge Marketplace that Reallusion has to offer, we could quickly build out many different characters from different economic classes and ethnicities, giving them make-up, accessories, and unique features. With Character Creator, we were able to create a 2-minute scene from the movie featuring dozens of unique characters — hippies, politicians, regular joes, etc. all storming a 3D copy of the Danish parliament. We could quickly build out the different characters, changing them on the fly without having to manually rig them afterward. It felt like true creative freedom and allowed me to experiment and use our production time much more efficiently.

From CC to Maya animation and Redshift render

I have a unique style of 3D story-telling that I’ve cultivated throughout the years, that gives my movies a stop-motion-ish aesthetic. By having your characters move in 12 fps instead of 24, the audience automatically lowers their quality expectations, as they are aware that they’re watching something stylized — this is very important if you want don’t want to spend hours animating and perfecting your character’s movement, as you’ll be less likely to hit the uncanny valley that comes pretty easily with janky animation in 24 fps.

Reallusion has very nice pipeline tools that allow me to easily get my characters into Maya and ready to animate. I export the finalized characters as an FBX, and I also export their texture maps via the substance painter export function. I can then easily recreate their shaders with Redshift in Maya from those exported maps. For rigging, I used another external plugin, Advanced Skeleton to easily set up animation-friendly rigs. And with a tiny script I built, we could also set up the blend shapes by just clicking a button. After completing all the necessary steps, including setting up shaders, blendshapes, and rigs, the characters were fully prepared for animation and rendering in Maya. And, It only took approximately 10-15 minutes per character!

We could quickly build out many different characters from different economic classes and ethnicities, giving them make-up, accessories, and unique features — Personally, it felt as easy as if playing a slightly advanced Sims.

-Mathias Bjerre, Filmmaker for Angel Films

Zerosum.G: honoring the new Pipeline

In fact, the speed and expressive workflow that Reallusion helped us foster, allowed me to create a channel I run in my free time named ZeroSum.G. The channel features around 30 unique animated shorts that I’ve made throughout the year, featuring characters made with Character Creator. I’ve also undertaken a political satirical project, where I digitized one top Danish politician a day for a duration of 12 days leading up to the Danish election back in 2022. This was enabled by using Reallusion’s amazing plugin, Headshot, which allows you to build a character based off of a single photo of their face. Besides local Danish politicians, I’ve also made Joe Biden, Trump, John Cena, and even Gordon Ramsay. Some of these random shorts have been seen millions of times on YouTube and TikTok. As of the posting of this article I have accumulated around 110 thousand followers on different platforms in the span of around 4 months of productivity.

Final Thoughts

I’m a person who enjoys the creative process, but who’s also very interested in optimizing the technical workflow in a production. Because the less time you need to spend with tedious processes, the more time you can spend on the fun parts of film-making. I must say that Reallusion has been a total game-changer for me personally!

Learn More about Reallusion Products

Character Creator
Character Creator – Digital Human Ecosystem
Reallusion Marketplace

Follow Mathias’s Work

Portfolio / LinkedIn / Demo Reel
Zerosum.G Instagram
Zerosum.G YouTube
Zerosum.G TikTok

3D Printing and Character Posing with ZBrush and Character Creator 4


Hello, colleagues! My name is Óscar Fernández, and I am a digital sculptor specialized in figures for printing. I would love to show you a workflow that literally changes the game when it comes to producing figures for board games. I’m talking about a new Reallusion plugin called Character Creator Pose Tools, which allows us to connect ZBrush with Character Creator 4 (CC4) to rig our character and pose it with unprecedented ease. What’s more, it preserves all our subtools, subdivision levels, and the ability to continue modifying the character even after posing, making it easy to adjust the anatomy, add details, or incorporate variations.

This will be our complete workflow:

initial Idea / quick 2D sketch

Let’s start the project with a super basic concept of the character. Before we begin sculpting, I have created a quick 2D sketch to bring to life what was once just an idea in my head. This is only an initial concept to get started with, and it will probably evolve as I begin working in 3D.  

There are some elements that I am sure will be present in the character’s design, such as:

  • Horns or a helmet that integrates with the shape of the head.
  • Armor for the torso with sharp elements to make the character more menacing.
  • A powerful anatomy that showcases the strength of our character.
  • Some fabrics to test how dynamics work in CC4.
  • Three fingers instead of five to test AccuRIG’s auto rigging.
  • Lastly, bull-like hooves or something similar to give our character a hybrid appearance without being exactly a minotaur.


When starting a new character, I always like to begin by defining how the head and face will look. I usually don’t proceed with the complete development until I am satisfied with the shapes. So, gradually, we will structure the facial anatomy by adding a couple of spheres for the eyes and incorporating other elements such as ears or a beard, which will greatly define our character.

Once all the elements are in place, I begin refining the shapes after performing a ZRemesher and applying subdivision levels. Afterwards, I can add the fangs, beard details, and, finally, the horns.

In the end, I opted for a more organic structure for this part, creating horns instead of a helmet. Once we are satisfied with the head’s shape, we can continue moving forward.


To speed up the process, we will use a CC4 avatar as the base mesh for the body. We put it in A Pose and use the sliders to modify the proportions. Since our character will have 3 fingers, I take the opportunity to create a similar structure that I will later modify in ZBrush. With a simple click, we bring it into ZBrush.

In ZBrush, let’s make further modifications to the proportions and attach the previously created head. By adjusting the size of the head to match the body we brought in from CC4, we ensure that the model’s measurements are optimized for later use in CC4. However, this is something we could easily fix later on if needed.


Indeed, the communication between ZBrush and Character Creator has been available before, but in version 3, we couldn’t modify the topology of the base mesh, which was quite restrictive for character creation. With the arrival of CC4, we can now use all the typical ZBrush sculpting techniques to make any necessary modifications. So, let’s start by applying DynaMesh to create those bull-like hooves and define our character’s anatomy. Having the fingers placed together earlier will also speed up the process of creating the hand.

After achieving anatomical shapes that we are satisfied with, we will merge the head with the body using DynaMesh. Then, we will perform ZRemesher to have a more organized mesh, and we will project the details onto the different subdivision levels. This process will help us create a more refined and cohesive model, combining the head and body seamlessly while preserving the intricate details.


It’s time to create the accessories for our character. We’ll primarily use ZModeler with a low polygon count to achieve cleaner and more polished shapes. Our goal is to design pieces of armor with the intention of 3D printing, so we’ll aim for fully solid pieces whenever possible or with a slightly thicker thickness than they would be in reality to avoid issues with printing and to ensure the piece is not too fragile.

In this case, creating the fabrics is not very complex, as they are just a pair of flaps that cover part of the legs. Using the belt as a base, we apply an extrusion, keep the part we are interested in, and then adjust the shape until we achieve what we are looking for. We will use dynamic subdivision to work with a plane but get an idea of the thickness the final piece will have.

Once the fabrics are made, we have the complete blockout, so if we are satisfied, we can move on to the details. Since we already have a correct topology, it is enough to subdivide where necessary to add imperfections, dents, scratches, etc., and thus give a little more realism to our pieces.

We would only need to add a couple of weapons to our friend, so using the same techniques as for the armor, we will create a battle axe and a shield that are simply… enormous!


Let’s prepare the model to take it to CC4. Although this step is not necessary, it will enhance its appearance in CC4. We’ll start by creating UVs for the different pieces and generating normal maps.

For the UVs, we will utilize the new feature in ZBrush 2023 that allows us to use creases to define cutting lines and create our UVs quickly without needing to leave the program. We will adjust them within the grid and ensure everything is fine by applying a test texture. Once the UVs are set, we can also generate the normal maps.

Auto rigging / accurig

Now we have everything ready to take our character to CC4. Although we can send everything at once, I’m going to go slowly and, for now, I’m going to isolate only the body to send it to CC4 using the “Visible” option. Once the character is transferred to CC4, we see that we have the whole character in a single element, but keeping each of our subtools inside it, so I’m going to load the normal maps to make everything look a little better.

I was looking forward to this moment! Now is when we’ll witness the magic of AccuRIG, the automatic rigging tool in CC4. I must confess that I have no idea about rigging, and this tool seems like pure wizardry to me! We press the AccuRIG button, and the tool starts analyzing the mesh, automatically placing the joint points in a fairly approximate manner… Now, all we have to do is adjust the placement of those points by clicking on each one of them and following the diagrams we have at the top. We can use the symmetry function to work faster or deactivate it if our character isn’t symmetrical. We define the number of digits for our character, in this case, three, and hit “Generate Skeleton,” and voilà! The skeleton is generated in literally 2 minutes.

The next step is to configure the finger layout. We adjust the position of the little dots on each joint and also define the direction of a special point on the thumb that indicates its rotation. We make sure everything is set correctly and then press the “Bind Skin” button. The program will automatically calculate the skin weight around each joint so that all deformations occur smoothly. Once the complete skeleton is generated, we will check it with an animation to see how it behaves. The anatomy of this character is a bit unique, and I think I didn’t place the point of that joint in the most correct position, causing the shoulders to be too forward-heavy, but that’s not a problem; we will accept it.

Using “Pose Offset,” we can further fine-tune those particularities that depend a bit more on the morphology of our specific character. So, I adjust the position of the shoulders, the tilt of the torso, or the separation of the legs manually. Once everything is prepared, we can save our CC4 project.

For someone like me, who is used to working with static figures, seeing your character come to life is truly amazing!


Let’s continue bringing accessories into CC4 as if we were dressing our character from the inside out, so now it’s time for fabrics. Once again, working with this type of element is super simple. First, we need to work with planes and define the parts that will deform and those that won’t, simply using polypaint. It’s similar to using a mask in Photoshop or Substance. We’ll paint the entire piece in white and protect the parts we don’t want to deform by painting them in black when applying dynamics. Since we are working with a high polygon count, we can achieve smooth gradients by just softening the paint a little. We’ll unwrap the UVs for each piece and create a texture map from the polypaint.

We launch the flaps again using the “Visible” button. In CC4, we can import them as individual accessories and adjust them to the body. We delete the color map, link all the pieces to the hip, and test that everything works correctly. Perfect! Now, we only need to activate the physics for each piece and load the weight maps we just generated with polypaint.

Our pieces now behave like fabrics, but we need to define which parts of the character they will collide with. So, we select the body and define the collision volumes for the hip and legs in this case, deforming the “capsule” with the gizmo.

For now, it’s enough… let’s go for the armor

armor / hard surface accessories

To bring the armor pieces to Character Creator 4, we follow the same process: isolate the pieces we want and press ‘Visible’ again. We import each subtool as a new accessory and then head to the texture panel to load the normal maps for each of them. I must say that this step isn’t really necessary, but it makes everything look a bit better.

Since I’m importing the elements in different phases, I have to position them manually and link them to their corresponding joint, which wouldn’t be necessary if we imported everything together, as the program would calculate it automatically. In any case, it’s super quick… just select each element, press the ‘Pick Parent’ button, and click on the joint to which it should be linked.

We activate the fabrics again to have all the accessories visible and check how they behave with the walking test animation we’ve been using so far. I can’t help but admit that I feel like Dr. Frankenstein: ‘It’s alive!’

To add the weapons, we follow the same process: isolate the axe in ZBrush, make it visible, and then import it into CC4 as a Prop. In this case, we’ll have a single element but with all the subtools inside.

Next, we set the pivot point to the center of the axe, position it in the hand, and check how it behaves during the animation.

Completing the character’s equipment, we follow the same steps for the shield, and now we’ve finished the whole process… everything is ready for playing with poses.

Posing in CHARACTER CREATOR 4 / Freedom has arrived

We all know that posing a character in ZBrush is perfectly possible but can be quite time-consuming and effort-intensive, making it a tedious task to create a set of multiple poses for the same character.

Thanks to CC4, AccuRig, and the Character Creator Pose Tools plugin, we now have seamless communication with ZBrush. Making small changes or creating completely new poses becomes not only incredibly fast but also enjoyable.

In addition to manually posing our figure, we can utilize ActorCore, an extensive library of pre-made movements ready to use in CC4. In our case, we’ll use some animations from this library, and the best part is that we can capture specific frames from the animation to create unique and dynamic poses. We can save those exact frames and create our own library of poses within CC4.

We’re going to use the animation as a general base for our pose, selecting that exact moment we want to immortalize. Then, we make adjustments using the pose editor. I believe it’s worth highlighting how easy it is to pose the hands, moving each phalanx in a quick and super intuitive way. We can even save hand gestures to use them in future poses or directly use any of the ones available in the library to streamline the process.

RETURN TO zbrush

First of all, let’s create a quick base to place the character on. I always try to make the bases tell a story that goes beyond what the character itself conveys, but in this case, we’ll keep it simple just for playing around.

Once we’ve finished the poses, it’s time to bring them all into our ZBrush project—yes, you heard it right, all of them in the same project. We apply the pose, select all the elements, go to plugins, and within ZBrush Pose Link, we choose to send the current pose. Automatically, the plugin starts analyzing the correspondence between the elements in CC4 and the subtools. It’s crucial that none of the subtool names have been changed and that they are exactly the same as in CC4.

All the subtools deform and move to the correct position automatically, allowing us to proceed with the next poses. What’s actually happening behind the scenes is that each pose corresponds to a ZBrush layer created for each subtool, where all the changes are stored. The different poses are displayed in this layer rack, and we can rename them. Clicking on each pose activates its respective layer, showing the changes.

We can individually edit each pose, not only to position it correctly but also to make adjustments to the anatomy or minor changes in the position of accessories. Each of these changes is stored individually for each pose.

Once we save the file as a project, when we open it in a subsequent session, it might seem like we’ve lost the poses. However, we can see that the layer information remains active, and by clicking the refresh button for the pose list, we can have all the poses available again. In the layers panel, we can observe that each subtool has a layer with a name corresponding to the pose, and it will automatically activate when we select the linked pose.    

This is the result of our work… Once the figure was posed in Pose A, I think the process of generating the 4 poses and trying out at least ten more that I eventually discarded didn’t take me more than an hour. Additionally, I also created a bust based on one of the figures I already had. Next step: Printing.


Now, we only need to prepare the figures for printing. First, we’ll add thickness to the flaps since, as we mentioned before, physics in CC4 requires us to apply them as flat accessories. Once we add the thickness, we apply the texture, and it’s ready.

Next, I’ll ensure that the entire figure is a solid mesh and that there are no gaps between the different subtools. I’ll convert each subtool into a single polygroup, merge all the subtools into a single mesh using “Remesh by Union,” and then separate the pieces using polygroups. I’ll close any holes that may have remained, and now we can create the joints. Once the joints are created, we’ll slightly inflate the subtools with the male joint and create the final pieces using Boolean operations. We’ll perform decimation to reduce the polygon count and facilitate the transfer to the slicer without any issues. We’ll add a solid defining the scale for all the figures and export them as STL files.

We are going to use Chitubox to add supports and slice the pieces for printing. Whenever possible, I try to add the supports manually. It’s a super boring job, but it ensures that the pieces have fewer marks when removing the supports and that they are only where they are really needed. In case I’m not concerned about marks when removing the supports from the piece, I add automatic supports. Once the printing is finished, we remove the pieces from the printing plate, glue them together with cyanoacrylate, and that’s it!!

This is the final result of the pieces already printed. I have printed the figures at what would be the standard 75 mm size, which is considerably larger than the figures for tabletop games, but it’s a size that many painters demand.


That’s all from me. As I mentioned at the beginning, this workflow can completely change the game when it comes to creating sets or even armies for board games or wargames. One of the things that held me back as an artist was that in previous versions of Character Creator, we were dependent on the topology of the base mesh. But now, with ZBrush+AccuRIG+CC4, we have all the freedom in the world to create our creatures, pose them, and continue creating variations.

Undoubtedly, ZBrush+AccuRIG+CC4 is a fantastic formula for increasing productivity while maintaining complete freedom and creativity.

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