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The team of Eisko discussed Polywink — a new online platform that is meant for accessible 3D facial animation in Maya, Unity, Unreal, and other tools.
Polywink is an online platform designed to make 3D facial animation accessible to everyone, empowering artists, creators & developers. Thanks to machine learning, we have been able to procedurally automate repetitive and time-consuming tasks like blendshapes generation and facial rigging: the outcome is a more efficient and affordable way to animate 3D models, drastically speeding up the workflow.
Polywink was founded by Eisko, a 3D company specialized in digital doubles. It is based on internal R&D made to address the need for fast and accessible 3D animation tools, often tied to repetitive and tedious tasks which can drive up costs or increase production time. After experimenting with our new services through a beta testing platform called Eisko Services, we finally launched Polywink earlier this year!
At the core of Polywink is our blendshapes generation technology, which enables any user to upload any static 3D head model and get it back with a complete set of blendshapes or a full facial rig in a couple of hours. Our method adapts to any sort of morphology and preserves the original topology, which were important elements for a flexible animation pipeline.
Our objective is to democratize 3D facial animation by making it faster and cheaper without compromising on quality, automating its most time-consuming aspects. Through our in-house procedural technology, we are able to deliver in a couple of hours results which would otherwise take weeks to achieve manually. Our current goal would be to allow anyone to simply take a model, process it through our platform and plug it into a mocap software in minutes, no matter their skill and resources.
Each uploaded model is processed by our algorithm, then manually checked by our team before it is sent back to the customer. Polywink requires no particular technical background and, contrary to auto-rigging tools, no additional work on your end.
- Blendshapes on Demand automatically generates a complete set of blendshapes for any model. You can order the indie version with 51 blendshapes or a professional version with more than 150 blendshapes;
- Rig on Demand automatically generates a professional full facial rig for Maya with customizable 2D controllers giving an intuitive and accurate access to more than 250 facial action units (FACs). Here too, you can order an indie option based on 51 blendshapes, or a professional version with more than 200 blendshapes.
- Animation for iPhone X automatically generates the 51 blendshapes specifically required by the ARKit guidelines to use the iPhone X face tracking. Creators are then able to use it as an affordable mocap device! We offer three delivery options, all ready to use: for Maya, Unity 3D or Unreal Engine.
The big novelty here is the iPhone X face tracking powered by its TrueDepth camera which emits and analyzes about 30000 infrared dots in real-time. Apple originally put this technology to use with its Animojis and Face ID features, but 3D professionals quickly realized that it was a powerful piece of hardware that anyone could use in new and affordable DYI mocap setups.
This is indeed a game changer, and we at Polywink believe that more and more mobile devices will be equipped with this technology, effectively putting an affordable facial mocap device into anyone’s hands.
Blendshapes (or morph targets) are a widespread method of 3D animation, particularly useful in the case of facial animation. Animations are obtained from the different deformations of a 3D shape, each representing different expressions and visemes, which are then interpolated together to produce a smooth transition between different poses, from a frown to a smile or to open and close a character’s eyes.
For example, our Blendshapes on Demand service offers two options, one with 51 blendshapes to offer a basic level of expressiveness, and the second one with more than 150 blendshapes to include specific expressions like fear, anger, disgust and a complete set of visemes to better reproduce the different shapes the mouth makes when a character speaks.
Blendshapes animation, also known as per-vertex animation or shape interpolation, is compatible with most 3D software like Maya, 3DS Max, Unity or Unreal Engine: simply speaking, blendshapes are the missing piece between an immobile 3D head and a moving, animated one. As for Polywink, our sets of blendshapes cover a wide range of facial expressions which can, in turn, be used for different purposes like game development, animated shorts, commercials, movies, interactive applications, etc. They enable 3D artists to represent pretty much any emotion they want and can be manually edited if you are trying to achieve a specific result.
If you are looking for a rig, you might want to take a look at Rig on Demand, which automatically generates a rig of professional quality for Maya, no matter the animation technique.
If you’re working on 3DS Max on any other 3D software, or if you want to use your own controllers, you can choose Blendshapes on Demand to generate a set of blendshapes which you can then use as the base of your own, personal rig. In any case, both options will save a lot of budget and time.
Both services offer several advantages:
- Delivery time – each delivery happens in less than 24 hours. In reality, most deliveries take no more than a couple of hours, and only because our team manually checks every result to make sure the quality is top-notch.
- An affordable price – our automated services come at a very affordable price, making it accessible to any developer.
- Compatibility – The generated 3D head models are compatible with all commonly used 3D software like Maya, 3DS Max, Unity or Unreal Engine, as well as iPhone X face tracking.
- Works for any model – All of our services work regardless of the character’s morphology and preserve its topology, from cartoonish creatures to photorealistic humans.
In short: are you looking to get a state-of-the-art facial rig in a couple of hours that you can use in Maya? Look no further than Rig on Demand. Do you need a set of blendshapes to power your own rig or to work on any 3D software? Blendshapes on Demand is the right choice for you!
Our blendshapes are thoroughly checked before delivery so that the user can be assured of their quality. With that being said, our Animation for iPhone X example is a screen capture of what can be done in real-time with nothing but the iPhone X itself in a couple of minutes. It’s raw, unedited footage of what you see on your iPhone X screen.
If you want to see more details as well as something more refined, you can, for example, check out the videos from the Unity blog where they showcase the result you get when the animation is streamed through their engine. Unity or Unreal can take care of smoothing the animation, allowing the user to clean it further manually.
However, if you want to use the iPhone X results alone, you can select our Maya export option to receive a Maya scene where you can clean any unwanted elements and fine-tune the animation sequence. Our clients are very happy with the results!
Anyone can benefit from automatically generating blendshapes, from freelancers to larger studios: we can offer tailor-made services to larger studios like using modified sets of shapes while smaller companies can use the platform whenever they need.
For larger studios the goal would be to increase their productivity and gain time in their productions; for smaller indies it could even give them access to facial animation. From our experience, VR developers love these services because they wouldn’t have the resources, be it time, budget or knowledge, to otherwise invest in facial animation.
Recently, Cory Strassburger (co-founder of Kite & Lightning) won the Siggraph 2018 Real-Time Live! award for his DIY Motion Capture setup using an iPhone X for the facial animation of his character; we were particularly excited as he was an early customer of Polywink’s Rig on Demand. We believe that we will see more and more of this, and it would make us really happy to be a part of this new trend to democratize facial animation and content creation in general.
Now, if you want to use Polywink yourself:
- On www.polywink.com, select the service of your choice;
- Select your delivery option (number of blendshapes or target software)
- After checkout or in your personal account, upload the 3D head model you wish to process;
- Grab a cup of coffee and wait for our notification;
- Download the result with the set of blendshapes or full facial rig that you asked for;
- Start animating right away!
We believe the process is fairly straightforward, but if you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact us, we’ll be happy to help you out. You can also reach us through our Facebook and learn more on our Youtube channel or Polywink website.