Peter Alexander talked about how Reallusion's Character Creator 4 makes a facial profile pipeline easier, explained how the tool helps create personalities, and showed how the workflow can save a lot of time.
Greetings, my name is Peter Alexander. I’m a 3D generalist who specializes in utilizing Blender-to-Character Creator pipelines. I’ve had the privilege of working on character projects to demo the new features coming to Character Creator 4 (CC4).
As someone who has worked with 3DXchange for both Character Creator 3 and ActorCore avatar optimization, I was immediately blown away by how much of an improvement the CC4 facial profile pipeline is. Previously, the 3DXchange pipeline was geared more for marketplace optimization. Character Creator 4 has features that speed up the process at least ten-fold, and makes it more accessible for the average user.
Unique Personality vs. Generic Expressions
Having been developing more than 100 character products for the past few years, I always look for interesting ways to express my characters’ stories. The general facial expressions can be easily done by any artist, however, to make your own character stand out, it’s essential to give them unique personalities, especially when you plan to animate them after the 3D modeling.
After trying out CC4’s new features, I selected two characters from my previous work: a stylized vampire and a hunchback. My initial impulse was to optimize the expression presets for the character, which has been a standard optimization requirement. As I dug into the tools, I realized that I could exaggerate every aspect of a character’s expression, and thus breathe personalities into characters beyond the standard set of expressions.
The vampire character was fun to work on as he was the most stylized of the original characters in this demo. I drew a little inspiration from Hotel Transylvania for the expressions and personality of the character and maybe a bit of Fright Night, though the character design was more of an original experiment.
The personality I crafted for the vampire was that of a suave aristocrat with an over-the-top sinister – but goofy – quality to his character. I focused heavily on his brow, jaw and teeth – with many of the expressions exaggerating his fanged smile. Of all the characters, this one probably has the most personality as the style I chose welcomed cartoonish exaggeration.
CC4 Simplifies the Way of Shaping Personalities
In my past experience dealing with large-eyed characters, I have often had to rely on using the Correct Eyeblink feature to adjust the eyelids for blink animations. If this isn’t enough to correct the eyes, however, then I can still use Character Creator 4’s expression morph sliders along with the Mesh Edit tool to quickly overcome this obstacle by adjusting the source morph target shapes.
Apart from this, cartoon characters tend to have more exaggerated proportions to make them visually appealing, like this vampire character with a long face and large mouth, for example. However, characters such as these usually need to be adjusted to support exaggerated expressions and performances. Due to the slender face of the vampire, the teeth and fangs have a tendency to penetrate the face, and morph sliders would need to be relied upon to reposition and resize the teeth to fix the flaws in animation.
In an effort to enhance flexibility of the expressions and performances, I’ve prepared quite a few custom morph sliders on the side. Users are welcome to mix-and-match these CC4 morphs to arrive at unique character expressions which they can truly call their own.
CC Pipelines Create Animated Personalities – ZBrush, Blender & More
The character Luffy from One Piece was interesting to experiment with because of his elastic, over-the-top expressions. As the GoZ pipeline became more refined, I was able to more easily exaggerate the teeth and mouth, allowing for most of Luffy’s classic anime expressions.
The CC4 facial expression pipelines offer amazing convenience for manipulating expressions to create unique personalities for any imaginable character. Luffy’s personality was already established, so it was more a matter of utilizing ZBrush to approximate those expressions of his personality.
CC4 custom expression sculpting with GoZ pipeline:
As I continued to use the new tools, I wanted to experiment with a cuter character, so I introduced this cartoon girl to the mix, which I enjoyed working on. I don’t exactly recall the inspiration for this character; I frequently browse stylized designs on Pinterest, and may have picked up some elements from the Boondocks series. I exaggerated her teeth and cheeks to give her a chipmunk-like cuteness. I envisioned her to be cute but rebellious and prone to challenging authority.
I want to emphasize that my facial expression manipulating experience prior to CC4 was limited to adjusting eye blinks and the expression pipeline is extremely easy to use. Those who are familiar with dialing in and baking morphs will find that there’s not much difference, especially if they use GoZ (ZBrush) or the Blender pipeline to make character adjustments.
Once you’ve made your adjustments using expression sliders, the internal mesh editing tools (including the new amazing Delta Mush feature), you can bake your work as a component of the character’s expression profile. In cases involving symmetrical adjustments, you will have the options to ‘mirror’ your work over to the other side of the model.
If you’ve worked on models using 3DXchange, you’ll probably understand how time consuming and tedious it can be to adjust a character profile, especially things like the Eye Occlusion and Tearline. The new pipeline doesn’t just save you hours of work, it literally saves you days. Beyond fixing CC3+ characters, you can take a custom rigged character from Blender or another 3D application and add an entire personality within hours.
This is game-changing stuff. It makes establishing a character’s personality a pleasure and brings this aspect of 3D development to a level much more comfortable and desirable for the average creator. The CC4 tools are not just fun to use, they also empower artists to bring their character design potential to the next level. If you’re already on the next level, Character Creator 4 will take you even higher.