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Epic Games announces MetaHuman Creator

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 | Posted by Jim Thacker

 
Originally posted on 10 February 2021. Scroll down for a new video of the MetaHuman Creator facial rig.

Epic Games has unveiled MetaHuman Creator, a groundbreaking new browser-based app that will enable users to build photorealistic, animation-ready digital humans for games and virtual production work.

The service will launch in early access “within the next few months”, but Epic has made an Unreal Engine project containing two sample characters available to download for free.

The most advanced off-the-shelf real-time character creation tool yet?
MetaHuman Creator isn’t the first app for building characters for Unreal Engine – alternatives range from open-source software to Reallusion’s digital human tools – but it looks like it could be the most advanced.

Epic says that its aim is to enable users to create digital human characters in less than an hour, and at a level of quality suitable for next-gen games platforms and “high-end virtual production”.

The company previously produced a series of amazing tech demos showcasing digital humans inside Unreal Engine, and has since acquired two of its key tech partners, 3Lateral and Cubic Motion.

“Up until now one of the most arduous tasks in 3D content creation has been constructing truly convincing digital humans,” said 3Lateral founder Vladimir Mastilovic, now VP of digital humans technology at Epic.

“After decades of research and development … that barrier is being erased through Unreal Engine.”

Assemble photorealistic 3D characters with hair and clothing from libraries of stock content
To create a new character in MetaHuman Creator, users will be able to mix and match from a set of stock content: the video above shows libraries of readymade bodies, faces, eyes, hairstyles and facial hair.

The base content can then be modified through what looks like a set of fairly simple slider-based controls.

For finer manual adjustments, the video shows the shape of the face being edited by manipulating a series of control points to adjust the form of the eyes, brows, nose, cheeks and mouth.

According to Epic, the app “blends between … examples in the library in a plausible, data-constrained way”.

Users can also create clothing for their character – the video shows menu categories for tops, bottoms and shoes – and choose between hairstyles using Unreal Engine’s strand-based hair or hair cards.

 

 
Available as both Unreal Engine projects and Maya source data
Once users have created a new character, they will be able to download it via Quixel Bridge, the free asset-management tool for Quixel’s Megascans library, which Epic acquired in 2019.

As well as an Unreal Engine project, users will get a Maya file containing the source data, including the character meshes, materials and animation rig, at eight levels of detail.

The animation rig includes both facial and finger controls, and Epic says that animations created for one MetaHuman will run on other MetaHumans – presumably regardless of gender or body type.

The rig is compatible with facial animation data captured using Epic’s free Live Link Face app.

The firm says that it is also working to support key third-party facial capture and animation tools including those from Faceware Technologies, JALI, Speech Graphics, Dynamixyz and DI4D.

 

 
Updated 17 Februrary 2021: Epic Games has posted a 40-minute demo of the facial rig for characters generated by MetaHuman Creator, showing how it can be used to edit expressions inside Unreal Engine.

The rig includes individual controls for key points all over the face, supplementary controllers for mouth and tongue positions, and a set of extra controls for tweaking brows and lips.

Pricing, availability and system requirements
MetaHuman Creator will become available in early access “within the next few months”. As a browser-based service, system requirements should be minimal.

Epic confirmed to CG Channel that MetaHuman Creator will be free for use with Unreal Engine.

Characters created with the platform are “primarily” for use in UE4, but “service customers of 3Lateral and Cubic Motion can speak with our team regarding access to MetaHuman Creator”.

The company has also released two sample characters created using the app. They are compatible with Unreal Engine 4.26.1+ and can be downloaded via the link below.

Read more about MetaHuman Creator on Epic Games’ blog
(Includes download link for the sample characters)

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