Thursday, March 25th, 2021 Posted by Jim Thacker

Reallusion releases Character Creator 3.4

Reallusion has released Character Creator 3.4, the latest free update to its 3D character creation tool.

The release introduces Smart Hair, a new system of modular hairstyles and facial hair with an updated hair shader, plus two paid-for add-on packs of hair parts.

Characters created with the software also now support the new ExpressionPlus facial blendshapes and visemes generated by AccuLips lip sync system in iClone 7.9, Reallusion’s real-time animation software.

Smart Hair: a new modular systeem for mixing and matching readymade hair parts
Version 3.4 is the first update to Character Creator since last July, and arrives somewhat later than expected: it was originally scheduled for the “second half of 2020”.

The main change in the release is Smart Hair: a new modular system for adding hair to 3D characters.

Hairstyles are comprised of three ‘hair groups’ – head hair, beards and eyebrows – the first two of which further break down into ‘hair elements’.

In the case of head hair, the hair base, bangs and rear hair all form separate elements, as do ponytails and hair accessories. Beards break down into moustaches, sideburns and beard parts.

Additional ‘hair patches’ soften hairlines or add fine wisps of hair.

The free update includes 16 sample hair elements, though the bulk of the readymade assets are available via two paid-for add-ons, Prime Hairstyles and Beard & Brows Builder.

New Smart Hair Shader controls the colour of the scalp, hair strands and highlights
As well as mixing and matching hair elements, users can customise hairstyles by recolouring the hair.

The software’s new Smart Hair Shader provides separate components for base colour, defined by vertex colour in the scalp mesh; and for the root and end colour of hair strands, defined by texture maps.

Other components control balayage dyed highlights and specular highlights, also defined by texture maps.

Direct shader support in UE4, via PBR texture maps for other DCC apps
Reallusion describes the Smart Hair system as “designed for performance” in real-time apps.

The hair is exported as card based geometry, with a complete hairstyle totalling “merely hundreds or thousands of polygons”, with 2K texture maps for head hair and 1K maps for beard hair.

Smart Hair can be exported to Unreal Engine directly via Auto Setup for Unreal Engine 4, Reallusion’s free conversion plugin, version 1.2 of which was also released yesterday.

That includes support for the new Smart Hair Shader, although there are some known visual discrepancies.

At the time of writing, the Unity conversion plugin, Auto Setup for Unity, hadn’t been updated, but shader effects can be baked to PBR texture maps for use in Unity or other DCC applications.

Limited support for hair physics in the paid assets, and no new native hair-creation tools?
Shorter beards and eyebrows should naturally follow the surface of face during facial animation, while the movement of longer beards and moustaches can be modified via a skin weighting system.

What happens with head hair is a moot point: according to Reallusion, “physics is not supported” on the assets in the Prime Hair pack, although forum posts suggest there may be manual workarounds.

Updated: According to a new forum post from Reallusion, Smart Hair styles are compatible with Character Creator’s hair physics system, but not all of the assets in the Prime Hair pack have physics weight maps.

There also doesn’t seem to be a native toolset for creating new hair elements or grooming existing ones. We’ve contacted Reallusion to check, and will update if we hear back.

However, users can import card-based hair meshes created in other software in OBJ or FBX format, although the shader requires quite a specific set of texture maps, which may require some manual conversion.

Updated 29 March 2021: Reallusion told us that Smart Hair had been designed “with an asset creation framework for users to import their own hair components”, so there are no new native hair-creation tools.

It’s also possible to import facial hair from DAZ Studio’s G8 characters, and to export existing hair elements for editing in ZBrush via Pixologic’s GoZ system.

Support for the new features in iClone 7.9, but no sign of the dynamic wrinkle system yet
Other changes in Character Creator 3.4 include an update to the CC3 Base+ character geometry introduced in version 3.3 last year.

CC3 Base+ is now compatible with the ExpressionPlus (ExPlus) facial blendshapes introduced in iClone 7.9, released yesterday, while its visemes have been updated to match iClone’s new AccuLips lip sync system.

There are also a number of workflow and UI improvements, listed in this forum thread.

However, there’s no sign of the dynamic wrinkle system originally slated for Character Creator 3.3, and later rescheduled for version 3.4 to tie in with the new lip sync system.

Updated 29 March 2021: Reallusion told us that it “will reveal some new updates in the coming months”, but that there is currently no new confirmed release date for the wrinkle system.

Pricing and availability
Character Creator 3.4 is available for 64-bit Windows 7+. The base edition is free to registered users of iClone 7; the full Pipeline edition costs $199. You can see a feature comparision of the two editions here.

To export characters from the free edition of Character Creator in OBJ or FBX format, users also need a separate add-on, 3DXChange. It costs $199 for the Pro edition and $499 for the Pipeline edition.

The new Prime Hairstyles and Beard & Brows Builder add-on packs both have MSRPs of $99 for use in iClone only, or $149 if you want to export the hair to game engines or other DCC apps.

Read more about Character Creator’s new Smart Hair system on Reallusion’s website

Read a full list of new features in Character Creator 3.4 on Reallusion’s forum