Epic Games launches MetaHuman Creator
Originally posted on 10 February 2021. Scroll down for news of the early access release.
Epic Games has unveiled MetaHuman Creator, a groundbreaking new cloud-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”.
“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.
Updated 14 April 2021: MetaHuman Creator is now available in early access. Users can register to join the early access program via a new product page on Epic Games’ website.
Epic has also released 50 readymade MetaHuman characters for use in Unreal Engine projects. They can be downloaded via a new MetaHumans tab in Quixel Bridge.
Pricing, availability and system requirements
MetaHuman Creator is available in early access. The software is 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 sample MetaHuman characters created using the app are compatible with Unreal Engine 4.26.1+.