Saturday, December 11th, 2021 Posted by Jim Thacker

KeenTools ships FaceBuilder 2021.4 for Nuke and Blender

Originally posted on 24 December 2020. Scroll down for news of the 2021.4 update.

Plugin developer KeenTools has released KeenTools 2021.1, the latest version of its suite of add-ons for Nuke and Blender that includes automated head-generation plugin FaceBuilder.

The Blender edition of FaceBuilder gets a set of built-in FACS blendshapes that can be driven by facial performance data captured on Epic Games’ free Live Link Face iOS app.

Both editions of the plugin also generate new low-poly and mid-poly head geometry for real-time work, with improved facial symmetry and neck topology.

The Nuke plugins, which also include facial tracking tool FaceTracker and general-purpose camera-tracking tool GeoTracker, get support for Nuke Indie.

Create accurate 3D reconstructions of live actors from source photos inside Nuke and Blender
Originally released for Nuke in 2018, and later ported to Blender, FaceBuilder promises to achieve the kind of results that would normally only be possible with dedicated photogrammetry software or 3D scan data.

Users begin by importing photos of an actor, and adjusting parameters like focal length and aperture on a readymade virtual camera to match the source images.

By placing pins in the viewport, they can then adjust the default facial geometry the plugin generates to match that of live actor. FaceBuilder projects textures from the source photos onto the final 3D geometry.

This demo video shows the workflow inside Nuke, creating models that would conventionally prove challenging with photogrammetry, including digital heads with facial hair or glasses.

New in FaceBuilder 2021.1 for Blender: FACS facial coding
To that, the 2021.1 update adds support for the VFX-industry-standard Facial Action Coding System (FACS), providing 51 readymade blendshapes that can be combined to generate realistic facial expressions.

The implementation is compatible with Apple’s ARKit 4.0 augmented reality framework, and by extension, with other ARKit-based tools like Live Link Face, Epic Games’ facial performance capture app.

The free app enables users to record facial performance data using the TrueDepth sensor on modern iPhones, then export it to FaceBuilder as a CSV file.

FaceBuilder 2021.1 for Nuke and Blender: new low-poly and mid-poly head geometry
Both editions of FaceBuilder also now provide alternative low- and mid-poly versions of the plugin’s default head geometry, intended for use inside game engines.

According to KeenTools, exporting a custom head to Unity or Unreal Engine is a one-click process.

The update also improves the symmetry of the base head geometry, and improves the topology of the base model’s neck, to make it easier to integrate with the body of a 3D character.

All Nuke plugins: support for Nuke Indie
In addition, all of the Nuke plugins now support Nuke Indie, the new $499/year edition of the compositing software, following Foundry’s decision to add support for third-party plugins earlier this year.

Other changes include the option to export FACS facial blendshape coefficients from FaceTracker; and to customise the default facial texture in both FaceTracker and FaceBuilder.

There are also a number of smaller workflow improvements: you can find a full list via the links below.

Updated 26 March 2021: KeenTools has released KeenTools 2021.2.

The update adds a neat new AI-trained system to FaceBuilder 2021.2 to automatically align the default geometry that the software generates with the actor’s face in the reference image.

KeenTools describes the fit as “not yet always 100% accurate, so it requires some manual adjustments here and there, but it radically reduces the time [required to] shape the models”.

The same technology has also been added to FaceTracker 2021.2, but currently only works for setting up keyframes, not for the tracking process itself.

Updated 6 August 2021: KeenTools has released KeenTools 2021.3.

The update is a big one for the Nuke edition of FaceBuilder, with the beta release of three new nodes that KeenTools decribes as “basically [bringing] blendshapes to Nuke”.

For human faces, the new FACS node creates FACS blendshapes for FaceBuilder geometry inside Nuke. As with the Blender edition of the plugin, the set of 51 shapes is ARKit-compatible.

For creature heads, the JoinBlendshapes node joins geometries with the same topology to create blendshapes, while the MixBlendshapes node provides slider controls to mix between shapes.

Geometry with blendshapes can be passed to GeoTracker, making it possible to track a character’s head then animate facial blendshapes on the tracked geometry, as shown in the video above.

In addition, both editions of FaceBuilder have been “reworked from scratch”, introducing a new auto-reducing algorithm to reduce the number of pins required

FaceTracker and GeoTracker get a new viewer stabilisation system, to fix the position of the pin selected or object being tracked within the viewport.

Updated 10 December 2021: KeenTools has released KeenTools 2021.4.

The update reworks the base geometry of the head models that the plugin generates, refining the eyes and extending the neck, as shown in the video above.

In Nuke, it is also now possible to track faces in FaceTracker without pre-calculating optical flow, an “experimental” workflow that “might [be] useful for simple tracking tasks”.

Pricing and system requirements
The full KeenTools 2021.4 product suite is available for Nuke 11.0+. FaceBuilder is also available for Blender 2.80+. The tools run on Windows, Linux and macOS.

All of the plugins are rental-only and cost $149/year for a node-locked Personal licence, $299 for a node-locked Commercial licence, or $399/year for a Floating licence.

New licences of FaceBuilder include both Nuke and Blender editions. FaceBuilder and FaceTracker are also available as a product bundle.

Read an overview of the new features in KeenTools 2021.4 on the company’s blog

Read a full changelog for KeenTools 2021.x