Facial animation: MetaHuman Unreal 5

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Do you want to create the most realistic faces using advanced computer technology? Now the dreams of artists are becoming a reality. MetaHuman is a tremendous complete framework, an excellent Unreal Engine tool that allows users to create amazing human faces in a few minutes. The program includes a free cloud-based application MetaHuman Creator. This innovative technology is used worldwide in games, CG production, and film industries. What are its benefits?  

What is 3D Facial Animation?

Creating realistic facial animations is a creative process made possible using advanced technologies. This technique is widely used in various fields – the gaming industry, the film industry, educational videos, marketing, for pleasant online communication, and just for fun. Developers compete among themselves whose technologies will provide the best effect. 

What is a MetaHuman Creator?

Now the best practices are available to all users worldwide. MetaHuman Creator is an innovative software tool running in the Unreal Engine browser. It allows people to create wonderful human faces. The result can be uploaded to Unreal Engine for further use. It’s easy to create physically believable MetaHuman! The tool gets data from a real-world scan, and your adjustments are limited to the examples in its database. Notice the carefully chosen range of skin tones and hair colors.

You can create several faces by using almost endless variations in facial features, skin color, hair, eyes, makeup, and teeth options. There is work support from solution providers DI4D, ARKit, Digital Domain, Dynamixyz, JALI, Faceware, Speech Graphics, and Cubic Motion.

You can also download this program through the free Quixel Bridge app, integrated into UE5. It is also possible to get source data as an Autodesk Maya file, including different meshes, face rigs, skeletons, great animation controls, and materials, to further edit and enhance your MetaHuman.

What is an Unreal Engine?

UE5 is the most powerful and integrated engine that combines visual design with sound, high-quality graphics, lighting, animation, and more. You can create several faces by using almost endless variations in facial features, skin color, hair, eyes, makeup, and teeth options. It allows developers and game creators to realize next-generation 3D content in real time and work with more precision, freedom, and flexibility than ever before.  

History of MetaHuman Creator

So In February 2021, Epic Games unveiled a high-tech tool for creating high-quality 3D human characters called MetaHuman Creator to the public. It was a breakthrough. Before that, it was believed that it was possible to create a 3D model of a person in hyperrealism without the uncanny valley effect only with the help of expensive programs, 3D scanning, and the use of mandatory revision of the source by 3D artists. However, on April 14, 2021, MetaHuman Creator went into open early access, thus making the technology closer and more accessible to ordinary users. People all over the world have appreciated the possibilities of this tool.

We note that this product was developed based on the developments of the Serbian studio 3Lateral, which was actively involved in 3D scanning and motion design. Firms became known after they participated in the work on the games Devil May Cry 5, GTA 5, Until Dawn, Horizon: Zero Dawn, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. The company has repeatedly created joint projects with the Epic Games studio. At the GDC 2017 conference, 3Lateral and Epic Games presented an early prototype of the character editor (Gene Splicer). The technology allowed the procedural generation of new faces based on scanned data from real people. 

During the scanning process, the skin surface areas were tracked by special sensors with high accuracy down to the pore level and stored in the database. Thus the concept of “digital people” has continued to evolve. Then a short demo monologue of the virtual girl was presented. A digital version of actor Andy Serkis was created using 3D and 4D scanning.

As a result, the developers conceived an excellent technology that allows ordinary users to lower themselves as real artists creating high-quality 3D human characters. In 2020 Qubic Motion and 3Lateral, under the leadership of Epic Games, laid the foundation for creating a new “digital” humanity within the Unreal Engine. 

The main functionality of the tool

It is an online editor. Any user with an Epic Games account can request early access to MetaHuman Creator on the company’s website. The system has more than 50 face templates of different sex, race, and age with individual characteristics. At the bottom of the working area, there are three main options with which the face shape of the future 3D model is created: Move, Blend and Sculpt.

Sculpt

It allows you to work with points responsible for the shape of parts of the face and adjust them to your liking. If desired, you can turn off the symmetry and intentionally add asymmetrical details and flaws to the face. By the way, in human-real faces, there is always asymmetry. That’s why the developers of this technology have already laid a certain asymmetry in the patterns of faces.

Blend

The Blend tool “blends” parts of different faces. On the left side of the editor, the user can add a few more templates to the original set by dragging the avatar from Presets into the Blend window. In the working window, you can change the parts of the face indicated by circles by dragging the marker toward the required template. The editor generates mixed results

Move

Move is responsible for editing large areas. And this process is fast.

MetaHuman

All methods – Sculpt, Move and Bend – can be freely combined, fine-tuning the appearance. You can easily edit clothes, makeup, hair color, teeth shape and color, and so on. The bite, the height of the teeth, the distance between them, and the shape and size can be adjusted. In addition, edit the features of the skin texture. For example, wrinkles may appear on the face. You can make adjustments to the lights as well. It is quickly done using the Studio tab. Create, for example, daylight, or reproduce the effect of a fireplace.

Other buttons are responsible for the camera angle and render quality. Choose from ultra-high detail, which shows even vellus hair on a person’s face, to low-poly, PS1 style. Note that the created model can be transferred to Unreal Engine using Quixel Bridge. MetaHuman Creator’s Models can be transferred to Unreal Engine or Autodesk Maya.

List of MetaHuman Creator limitations

It’s a delightful program that expands our possibilities. But this tool has some limitations.

Cloud format

It’s a great database of textures and high-resolution 3D face scans that is constantly growing. It allows users to let their imagination run wild when creating a model using different templates.

No fantasy

MetaHuman Creator is only for creating human characters. The creation of magical creatures such as orcs and elves has yet to be made available. Although, such a request from users has been received repeatedly.It is a unique technology. But only some user requests can be answered. For example, it is not designed to create doppelgangers like celebrity doppelgangers. Although theoretically, it can give a specific result based on the presented reference images. To do it, the user should upload two photos of a person in the profile and a full face. A reference program (like PureRef) with translucency and image-over-windows functions will make it possible. However, achieving a complete resemblance to the original is impossible.

Exclusivity

According to the requirements of Epic Games, the user can modify models from MetaHuman Creator but use them only within the Unreal Engine. Use of content in third-party programs is a violation of the license. Autodesk Maya is currently the only 3D modeling software that officially supports this content. 

Cons of the program

  • It is a fantastic technology that opens up new possibilities. Alas, there are some downsides. They may be corrected in the future. 
  • The current functionality is still limited.
  • Ready-made characters can only be used within Unreal Engine projects.
  • Outerwear in MetaHuman Creator is represented only by a pullover, a shirt, and a sweatshirt that can be colored. After all, the main goal was the creation of new faces. With this task, they coped brilliantly. The wardrobe for the character can always be imported from other programs or found on the Unreal Marketplace.

Pros of MetaHuman Creator

  • Easy to learn: Intuitive interface that every user can understand.
  • The tool is free, unlike analogs such as Character Creator. 
  • Model face rigs created in MetaHuman Creator are compatible with the Live Link App, making it easy to record your animations from the iPhone camera.
  • Provides a fast process for creating high-quality human traits in 3D. 
  • Fast export. It does not require hard disk space. All work is instantly saved in the cloud.   

Previously, the development of one character took weeks, but now it will take much less time and will likely take a maximum of a few hours. MetaHuman Creator has motivated other companies to move towards creating alternative software. In the future, such a massive introduction of ready-made solutions for creating high-quality 3D characters will speed up the process of developing games and computer animation projects and allow them to reach a new level of realism.

Appearance Transformation Process - Facial Animation

One example of using the program in the game

The characters in the famous game Death Stranding two by Kojima Productions are based on MetaHuman Unreal Engine 5 technology. The game takes place in the United States after a cataclysmic event that has caused destructive creatures to roam the Earth. This cutting-edge technology paves the way for creating assembled, photorealistic 3D digital character models in minutes.

Conclusion

For developers of the Unreal Engine, this program is a great help. Before MetaHuman Creator, only highly skilled freelance artists and big-budget AAA studios could afford photorealistic characters. This tool will help you create characters faster and focus directly on the art part, especially when it comes to character design for AAA games MetaHuman Creator is suitable for developers and ordinary users who want to give free rein to their imagination and create 3D avatars of their dreams in various character editors. Contact our company Kreonit, if you’re going to make spectacular facial animation. We know the most advanced technologies that create a new virtual reality that can delight you.

FAQ

1. Is the Unreal Engine good for animation? 

Unreal Engine is an advanced video game development tool from the video game and software company Epic Games. It’s an excellent choice for creating animation. It supports up to 18 platforms and is characterized by fast rendering speeds and high-quality graphics, making it ideal for enterprise-level animation developers or independent developers. 

2. Can you animate with MetaHuman? 

You can animate metahumans in Unreal Engine with the TrueDepth camera on your iPhone or iPad and the Live Link plugin. 

3. What is MetaHuman used for? 

MetaHuman is a photorealistic 3D character created using Epic Game’s MetaHuman Creator software. This virtual person was created using the references of thousands of people. MetaHuman models have been used in VTubing, games, virtual production, previs, and films.

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