How animation studio Digital Puppets took on the customization and compatibility aspects of Reallusion’s Character Creator 4 to build a CG Snoop Dogg.
When Digital Puppets co-founder Antony Evans was looking to build a stylized CG version of American rapper Snoop Dog, he looked to Reallusion’s Character Creator 4 and a host of related tools to create the character.
His stylized digital human of Snoop relied also on Reallusion’s Headshot AI enhanced plugin, SkinGen textures and Dynamics Wrinkles–aspects that Evans says helped him go beyond what he could achieve solely in Unreal Engine’s MetaHuman Creator toolset.
In addition, Character Creator 4 was something Evans found was fully compatible, via its open license, to use with other 3D toolsets, allowing him to complete shaping, skin layer editing, hairstyling, outfitting and accessory additions in Character Creator 4, and then bring it into other tools. If he needed to, Evans could also use Auto Setup for Unreal Engine and the new CC-to-MetaHuman pipeline to transfer head shape, skin textures and dynamic wrinkles into Unreal.
befores & afters asked Evans about his own history in the field, and how he went about crafting his CG Snoop Dog in stylized form, and how he used Character Creator 4 for the task.
b&a: Can you start by giving me a brief background about yourself as an artist, and the kind of work that Digital Puppets now does?
Antony Evans: Digital Puppets is run by myself and my brother Scott. We specialize in creating real-time characters utilizing motion capture animation solutions. Scott creates 2D characters and has a background in cartoon logo design and I create the 3D character characters and my background is in 3D illustrations from children’s books to architectural designs, and digital printing.
We used to get a lot of enquires about creating cartoons and found that once people realized the amount of time and expense that went into creating traditional animations, they were soon put off the idea. This is why we started exploring ideas to take our character designs and find a simple solution, so people with no animation experience could start making animated content. The biggest breakthrough for this was the use of facial capture and auto lip syncing. So, we now supply our character designs to our customers with everything setup, so all they need to do is perform and make content.
b&a: From an overall point of view, what are the ‘challenges’ of taking a realistic subject or photo of someone and creating a stylized view of them?
Antony Evans: It’s always a challenge to create a model of a realistic character, the slightest thing being out of place on the model can make it look like a different person. This is why we like to work with more stylized characters, they can be a little more forgiving. We also find the closer you get to a realistic model the more you notice is something is slightly off, which leads to the Uncanny Valley issues.
b&a: Compared to tackling this kind of work in MetaHuman Creator, what do you feel you were able to do with CC4 and various other tools to bring your Snoop Dog creation to life?
Antony Evans: Character Creator 4 has some really great character modeling tools and is my go-to program for character building. Headshot is a great starting point for realistic characters as it does a great job in matching the positions of the facial features and from there you can go back and forth from ZBrush to really start adding detail and defining the model.
Once you have your model setup, you then have SkinGen that allows you to start adding in the finer details like wrinkles and skin pores. All the micro details really add to the overall look of the final model. The latest edition to CC4 are the Dynamic Wrinkles, and these look great when the face is being animated, again adding that extra level of detail.
So, overall, there are lots of really useful tools specifically made to add extra layers of detail. When compared to MetaHuman Creator I found CC4 just gave you more control and freedom to add custom details. The MetaHumans look great and the models you can make do look impressive, I just felt limited to how far I could push the facial features and really customize the model. Also, the biggest advantage I found with CC4 is the GoZ link and being able to send the model back and forth seamlessly with a click of a button.
b&a: In particular, can you also talk about the workflow you followed to enable ZBrush to be part of this, and why that was important?
Antony Evans: So ZBrush always plays a big part in my character modeling, the organic sculpting tools really allow you to manipulate the shape of the mesh. For the stylized design we created, ZBrush is great, we can push and pull the mesh around and really try and exaggerate different areas of the face to get that stylized caricature look. It allows you to experiment with the overall shape, but then to go in and really define the small details.
b&a: What was your favourite aspect/plugin/tool related to CC4 in working on the character, and why?
Antony Evans: I think the GoZ feature is my most used tool for my character work, but I do also really love SkinGen and being able to add in all those micro details really easily without having to make custom texture maps from scratch. Another really good feature is the skin color adjustment, which makes it easy to get the right tones for different character styles.
The reason CC4 is my go-to program for character design is that all the features added are there to make your life easier, it really speeds up the production but still allows for adding custom elements if you need to.
You can find out more about creating custom MetaHumans with CC4 at Reallusion’s dedicated website: https://www.reallusion.com/character-creator/metahuman/
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