Epic’s MetaHuman Creator Is A Game-changer
Reaching the next generation of immersive experiences requires creating hyper-realistic digital humans by capturing, personalising, and conveying individual’s faces and emotions. Epic Games, the company behind video game Fortnite and Unreal Engine, has accelerated this with the launch of MetaHuman Creator.
The MetaHuman Creator is a cloud streamed app that empowers anyone to create a bespoke photorealistic digital human, fully rigged and complete with hair and clothing, in a matter of minutes. You can even edit your human’s teeth!
When your character is finished, you can download the asset via Quixel Bridge, fully rigged and ready for animation and motion capture in Unreal Engine, complete with LODs. Users will also get the source data in the form of a Maya file, including meshes, skeleton, facial rig, animation controls, and materials.
On its website, Epic said: “MetaHuman Creator enables users to easily create new characters through intuitive workflows that let them sculpt and craft results as desired. As adjustments are made, MetaHuman Creator blends between actual examples in the library in a plausible, data-constrained way. Users can choose a starting point by selecting a number of preset faces to contribute to their human from the range of samples available in the database.”
Epic Games has spent the past several years building its capabilities in this space through a string of acquisitions and has given credit right off the bat to these companies that are helping it advance the creation of believable digital humans for all Unreal Engine users.
In January 2019, Epic Games announced it had acquired Serbia-based 3Lateral, a games studio focused on designing realistic computer-generated human characters.
Vladimir Mastilovic, founder and director of 3Lateral, said in a statement about the acquisition, “Creating digital humans requires a deep understanding of every aspect of our appearance and motion, both of which portray our inner self and tell stories around us. We read all these visual cues with great precision as instinct to analyze an image of another human being is deeply embedded in our DNA.”
Then, in November 2019, Quixel, creator of the world’s largest photogrammetry asset library and bundled toolset, joined the Epic Games family. The partnership made Megascans, an extensive library of 2D and 3D photogrammetry assets, free for all users in Unreal Engine, opening up a superior level of artistry to everyone from triple-A studios to indies.
On March 12th, 2020, Epic welcomed Cubic Motion into the fold. Cubic Motion is a leading provider of automated performance-driven facial animation technology and services for video games, film, broadcast, and immersive experiences.
“Digital humans are not only the next frontier of content creation, but also the most complex endeavor in computer graphics. With Cubic Motion bringing their computer vision and animation technology and expertise to our digital human efforts, Epic along with our team at 3Lateral are one step closer to democratizing these capabilities for creators everywhere,” said Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games, in a statement at the time about the acquisition.
Many ultra-realistic avatars and animated characters appear stuck in an in-between world: they are lifelike but something isn’t quite right. This void is known as the uncanny valley. Facial animation that conveys all the nuances of human expression is essential to crossing the uncanny valley. By combining Unreal Engine with 3Lateral’s facial rig creation and Cubic Motion’s solving technology this time-consuming challenge could be solved.
Two high-quality, fully rigged sample characters serve as a showcase of what’s achievable with MetaHuman Creator. You can explore them here. MetaHuman Creator will be available as part of an Early Access program within the next few months.
It can take months of research, costly scanning equipment, and an army of tech artists to get digital humans right. Epic has made the process radically simpler, faster, and more scalable, without compromising on quality, realism, or fidelity.
Have we reached the tipping point in digital human artistry?
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