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Epic Games has unveiled its MetaHuman Creator, a new browser-based app that enables game developers and creators of real-time content to slash the time it takes to build digital humans from weeks to less than an hour.
And as you can see from the images in this story, the tools can create highly realistic human characters.
MetaHuman Creator runs in the cloud via Epic’s Unreal Engine with a technology called Unreal Engine Pixel Streaming. In addition to speeding up the complex process of digital human creation, it also enables teams to more easily scale and make many types of characters to meet the demands of next-gen platforms and high-end virtual production.
“MetaHuman Creator enables creators to make high-quality digital humans with ease and drop them into Unreal Engine ready to animate with over half a dozen different solutions,” said Epic Games chief technology officer Kim Libreri in an email to GamesBeat. “The tool compresses the weeks or months of work it usually takes to create a photorealistic character into minutes or however long you wish to put into customizing the exact character you want.”
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Unreal Engine customers in TV or movies may find ways to use MetaHuman Creator, but it’s not designed for characters that cross the “uncanny valley” (or look realistic but with some visible flaws) in professional TV and feature film projects.
How it works
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 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.
Users are able to apply a variety of hairstyles that use Unreal Engine’s strand-based hair system or hair cards for lower-end platforms. Developers can also choose clothing and pull features from 18 differently proportioned body types. When ready, users can download the asset via Quixel Bridge, fully rigged and ready for animation and motion capture in Unreal Engine, complete with level of detail (LODs). Users will also get the source data in the form of a Maya file, including meshes, skeleton, facial rig, animation controls, and materials.
Once in Unreal Engine, users can animate the digital human asset using a range of performance capture tools—they can use Unreal Engine’s Live Link Face iOS app, and Epic is also currently working with vendors on providing support for ARKit, Faceware, JALI Inc., Speech Graphics, Dynamixyz, DI4D, Digital Domain, and Cubic Motion solutions—or keyframe it manually. Animations created for one MetaHuman will run on other MetaHumans, enabling users to easily reuse a single performance across multiple Unreal Engine characters or projects.
MetaHuman Creator includes realistic clothing options out of the box. While the clothing feature set is still in its early days, you can get a sense of where it’s going by downloading the samples which are compatible with Unreal Engine 4.26.1.
What comes next
To illustrate the quality of the digital humans made possible with MetaHuman Creator, Epic is releasing two fully finished sample characters available to explore, modify, and use in projects running on Unreal Engine 4.26.1 and later. MetaHuman Creator will be available as part of an Early Access program within the next few months.
Libreri said MetaHuman Creator opens the door to having many more realistic characters, including nonplayer characters (NPCs), in all sorts of games and other types of experiences.
As you can see in the samples, artists will be able to finetune features such as skin tone, eye color, facial features, hairstyles, and textures, down to really subtle details like peach fuzz and fine wrinkles.
“MetaHuman Creator is a cloud-based tool that uses Unreal Engine Pixel Streaming so that users can access a vast library of content, customize characters, process data, and export assets with minimal local computing power,” Libreri said. “MetaHuman characters run smoothly on PC and console, and we are optimizing the mobile experience.”
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