Originally posted on 5 November 2021, and updated with new information from the latest previews.
Reallusion has unveiled Character Creator 4, the next major version of its 3D character creation tool.
The update, which is due to ship in spring 2022, will let users import a much greater range of character rigs into the software, with rigs from 3ds Max, Blender, Maya and Unreal Engine converted automatically.
Other key changes include improved import and management of props, a new extended expression profile with over 140 facial blendshapes, and a new ‘smart’ skin shader.
Import any rigged character, with many biped rigs converted automatically
Character Creator 4 will make it possible to work with a much greater range of characters inside the software, with the option to import and edit both humanoid characters and creatures.
Users will be able to import any rigged biped character in FBX format and remap it to a HumanIK rig, making it possible to use with the full range of animation features in iClone, Reallusion’s animation software.
3ds Max Biped rigs, Blender Rigify Meta-Rigs, DAZ G3 and G8 characters, Maya Human IK rigs, Mixamo characters and Unreal Engine characters will be remapped automatically.
It will also be possible to import non-humanoid rigs, but they will be compatible with a more limited range of features in iClone: facial animation and the Motion Live mocap plugin will not be supported, for example.
However, it will be possible to set up secondary motion for creature body parts like tails on any imported or native character via a new Spring Dynamics system.
Better workflows for importing and organising props, animation preview system
Support for props is also being expanded, with the option to batch import assets, and organise them into hierarchies inside Character Creator’s Scene Manager.
Users will also be able to optimise props for real-time use via Character Creator’s InstaLOD technology.
In addition, the update will add a new animation preview and display system, with preset motions intended to test a character’s rig, facial animation and hair and clothing simulation.
Extended expression profile provides over 140 facial blendshapes
The existing set of 63 facial blendshapes for Character Creator CC3+ characters has been extended to an “advanced facial expression set” containing over 140 facial blendshapes.
The new shapes provide greater control over a character’s eyes and mouth, including new options for eyeball rotation, eye widening, eye blink crease lines, pupil size, and lip roll and pucker.
It will also be possible to modify blendshapes in external sculpting software like ZBrush, or other DCC applications that support ZBrush’s GoZ bridge technology.
Delta Mush smooths unwanted artefacts in character meshes
Updated 24 March 2022: Character Creator 4 also introduces a Delta Mush system, similar to that used in other animation packages, for smoothing character meshes.
Reallusion’s implementation enables users to marquee-select part or all of the mesh and smooth it iteratively, to remove unwanted artefacts when a figure is scaled or reposed. You can see it at 02:05 in the video above.
New Smart Skin Color Shader
Reallusion is also introducing a new Skin Color shader, in addition to the existing Digital Human Shader, and capable of creating both natural skin tones and effects like make-up and creature skin.
The firm describes the workflow as a quicker alternative to Character Creator’s existing SkinGen system. Skin colour can be baked to texture for export.
But still no dynamic wrinkles yet
However, one long-awaited feature not currently due in Character Creator 4 is the dynamic facial wrinkle system originally slated for Character Creator 3.3, and later rescheduled for version 3.4.
According to Reallusion’s forum thread, dynamic wrinkles will now be supported “in the next release”.
Free edition discontinued, along with the 3DXChange add-on
In addition, Reallusion is discontinuing the old free edition of Character Creator, available to users of iClone and designed to export characters to the animation software.
The firm is also scrapping 3DXChange, the paid add-on required by users of the free edition to export characters to other DCC applications in OBJ or FBX format.
Part of its functionality will be integrated into Character Creator 4 itself – you can see the list of file formats it imports and exports here – with the price of the paid edition rising correspondingly, from $199 to $299.
Pricing and availability
Character Creator 4.0 is due to ship in ‘spring 2022’. New licences will cost $299. The software is currently available to pre-order.
The current version, Character Creator 3.4, is available for 64-bit Windows 7+. The base edition is free to registered users of iClone 7; the full Pipeline edition costs $199.
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