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Reallusion Character Creator review

There are many options for character creation, so does this latest offering from Reallusion add something useful to the mix?

There are many options for character creation, so does this latest offering from Reallusion add something useful to the mix?

Product: Character Creator v2.0

Company: Reallusion

Website: www.reallusion.com

Over the last couple of decades there has been a steady increase in options for creating CG figures and, while the results have improved hugely, the means to get them are varied and not always particularly intuitive. On top of that there is the issue of workflow and pipeline. Some developers have created pr versions of their software to try to tie in with artists other applications, with mixed success. Reallusions character creator (CC) does away with those problems, bringing human figure generation and animation directly into its own ecosystem and interface language. Sounds good but does the reality hold up?

The UI is familiar but intuitive for new users

The UI is familiar but intuitive for new users

Getting around

Its impossible to review something like this without comparing it to its contemporaries of which the best known and used are Poser and Daz Studio. Inevitably there are similarities between them but its nice to see that Reallusion have somehow managed to make CC feel familiar to users of other software but still feel integrated into the iClone family. The graphical user interface bears all the hallmarks of the rest of the suite, with the same color scheme and tabbed layout, including the ability to rip elements and menus away and either keep them floating, or redock them as needed. A nice touch is that these floating menus can be configured either horizontally or vertically to best work with the users preferences and other open windows.

Presets for certain body morphs give access to one click base meshes

Presets for certain body morphs give access to one click base meshes

Hello World

On launch CC shows a default figure, with accompanying environment and lighting. Along with that are a few open panels. Top-left is a set of icons for ease of drilling down into subcategories for things like Figure above clothed or nude. The panel below then shows the option in the subgroup and does so well. The options are all rendered thumbnails, which you can click to load, with a pop up asking you how you want them to be used (add, replace, etc). There are icons for morph, skin, hair and much more, and this will cover additional content that you might buy through the Reallusion store.

On the right-hand side you have a split panel, with the left being a hierarchical view of the figure and the right showing available controls for the selected element (which you can also select by clicking it in the 3D viewport. Its all in the morph.

Although you can buy many more items from Reallusion, CC ships with a pretty useful set of starter models, which will get you a good way with many projects, especially when you account for the morphs and fine control over every detail. Starting with the default female its a matter of a single click to add the heavy morph, from which you can refine as needed, with unlimited options.

Changing materials is easy using the excellent Appearance Editor

Changing materials is easy using the excellent Appearance Editor

A good facial

Detailed refinement of the model is equally as simple; select a part of the figure, in my case the entire head, chosen form the tree view, then use the sliders to the right to dial in the exact geometry that suits your project. Dialing back some of the weight from the face was easy, with the ability to define where extra weight might be carried via the selection options. Its a joy to use a morph to get started but then to make the figure your own. The minimum and maximum settings for each element are thoughtfully applied too. Its unlikely you will break the mesh, even with the most extreme settings.

Picture perfect

Similar controls exist for materials, both for skin and props. You can of course navigate to the texture files and edit them using Photoshop or similar, but CC ships with a fantastic Appearance editor. Using the same layout, you have sliders for some settings, along with color swatches for others. This makes for one of the most intuitive systems out there for customizing character materials, including movable fabric tears, tattoos and makeup.

Dynamic texture editing using Allegorithmic Substance technology

Dynamic texture editing using Allegorithmic Substance technology

Lets get physical

CC2 has made a big leap when it comes to many aspects of the rendering process. Substances can now be created and edited directly in CC, with control over multiple layered materials, allowing for accurate and realistic results, all the while retaining the ease of use that are obvious in other areas of the software. Drill down menus mean you only need to see the options you want, keeping it all clean and efficient, but there is plenty of power should you want more control.

Not only can you create these new PBR materials but you can convert legacy content and update all your old libraries to take advantage of the new options. These physically based materials can only look their best in the right lighting conditions, and luckily CC2 has an excellent IBL implementation. You can use, control and edit the environment maps that ship with the software or import your own HDRIs. Either way you can control everything from color balance and contrast to rotation, meaning that even viewport previews look close to final results, all in realtime.

Round trip

While all this is great fun and very easy, theres no mistaking that for a tool like this to be a success it needs to support your project, and that means getting things animated and then into the other parts of your pipeline. Fortunately, this is a doddle too.

This review isnt about iClone itself but its worth mentioning that you can animate this character easily using iClone, or, as I have done here, you can export either OBJ or FBX files for use in other software. Ive opted for an OBJ, which is destined for Cinema 4D.

Here you can see the base T-pose, which Ive removed the material from to show the mesh that is exported (along with the MAT file and associated textures). Its a very useable piece of geometry with density where its need for animation, but not too heavy in other areas. This is something that will be handy for getting characters into game engines, which appreciate appropriate use of polygons.

Access fully-rigged character in Maya with face blend shapes  seamless compatibility with any character

Access fully-rigged character in Maya with face blend shapes seamless compatibility with any character

Down the road

There just isnt space here to cover all of CCs capabilities, so check out their site to see what else is on offer. From custom prop creation to using photos to create a head and much more. Seeing as CC is an add on to iClone, its well worth investigating the options you have there as well, as iClone is a full featured application in its own right.

There is no real replacement for manually modelling a character, specifically for a given project. However, if you go into it understanding that then its clear that Reallusion have done an excellent job with Character Creator. The interface is a real pleasure and creating a figure is hugely entertaining and productive. The appearance editor is excellent and will please those artists who are put off UVing. If you need either animated humans for game engines, or good quality meshes for use in other 3D software, then CC is a great bit of kit. Plus, as long as you have iClone, its free.

Score out of 5: 4

Price: Free

Key features:
- Excellent GUI
- Physically based materials
- Extensive preset library
- Good conforming props
- Excellent appearance editor

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