Epic’s MetaHuman Creator Helps Devs Pump Out Fancy ‘Digital Humans’

It looks nothing like this in the actual demo. Way more mesh layers.
It looks nothing like this in the actual demo. Way more mesh layers.
Screenshot: Epic

Today, Epic Games launched a sneak peek at its newest Unreal Engine creation tool that promises to drastically cut down on the time needed to create realistic-looking digital humans.

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“Creating one high-quality digital human is difficult and time-consuming,” the announcement post says. “Scaling that effort to create many diverse digital humans of the quality required by next-gen platforms and high-end virtual production is a formidable task indeed. That’s why today, we’re incredibly excited to offer you a first glimpse of MetaHuman Creator.”

MetaHuman Creator. That’s the name. On one hand I’m glad the name isn’t something silly like D1g1tal Humanz or Kreatr, and it does plainly state what the hell the product is supposed to do. On the other, the name still reads like something Magneto would cook up in his plans for mutant domination.

Unreal Engine (YouTube)

Sci-fi dystopian name aside, I tried the free demo available on the Epic Games Store and it’s...definitely not for an Unreal Engine layperson like me. I don’t know a thing about face sculpting or animation rigging, but I did appreciate toying with the model a little bit, taking her hair off or moving her eyebrows slightly off center and playing the demo video with my newly hairless creation. I was particularly excited to see what the model would look like animated after I removed her “teeth” layer, but that change didn’t take. (I know, I’m a monster.) Epic seems to be saving the real nuts and bolts of the editor for the full release, as this demo actually offers very few customization options.

Her eyebrows are actually slightly off-center.
Her eyebrows are actually slightly off-center.
Screenshot: Epic

I do love me a character creator so I appreciate Unreal’s attempt to make creating diverse humans easier. And based on the comments on the YouTube video, 3D character artists seem pretty excited about the possibilities, too.

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DISCUSSION

genejacket
Gene Jacket

Saw these making the rounds earlier and, while it is absolutely impressive as hell and a substantial leap forward in creating believably realistic humans in video games, something still struck me as being off...

It’s the mouths, how the mouth movements affect the rest of the facial muscles. I don’t know if the examples shown were full facial capture or keyframed, but the way the lips move and the shapes the mouths make are too exaggerated to look natural to me. When the woman in the “Meet the Metahumans” clip speaks, especially when hitting the “E” sounds, you can see ALL of her teeth, her cheek muscles pull up, and her eyes narrow as if she’s pulling a big smile. Perhaps that was purposeful, maybe to show the range of motion they’re able to achieve, but most people don’t move their faces with quite that much enthusiasm when just naturally speaking. Despite how ridiculously detailed the models and textures are, how gorgeous the lighting is, how impressively naturalistic the subsurface scattering is, etc., they still kind of come off like something out of The Polar Express. I think we’re more or less past the uncanny valley at this point, but there’s still little stuff like that that breaks the illusion, at least to me.

Regardless, seeing a developer produce tools like this that are relatively easy and simple to use even for beginners is super cool and massively exciting.