metahuman

Tech Update (July 2023)

Tracy Harwood Blog July 17, 2023 Leave a reply

This week, we’ve got a few things for you to add to your tools list and some info about things you’ll be keen to watch out for… but before you check those out, we share with you a showcase of Unreal’s MetaHuman and a rather creepy demo of tendons in Blender!

Showcase

This is a creative piece, made using Unreal’s MetaHuman, that will give you goosebumps – note the very detail of the facial animation and especially the whistfulness captured in eyes of the character. You could almost see this guy opening a bank account using facial recognition tech! The short, based on a poem by Mike Antic, is called Blue Dot and has been created by Epic’s 3Lateral team in collaboration with Serbian artist Radivoje Bukvic (released 15 June) –

In this uncanny valley special demo created in Blender, Chris Jones‘ shows a ‘throwaway WIP’ – its great but if this is modelled on someone’s actual hand, well, I don’t really want to know more…

Out Now

Reallusion has released free ZBrush and Character Creator plugins. Both are excellent tools for refining your animations, and the ability to link these together makes for exciting new possibilities for improving your workflow. Here’s the link to the downloads and here’s a video explainer –

The popular open world game, No Man’s Sky is now also available for Mac. This may or not make it more accessible to creators because, of course, most of the tools folks have are still only PC but nonetheless its a start!

Onwards and Upwards

Unity, in collaboration with Apple, has devised a Beta programe for creating ‘spatial experiences’, intended to support development of content for the Apple Vision Pro. You can sign up to participate here.

Unreal features a neat demo of its massively scalable procedural generation framework (PGC), which ships with version release 5.2. This looks great – the demo is called Electric Dreams, and also illustrates its amazing Substate system. Video link here –

Worth Waiting For

Blockbuster Inc., seemingly made in the mold of that well-known machinima creator studio released way back in 2005 called The Movies, has released a demo which is now on Steam (it is being developed by indie studio, Super Sly Fox). Here’s the link – the full release date is reported as being later this year.

We’re all eagerly awaiting Blender 4.0, right (due November 2023)? As part of the release, Grease Pencil 3.0 will be included in its 2D animation toolset, originally an annotation tool that has evolved to do quite a bit more. You can read the update on Blender’s develop blog here.

Projects Update 2 (Apr 2023)

Tracy Harwood Blog April 24, 2023 Leave a reply

This week, we highlight three excellent Unreal storytelling projects, and some other interesting storymaking development projects we think you’ll find just as intriguing.

Unreal Stories

Brave Creatures, released on 2 March, is one of the most inventive and magical stories made using Unreal Engine we’ve seen and it’s not been set on an alien planet full of freakish monsters and travellers in space suits. The creative team, Studio Pallanza (none other than Academy award-winning VFX artist, Adam Valdez) was awarded a Mega Grant to bring this project to life, and it has done a truly outstanding job of it. It will surely be the basis of a new children’s series? Here’s the link –

and if you want to hear Adam discuss the work, check out Jae Salina’s interview with him here –

Promise with Dr. (English version), released on 17 Feb by TT Studio, is another magical story, albeit with a completely different aesthetic. Great editing and storytelling, do check this out too –

Miika is an award-winning film by Ugandan director, Nsiimenta Shevon, released on 27 Feb. This is powerful and disturbing, as only tales of African conflict can be. Beautifully animated by Solomon Jagwe, here’s the link –

Storymaking in Other Ways

This is not a film or an animation, but a fascinating insight into the storymaking possibilities of interactive chatbots and animated robots. In this ‘show and tell’ presentation at SXSW 2023 by Disney Parks’ chair of Experiences and Products Josh D’Amaro, Tinker Bell (Peter Pan’s sidekick) is shown as an animated chatbot in a box and a roller-skating child-like robot is emoted using mocap. These are Disney’s ‘greeters’ of the future, embedded with storytelling capabilities through the design process. What is particularly interesting is that, at least for me, the usual uncanny valley effect had somehow disappeared – what do you think?

In our next selection, MidJourney has been used to conflate two very different yet seemingly complementary storyworlds into a series of bizarre images, one being Star Wars and the other being the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. This work, called Star Wars by MidJourney, by AI Visionary Art, was published on 18 Feb and somehow converts the grotesque and nonsensical creatures into a familiar canon (for some, Damien) –

And finally this week, we share an overview of an InWorld AI driven adventure game called Origins (our feature image for this post), animated using Unreal’s Metahuman characters and presented in the style of a film noir (or rather, a neo-noir). This is vaguely reminiscent of some of those very early games that inspired a lot of machinima creators back in the earliest days, Max Payne for those with long memories. InWorld AI has described its approach as the future of NPCs, but its also their DNA too. The chatbot and naturalistic style interface is a really interesting development for storymaking and storytelling and we’re definitely looking forward to seeing what creators do with this kind of creative platform in future. Check this out –

That’s it for this post, thanks for reading and do share with us anything you spot that you think we should be reviewing on the podcast.

Tech Update 1: AI Generators (Apr 2023)

Tracy Harwood Blog April 3, 2023 Leave a reply

March was another astonishing month in the world of AI genies with the release of exponentially powerful updates (GPT4 released 14 March; Baidu released Ernie Bot on 16 March), new services and APIs. It is not surprising that by the end of the month, Musk-oil is being poured over the ‘troubling waters’ – will it work now the genie is out of the bottle? Its anyone’s guess and certainly it seems a bit of trickery is the only way to get it back into the bottle at this stage.

Rights

More importantly, and with immediate effect, the US Copyright Office issued a statement on 16 March in relation to the IP issues that have been hot on many lips for several months now: registrations pertaining to copyright are about the processes of human creativity, where the role of generative AI is simply seen as a toolset under current legal copyright registration guidance. Thus, for example, in the case of Zarya of the Dawn (refer our comments in the Feb 2023 Tech Update), whilst the graphic novel contains original concepts that are attributable to the author, the use of images generated by AI (in the case of Zarya, MidJourney) are not copyrightable. The statement also makes it clear that each copyright registration case will be viewed on its own merit which is surely going to make for a growing backlog of cases in the coming months. It requires detailed clarification of how generative AI is used by human creators in each copyright case to help with the evaluation processes.

The statement also highlights that an inquiry into copyright and generative AIs will be undertaken across agencies later in 2023, where it will seek general public and legal input to evaluate how the law should apply to the use of copyrighted works in “AI training and the resulting treatment of outputs”. Read the full statement here. So, for now at least, the main legal framework in the US remains one of human copyright, where it will be important to keep detailed notes about how creators generated (engineered) content from AIs, as well as adapted and used the outputs, irrespective of the tools used. This will no doubt be a very interesting debate to follow, quite possibly leading to new ways of classifying content generated by AIs… and through which some suggest AIs as autonomous entities with rights could become recognized. It is clear in the statement, for example, that the US Copyright Office recognizes that machines can create (and hallucinate).

The complex issues of the dataset creation and AI training processes will underpin much of the legal stances taken and a paper released at the beginning of Feb 2023 could become one of the defining pieces of research that undermines it all. The research extracted near exact copyrighted images of identified people from a diffusion model, suggesting that it can lead to privacy violations. See a review here and for the full paper go here.

In the meantime, more creative platforms used to showcase creative work are introducing tagging systems to help identify AI generated content – #NoAI, #CreatedWithAI. Sketchfab joined the list at the end of Feb with its update here, with updates relating to its own re-use of such content through its licensing system coming into effect on 23 March.

NVisionary

Nvidia’s progressive march with AI genies needs an AI to keep up with it! Here’s my attempt to review the last month of releases relevant to the world of machinima and virtual production.

In February, we highlighted ControlNet as a means to focus on specific aspects of image generation and this month, on 8 March, Nvidia released the opposite which takes the outline of an image and infills it, called Prismer. You can find the description and code on its NVlabs GitHub page here.

Alongside the portfolio of generative AI tools Nvidia has launched in recent months, with the advent of OpenAI’s GPT4 in March, Nvidia is expanding its tools for creating 3D content –

It is also providing an advanced means to search its already massive database of unclassified 3D objects, integrating with its previously launched Omniverse DeepSearch AI librarian –

It released its cloud-based Picasso generative AI service at GTC23 on 23 March, which is a means to create copyright cleared images, videos and 3D applications. A cloud service is of course a really great idea because who can afford to keep up with the graphics cards prices? The focus for this is enterprise level, however, which no doubt means its not targeting indies at this stage but then again, does it need to when indies are already using DALL-E, Stable Diffusion, MidJourney, etc. Here’s a link to the launch video and here is a link to the wait list –

Pro-seed-ural

A procedural content generator for creating alleyways has been released by Difffuse Studios in the Blender Marketplace, link here and see the video demo here –

We spotted a useful social thread that highlights how to create consistent characters in Midjourney, by Nick St Pierre, using seeds –

and you can see the result of the approach in his example of an aging girl here –

Animation

JSFilmz created an interesting character animation using MidJourney5 (which released on 17 March) with advanced character detail features. This really shows its potential alongside animation toolsets such as Character Creator and Metahumans –

Runway’s Gen-2 text-to-video platform launched on 20 March, with higher fidelity and consistency in the outputs than its previous version (which was actually video-to-video output). Here’s a link to the sign-up and website, which includes an outline of the workflow. Here’s the demo –

Gen-2 is also our feature image for this blog post, illustrating the stylization process stage which looks great.

Wonder Dynamics launched on 9 March as a new tool for automating CG animations from characters that you can upload to its cloud service, giving creators the ability to tell stories without all the technical paraphenalia (mmm?). The toolset is being heralded as a means to democratize VFX and it is impressive to see that Aaron Sims Creative are providing some free assets to use with this and even more so to see none other than Steven Spielberg on the Advisory Board. Here’s the demo reel, although so far we’ve not found anyone that’s given it a full trial (its in closed beta at the moment) and shared their overview –

Finally for this month, we close this post with Disney’s Aaron Blaise and his video response to Corridor Crew’s use of generative AI to create a ‘new’ anime workflow, which we commented on last month here. We love his open-minded response to their approach. Check out the video here –

S3 E54 Film Review: ALONE by Playard Studios (Nov 2022)

Tracy Harwood Podcast Episodes November 25, 2022 2 Comments

This week covers a reading of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic poem Alone, read by Shane Morris (audio used is from theĀ BEKNOWNĀ channel) with visuals by Playard Studios. The film uses Unreal Engine’s metahuman and Ā NVIDIA Omniverse ‘s Audio-to-Face and there are some impressive introspective looks achieved with the processā€¦ among a few other things we comment on, not least being Ricky’s experience of reading poetry.



YouTube Version of this Episode

Show Notes & Links

ALONE film, released on 26 October 2022

Beknown channel reading by Shane Morris on YouTube.

Nvidia Omniverse’s Audio to Face

Unreal Engine’s Metahuman

How to read a poem, tips and hints by the Academy of American Poets

Tech Update 1 (Nov 2022)

Tracy Harwood Blog October 30, 2022 Leave a reply

Hot on the heels of our discussion on AI generators last week, we are interested to see tools already emerging that turn text prompts into 3D objects and also film content, alongside a tool for making music too. We have no less than five interesting updates to share here – plus a potentially very useful tool for rigging the character assets you create!

Another area of rapidly developing technological advancements is mo-cap, especially in the domain of markerless which lets face it is really the only way to think about creating naturalistic movement-based content. We share two interesting updates this week.

AI Generators

Nvidia has launched an AI tool that will generate 3D objects (see video). Called GET3D (which is derived from ‘Generate Explicit Textured 3D meshes’), the tool can generate characters and other 3D objects, as explained by Isha Salian on their blog (23 Sept). The code for the tool is currently available on Github, with instructions on how to use it here.

Google Research with researchers at the University of California, Berkeley are also working on similar tools (reported in Gigazine on 30 Sept). DreamFusion uses NeRF tech to create 3D models which can be exported into 3D renderers and modeling software. You can find the tool on Github here.

DreamFusion

Meta has developed a text-to-video generator, called Make-A-Video. The tool uses a single image or can fill in between two images to create some motion. The tool currently generates five second videos which are perfect for background shots in your film. Check out the details on their website here (and sign up to their updates too). Let us know how you get on with this one too!

Make-A-Video

Runway has released a Stable Diffusion-based tool that allows creators to switch out bits of images they do not like and replace them with things they do like (reported in 80.lv on 19 Oct), called Erase and Replace. There are some introductory videos available on Runway’s YouTube channel (see below for the Introduction to the tool).

And finally, also available on Github, is Mubert, a text-to-music generator. This tool uses a Deforum Stable Diffusion colab. Described as proprietary tech, its creator provides a custom license but says anything created with it cannot be released on DSPs as your own. It can be used for free with attribution to sync with images and videos, mentioning @mubertapp and hashtag #mubert, with an option to contact them directly if a commercial license is needed.

Character Rigging

Reallusion‘s Character Creator 4.1 has launched with built in AccurRIG tech – this turns any static model into an animation ready character and also comes with cross-platform support. No doubt very useful for those assets you might want to import from any AI generators you use!

Motion Capture Developments

That every-ready multi-tool, the digital equivalent of the Swiss army knife, has come to the rescue once again: the iPhone can now be used for full body mocap in Unreal Engine 5.1, as illustrated by Jae Solina, aka JSFilmz, in his video (below). Jae has used move.ai, which is rapidly becoming the gold standard in markerless mocap tech and for which you can find a growing number of demo vids showing how detailed movement can be captured on YouTube. You can find move.ai tutorials on Vimeo here and for more details about which versions of which smart phones you can use, go to their website here – its very impressive.

Another form of mocap is the detail of the image itself. Reality Capture has launched a tool that you can use to capture yourself (or anyone else or that matter, including your best doggo buddy) and use the resulting mesh to import into Unreal’s MetaHuman. Even more impressive is that Reality Capture is free, download details from here.

We’d love to hear how you get on with any of the tools we’ve covered this week – hit the ‘talk’ button on the menu bar up top and let us know.