Tech Update 2 (Jan 2023)
This week, we highlight some character development tools, NeRFs, NFTs and environments for machinima and virtual production.
Beginning with the awe-inspiring toolset of Unreal Engine’s MetaHumans, the organization has released a FREE three-hours long online course for beginners on real-time animating with Faceware Analyzer and Retargeter tools. Here’s a taster of what you can expect –
A creator we’ve featured a number of times (his tutorials are awesome), JSFILMZ (our feature image) has posted a taster of MetaHuman’s Live Drive from Facegood, which launched in December. The demo shows straight from camera to Unreal but what’s amazing is the price for the head-mounted hardware of <$500! This obviously isn’t free but its good value compared to some of the other facial tracking hardware on the market, and Jae compares those to give you an overview of what you get for the money. The Facegood software itself, Avatary, is free though, which produces some impressive animations. Check out Jae’s introductory overview below, and then pick up his tutorials on each of the components he discusses on his channel –
Move.ai has launched its iPhone beta application for free markerless mocap (requires two phones). Ultimately, this isn’t going to be free to use so make the most of the beta sign-up opportunity – the official launch takes place in March 2023 and their main target in the first instance is professional studios, which will put this out of reach for many indies. This article gives you a quick overview (by 80.lv), and this short video explainer introduces their store –
And finally, on characters this month, we highlight Inworld AI. This organization is creating interactive conversational characters that can be exported and shared across various platforms, either as avatars or the underlying chatbot (think smart NPCs). Some of you may recall John Gaeta mentioned this in our interview with him last year, and since then, Inworld has become part of the Walt Disney Company’s Accelerator Programme, been awarded an Epic MegaGrant and raised a pot of money from investors. The application of the software is vast – everything from games to marketing, as well as machinima and virtual productions too… and that’s because of how the characters can be moulded. Inworld states: ‘When crafting your character’s brain, you are able to use the Studio to tailor many elements of cognition and behavior, such as goals and motivations, manners of speech, memories and knowledge, and voice‘. Inworld released a nice tutorial in December, link below. Its definitely one to try out –
We found a nice short on Neural Radiance Fields (aka NeRFs) by Corridor Crew, using the Luma AI app, which is truly stunning for recreating realistic anything. They highlight some of the key challenges, and present a very interesting test with a chrome ball – surely it is never going to possible to create this kind of object with dynamic reflections and all…? Check it out here –
As Corridor Crew states, this is clearly one of the next big tech things in image capture for CGI.
The fluid waters of NFTs continues to muddy. This article (by NFT Now) highlights some of the recent class action law suits being brought against creator platforms, suggesting that the markets are being artificially inflated by celebrity endorsers, although this is surely true for so many other products too? Its more an argument about the nature of the endorsement process and the stake in the investment that the endorser has that’s the issue here seemingly. One of the main challenges here is the fundemantal role of community in NFTs, which is always going to mean there is a very fine line on ‘insider trading’. Its also interesting to note that IP owners are now becoming more actively involved in this nascent space. Once again, whenever the legals get involved, everyday creatives are the losers, so whilst some of the actions highlighted are less directly relevant, the outcomes of the legal disputes ultimately will be, so we’ll keep tracking this.
Finally, we want to highlight a couple of environments for you.
Firstly, Half Life Alyx has a new mod, courtesy of Corey Laddo! Corey has created a mod that allows you to view the game in the role of Alyx Vance. Its designed to be a free of charge for owners of the game, and provides a 4-5 hour experience for ‘average players’. Great if you want to shoot content from a first person perspective. You can support Corey on his Patreon account, should you want to give him something for his effort. Download the mod from Steam here. Meantime, here’s a taster for you –
Secondly, Damien shared a new sandbox environment that will be launching soon (well, we think it will since its apparently been in dev since 2012), called Outerra World by Microprose. This looks amazing, and will allow you create any kind of realistic 1:1 scale terrain simulation, which you can share and navigate using any asset that the community creates and shares too. Here’s the link to the Steam page (to add your details to the waitlist).
If you have comments or thoughts on any of the techs this week, do go ahead and comment.