Metahumans Metahumans

Forget “virtual beings”: the future of animation belongs to “metahumans,” at least according to Epic Games. The developer behind Unreal Engine has unveiled Metahuman Creator, a new tool that aims to facilitate the creation and animation of convincing digital humans (i.e. animated characters, but under a different name).

In a blog post, Epic described Metahuman Creator as “a cloud-streamed app designed to take real-time digital human creation from weeks or months to less than an hour, without compromising on quality.” The browser-based software will become available to select users within the next few months.

In the meantime, Epic has posted sneak peeks on Youtube, which demonstrate an impressive realism for real-time animation:

As the videos show, users will be able to assemble their metahuman out of pre-set features (Epic promises around 30 hairstyles and 18 body types). The tool draws on a vast library of human faces and movements to refine the model as adjustments are made. The fully rigged character can then be exported to Unreal, where it can be animated via performance capture or manual keyframing.

Unreal is becoming increasingly central to animation and vfx production, not least via the set of techniques known as virtual production, which allow filmmakers to visualize and adjust synthetic elements throughout production.

But it remains to be seen how metahumans will be used in entertainment and elsewhere. The characters are teetering on the edge of the uncanny valley, and Epic’s preview videos only show a limited range of movements and expressions. Watch this space.

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Software/Tech:
Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is Associate Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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