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Tutorial Avatar Import Process + Visemes Reference...

This is everything I have learned that covers the missed bits of the Character Creation Docs...

  1. Discmage
    So in my travels of the importing completely new avatars and props I have come across the following aspects :

    Important things to note :

    - This may be obvious but make sure to have your graphics drivers updated to the latest. I had an issue with this where my importer kept crashing (usually, but not always). Updating my drivers fixed this.

    - At the moment your FaceRig application folder needs to have NO spaces in it. So C:/Program Files/SteamApps/common/FaceRig/ would NOT work due to the space between Program and Files. Double check that this is the case with yours as it's a simple thing to miss.

    - You do NOT need any other animations to test your character in FaceRig. Just an idle is good enough to see in FaceRig for texturing/good feelings of progress etc.

    - You will probably need to reimport your character many times to make sure it works. Make sure to delete the final folder in the C:/Program Files/SteamApps/common/FaceRig/Mod/VP/PC-CustomData/Objects/AvatarName each time, as it doesn't overide the last imported version when you do.

    Method :

    - Make hi quality model in 3D Program ( 3DSMax / Zbrush / Maya etc )
    - Make a lower polygon version (retopology etc.) to use in FaceRig (3DSMax / ZBrush / Topogun etc.)

    NB : Make sure to take the number of bones into consideration for easier rigging later on. eg. there are 7 bones for the upper lip, 7 bones for the lower lip, and two corner bones. If you design your polygons around this then blending between them later is much easier.

    Make sure to design your low poly character to have separate objects for separate material types. You can merge all these together in the end, but rememeber to create separate Material IDs for each material as you merge your objects into one. An example would be a material for the eyes, a material for fur (once it gets functional) and another for general cloth and metallic items. It is recommended to have less than 10 materials per model (although you shouldn't need this many).
    - Unwrap UVs on low poly character ( 3DSMax / Zbrush etc.)

    You should have max files with your unwrapped, lowpoly objects and another set of the equivalent hipoly objects. Depending on your baking process these may be in one file each, a mixture etc.

    - Bake hipoly character onto low poly character maps (XNormal / 3DSMax / Substance Designer etc.)
    - Finalise and Texture baked maps (Photoshop / Substance Designer or Painter etc).

    NB : Pay particular attention to the specular texture as EACH colour channel (RGBA) is used for DIFFERENT information.
    Red - Glossiness ( Dark for rough, Light for Shiny).
    Green - Material type (Dark for Hair/cloth, Light for metal, plastic).
    Blue - Emissive (Dark for non emissive, light for emissive).
    Alpha - Specular Power (Dark for low spec, Light for High Spec).
    Make sure that there are no values brighter than 50% white, this is just too bright and generally makes things not work right. So mid grey should be the highest level on the RG and A channels (maybe emissive is ok?).
    - The name of your object is important, but more so the filename. It's good to name your objects what you will export them as so you are reminded to do it right.

    It should follow the following. Pay extra attention to the capitals or lowercase as that WILL make a difference :

    AvatarNameGeometry.dae for an avatar ( eg.“FluffoGeometry.dae”).

    AvatarName_prop_PropNameGeometry.dae for a prop for a specific character (eg. “Fluffo_prop_VikingHelmetGeometry.dae”).

    _prop_PropNameGeometry.dae for a prop for any character (eg.“_prop_VikingHelmetGeometry.dae”).

    - In your 3D file you need to apply your textures correctly as materials. It is extremely important to name them correctly. This is one of the main reasons imports fail with texture issues. There are two elements that you need to focus on. The material name, and the texture names.

    The material names follow something like the following modelName_shaderType_shaderName.

    An example would be (for a two material ID object) :
    "monocle_sht_metalcloth_base" "monocle_sht_metalcloth_glasses_blend1".

    The first material is a basic metalcloth shader that doesn't use Alpha. The second material uses Alpha and needs the _blend1 at the end. Monocle is the object name, and both _base and _glasses are the names of the material or shader.

    The textures, therefore, have to be named in the following fashion :
    monocle_base_b.tga (the normal map for _base ID)
    monocle_base_d.tga (the diffuse map for the _base ID)
    monocle_glasses_blend1_d.tga (the diffuse map for the glasses ID)
    monocle_glasses_blend1_s.tga (the specular map for the glasses ID)

    - Save and name the textures as .tga files according to the info above and the Character Creation Docs for further information (Both docs have important info).

    You should now have a low poly version of your character that has been textured to your liking. You should also have all your textures as the required .tga files for use in the import process and the materials/shaders correctly applied to your objects in the 3D File.

    If you are making props, all you need to do is save your model out in the naming system outlined above (when you named your object in the file).

    - Rig you character to a skeleton as described in the character creation docs (Pay attention to the Mandatory bones)

    NB : It has come to my attention that bones need to not have spaces in them otherwise you will get a duplicate bone name error once you try to import your model. Don't say I didn't warn you :)

    NB : Make sure that the mouth of your character is in a good default position, proobably mouth 'comfortably' closed...that way there will be a more interesting variant from idle to talking states.

    I highly recommend not taking shortcuts on bones for the mouth. Four will not cut it (top, bottom and corners) as you do need full control for more natural expression and it shows. Trust me, I found out the hard way! Minimum would be 8 (top, bottom, corners, and diagonals) but I'd still recommend 2 to split the diagonals, or just stick to the recommended bone structure in the docs.
    - Save the base file as a .DAE with AvatarNameGeometry.dae (eg. FluffoGeometry.dae)

    This will create the model file for FaceRig to base all your animations from.

    - Animate the idle animation. Note that FaceRig is at 30 frames per second to help with timing. So a simple basic breath idle animation is at least 120 frames. 60 frames for breathing in, 60 frames for breathing out.
    - Save the idle animation as idle.dae

    - If you are feeling lucky feel free to do all the other animations based on the Character Creation Docs. Although as noted you don't need to do this to test how your character LOOKS in FaceRig.


    NB : Make sure to have the head_ and Avatar_ animations rotate only 10-15 degrees rotation. I have found my initial animations of 30 degrees on each axis WAY too much, and therefore super sensitive in Facerig. However if you do make them move too far you can use the advanced calibration tools to tweak the sensitivity.​

    You should now have at least one idle.dae file, and possibly all the other animations needed for your import process.

    - Put all your .tga files and .dae files into a folder in the FaceRig > Mod > VP > PC_CustomData > MyAvatarName or some other folder that is an easily accessible folder.
    - Go to FaceRig > Bin > Tools > Phidias_CLI_x86_29-08-2014 and execute the communityDataProcessing.bat file or, what I find much easier as you will probably import many times trying to fix any issues, is create a shortcut to the phideas importer in the folder you have created with all your files. This keeps everything together when you are working with the files. If you use the shortcut method, execute it once made.
    - Select the folder you made your avatar or prop in.
    - Cross your fingers it works!!!

    - Once you have imported your avatar or prop you can test it. In the selection of the avatar or prop your object will come up as a question mark square. After loading and it works as you would like it is time to make an icon for the selection to finish your work off.
    - Make a 256x256 pixel .png file named ico_AvatarName.png where AvatarName is the same as your avatar or prop with a money shot of your prop or avatar. I have added a template for the FaceRig icon background below.


    If anyone has any other points they would like to add , or things I could make clearer to this that they feel are missing in the Character Creation Docs please say so and I will add it here.

    More images to come in regards to animation reference etc.

    The 'My avatar doesn't work' checklist :

    First thing to check for many issues
    Check your naming of files. Things like eye*.tga instead of eyes*.tga and vice versa. Shoe instead of shoes. These are super easy to miss, but will break anything you import. This applies to textures and animation especially. So double check, triple check, cross reference and then check again.

    - Textures don't import the texture correctly
    Make sure the naming of your texture is exactly the same as the material in the 3D application. A good way to check this is to cross reference the imported texture names with the texture names in your import folder. You may find a discrepancy there. Also make sure all texture related information is lowercase.

    - Nothing seems to change when I import a different build of my avatar
    Make sure you delete the old imported files before you import a new one. It doesn't automatically overwrite the last import.

    - My character is facing the wrong way (probably sideways)
    Make sure the orientation is correct. In 3DS Max I make sure Y-Up is set to on (and not Z-Up in the .dae export options (towards the bottom of the dialog box).

    - My character isn't animating, even idle animation does nothing
    Make sure the animations are using the correct case and spelled exactly as they should be as noted in the import docs that come with Facerig. idle.dae and not Idle.dae for example. Generally speaking this is a common problem.
    imageminded likes this.

Recent Reviews

  1. DreamerHaze
    I don't understand any of this.
  2. Utpal
    This is probably the most exhaustive effort to help new users
    1. Discmage
      Author's Response
      Still a work in process...knowing my luck once its all finished they'll release a super easy tool to make it a snap :) Ah, the wonders of being an early developer :) Thanks for the kind words!
  3. Xyphien
    Featured post now. Great work, and cannot wait to see the updated version with even more pictures.
    1. Discmage
      Author's Response
      Thanks! Hopefully it helps lots of others.
  4. TNT-001
    Good Tutorial
    1. Discmage
      Author's Response
      Thanks. Once I do my second character I will do a 'proper' tutorial with pics.