Character Setup: Part 1 - Control Setup

Brian Genna -

*NOTE: Faceware Retargeter is not compatible with Biped rigs in 3ds Max.

 

Before you can begin creating animation you'll need go through the quick and simple Character Setup process.  This will be done once per character and typically takes between 10 and 30 minutes to complete.  The result of this process is the character setup file, an XML file used when opening a performance in Retargeter.



Character setup in Retargeter is a two part process. The first part involves adding your rig controls into your character setup xml so that the software knows what controls go with each part of the face. This allows the software to apply the animation to the correct places on your rig and in the way that you dictate. This article details this first part of the process. The second part, creating an Expression Set, adds user created poses for use with the AutoSolve functionality and has its own article: Expression Set Walkthrough


How to Set Up Your Character in Retargeter

Step 1: Open the Character Setup Tool

  1. Open your Autodesk program and load the Retargeter plugin.
  2. In the Retargeter plugin, open the "Advanced" menu and select "Character Setup..." This will open the Character Setup tool in the default 'Control Setup' tab.  If you click the Expression Set tab, you'll notice that you can't view it until adding controls in this tab first.

character_setup_01.jpg

Step 2: Create a new Character Setup file
In the menu at the top, click 'File -> New'.  This will create the (4) default 'Rig Groups' for you get started with.

*Note - Advanced users can create these Groups manually using the 'New...' button on the right of the window.  For new users we recommend using 'File -> New' to ensure all data is setup correctly.


Step 3: Give your Character a 'Name'
While this may seem trivial, this is actually an important distinction later in the Faceware process.  When using 'Shared Poses', this 'Name' field will tell the technology which Poses go with which Character.  Therefore, make sure to name your Character here.


Step 4: Adding your Rig Controls
Before adding controls, let's take a quick look at the Rig Groups we've created.

Our technology breaks up the face into multiple groups in order for you to work more efficiently and to be able to focus on certain areas of the face.  If you've used Analyzer, you'll recognize that these are the same groups used in Tracking.  Below is a quick and easy description of what each group represents:

  • Head: This group contains only the rotation of the head and neck. Note that there is no Head group in Analyzer as the head animation is derived from the other groups. (Retargeter 4.6+)
  • Eyes: This group is for the direction of the eyes (looking around) and the movement of the eyelids only (blinks, etc.).
  • Brows: This group contains everything ABOVE the eyes (eyebrows, forehead, etc.)
  • Mouth: This group contains everything BELOW the eyes (Cheeks, Nose, Lips, Jaw, Nasolabial Folds, etc.)


When adding your Controls, it's very, very important that you add them to the correct Rig Group.

Now that we know what the Rig Groups are, let's think about our character for a second.  Retargeter can put animation onto ANY controls, as long as those controls can be keyframed and are not already driven by something else.  You can add blendshapes, joints, a control rig, curves, shaders, literally anything you want.  You have a lot of freedom during this process but it's easy to add things you may not want to animate.  We recommend consulting with your character technical artist to make sure you know which facial controls you're meant to be using as an animator.

How to Add Controls to a Rig Group:

  1. Select a Rig Group
    character_setup_02.jpg
  2. In your scene viewport or outliner, select the objects you want to add to this Rig Group
  3. In the Character Setup dialog, press the "Rig Controls" button on the right to open the Rig Controls window.
  4. Click "Update." The list will now be populated with all of the attributes that you have currently selected.
  5. Select only the attributes you want to add
    character_setup_03.jpg
  6. Click "Add Selected."
  7. In the Character Setup tool, adjust the 'Default' value to be accurate. *Note: Min/Max values have been removed in Retargeter 2.8 and above. You can skip entering them and otherwise proceed as directed.
    character_setup_04.jpg
  8. Repeat steps 1-7 for each Rig Group.
  9. In the File menu, select Save to name and save your character xml.

 

Step 5: Creating your Expression Set

While easy to do, the Expression Set is a very important part of the Faceware process and has it's own dedicated tutorial and article.  Please check out the Expression Set article to learn how to build your Expression Set properly.

Your character xml file is now set up and ready to be used when loading a performance.


Advanced Character Setup Tips

  • If you are animating a blendshape node or morpher directly with no actual controls, then you will need to add the blendshape node itself to Rig Groups, and carefully select only the blendshapes that are part of that group.  This can be difficult in 3DS Max when all morphers are named only with an index.
  • If you are animating joints/bones directly, the 'Default' value of your controls will not be '0'. Put your character in his default pose, then use the 'Set as Default Val.' button to grab the current values for all selected controls in a Rig Group.
  • When setting Min/Max/Default values, you can use the 'Enter Val...' buttons to select a large group of controls and change the values all at once.  You can also use the 'Set as Val..." button to take whatever the current value of the control is and automatically apply it as the Min/max/Default.
  • Upper Cheek controls should generally be placed in the 'Mouth' Rig Group, even though some motion appears to be driven by the Eyes.  Advanced users can experiment here and try different configurations.
  • Using one of our Advanced Analysis Definitions?  You'll need to add the 'Jaw' and 'Cheeks' groups manually, choose any Analysis Data, and then edit your XML file to change the analysis data to either of the following:

Jaw_Params
Cheeks_Params

 

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