The first major feature of the new MetaHuman Plugin for Unreal Engine, Mesh to MetaHuman, enables users to take their own custom facial mesh and convert it into a MetaHuman, fully rigged and ready to animate. Characters can be further refined in MetaHuman Creator.
Starting with a textured mesh created using scanning, sculpting, or traditional modeling tools, Mesh to MetaHuman uses automated landmark tracking in Unreal Engine 5 (UE5) to fit the MetaHuman topology template to it, combining it with a body type selection from the MetaHuman options. This template is then submitted to the cloud, where it is matched to a best-fit MetaHuman derived from the database. This mesh is then used to drive the facial rig, while the deltas from the original mesh come along for the ride.
After a user transforms their mesh into a MetaHuman, they can immediately download it or open it in MetaHuman Creator, where they can play through the animations and see it instantly come to life, and continue to tweak and enhance it. While some elements like hair and skin textures will need to be reauthored or reapplied either in MetaHuman Creator or another tool, Mesh to MetaHuman allows users to have a starting point for a fully rigged digital human from their unique static mesh in minutes.
Compatibility with UE5's new character tools
Unreal Engine 5 came with a slew of new character rigging and animation features, including artist-friendly authoring and retargeting toolsets; with this release, they can all be used with MetaHumans.
MetaHumans are built on top of Control Rig, Unreal Engine’s built-in rigging system that enables users to quickly and easily create rigs and share them across multiple characters. In UE5, Control Rig is now production-ready, and offers a range of new features such as Space Switching, which enables users to dynamically reparent their Controls to suit different circumstances.
Control Rig is integrated with Sequencer, where users can animate characters and save and apply poses with the new Pose Tool; it includes a number of new facial poses that have also been added to MetaHuman Creator.
UE5 also offers an entirely new artist-friendly toolset for retargeting animations. Since MetaHumans come complete with IK (Inverse Kinematics) rigs, it’s something they can take full advantage of.
Using IK Retargeter, users can quickly, easily, and robustly transfer animations between all MetaHumans and other characters, even if they have different body proportions. MetaHumans are now compatible with both UE4 and UE5 mannequins, opening up access to thousands of existing animations on Unreal Engine Marketplace. Users can easily replace the mannequins in the Lyra Starter Game with their own MetaHumans, for example.
Another new feature, IK Rig, enables users to interactively create solvers and goals that perform pose editing for their skeletal meshes. A common use case is to adjust a character additively while maintaining the existing animation, such as having a MetaHuman always look at a particular target while walking along.
With Chaos now the default physics engine in UE5, MetaHumans ship with active ragdoll physics — they’ll target believable poses and even try to protect their heads when tumbling. Epic has also added a new level to the MetaHuman Sample project that demonstrates how to use the new physics assets and ‘get up’ animations with Unreal Engine projects.
Lastly, since Quixel Bridge is now integrated into the Unreal Editor, Metahumans can be easily added to UE5 projects to achieve more believable real-time animated characters in less time.
New features for MetaHuman Creator
Whether users are refining their own custom MetaHumans or creating new ones from scratch, they will benefit from the fun and useful new features in MetaHuman Creator.
First off, there are ten new facial animation loops to instantly bring creations to life. These are great for evaluating how well a character’s deformations perform with different expressions, without having to download them first.
With similar intent, there are six new body poses to put characters through their paces — everything from being caught in the middle of a high hurdle to trying out a contemporary dance move — and five new facial poses that run the gamut of emotions.
If users don’t like their characters to blend in with the MetaHuman crowd, they will appreciate having more clothing options, including the ability to customize colors of areas within fabric patterns, such as polka dots, stripes, or paisleys.
Finally, to give users more control over their characters' hair, Epic has added 13 new hairdos, together with additional styles of beards, mustaches, eyebrows, and eyelashes for a total of 23 new grooms. This enables users to further customize their colors with Ombré and Highlights features, and the ability to separately color different areas of the Mohawk, Faux Mohawk, and Pulled Back styles. Together, these options offer a whole new range of looks for MetaHumans.