What’s New in the Updated Complete Unity Face Animation Plugin?

clock July 29, 2016 13:32 by author EliciaT

NaturalFront is excited to announce an updated version of the 3D Face Animation Plugin Complete on the Unity Asset Store. With the facial animation plugin, 3D animators and hobbyists can create and animate life-like models in seconds and at little cost. With the updated version, animators can produce professional-quality, realistic animations even when they are short on time, budget and training. What features have been added to the new version to make the animation process even easier than before?

In previous versions, users can create as many models as they want by uploading a photo of a person’s head into the Unity software. After clicking on a few key points on the photo, the plugin will generate a realistic, 3D facial model that is incredibly accurate and ready to animate.

Other benefits include:

  • Synchronized lip movement to audio- Say goodbye to spending hours struggling to match up mouth movements to audio files. The plugin takes the hard work and guessing out of lip syncing through its 1-Click Animation feature.

  • 1-Click Animation - The plugin has a vast range of facial expressions and mouth shapes already built-in. So, you can skip the manual animation process of morphing and spend almost zero time by selecting from the expressions and mouth shapes available. In addition, you can blend the expressions and mouth shapes together, thus generating literally unlimited number of facial poses, in a few clicks of your mouse.

Users can still look forward to all of those benefits in the updated complete version, but they can now also add a few more to the list.  

First, animators can save and reload their facial models and animations. Simply click File and Save when you want to hold on to an animation.

C:\Project\Work\PluginTests\Complete20\Test\Assets\NF3DFaceAnimationComplete20\documentation\13.png

When you want to reuse that animation, click File>Load>and Select the saved animation file.

C:\Project\Work\PluginTests\Complete20\Test\Assets\NF3DFaceAnimationComplete20\documentation\13_B.png

The plugin will reload the file and when you click Animate, it will generate the previously created animation. For optimal results, users should note:

  1. Only one 3D model can be reloaded at a time.

  2. If you want to reload multiple models to animate them in a scene at the same time, you can do so with other NaturalFront software.

  3. Models that you save and reload in the plugin can be used in other NaturalFront software.

  4. The current version only works with Windows operating systems.

Second, the new version is offered at an even lower price than before. Animators and hobbyists can take advantage of the 3D Face Animation Unity Plugin Complete at $100. Previous NaturalFront 3D Face Animation Unity Plugin Complete users can receive a voucher for a free upgrade to the latest version by contacting us by email here.





Two New Versions of NaturalFront 3D Face Animation Unity Plugin Available

clock June 19, 2016 21:39 by author EliciaT

 

NaturalFront has just released two, updated versions of the 3D Face Animation Unity Plugin. The updated versions fix reported bugs and issues, while also adding more features that make the facial animation process cost-effective, fast and simple for 3D animators.

Animators and hobbyists can choose from the two versions of the plugin: Basic and Complete. Each version vastly improves the animation process by creating 3D facial models in a matter of seconds. Instead of devoting hours to rigging, morphing, sculpting or key-framing to create and animate realistic facial models and expressions, users just need to upload a photo and the plugin does the work.

After uploading a headshot photo, users are prompted to select key points on the face. Then, the plugin creates a mesh with thousands of vertices for precise animations. It also comes with a diverse range of built-in facial expressions and mouth shapes, and works seamlessly with Unity 3D Editor. Both versions accelerate the animation process, but there are a few differences between them.

Unity Plugin Complete Version

The complete version is packed with valuable features that make facial animations easier, faster and more realistic. Here are some of the top capabilities to look forward to:

Lip Syncing

Lip syncing computer animated characters is one of the most difficult and labor-intensive tasks for 3D animators. The complete version of the NaturalFront Face Animation Unity Plugin fixes that and many other issues that animators face. When you upload audio tracks into Unity with the plugin, it can be synced in seconds with our patented 1-Click Animation technology.

1-Click Animation

A wide range of built-in facial expressions and movements are at users’ disposal with the complete version of the Unity plugin. Customizing mouth shapes and blending them together can be done within a few clicks of your mouse.

Professional Quality Facial Animations

Animators don’t need to spend thousands of hours or dollars to produce high-quality 3D models and animations. With the plugin, models are realistic and produce life-like facial expressions. Plus, there is no limit to the number of 3D characters that you can create.

Basic Version 1.1

Each version features NaturalFront’s unique 1-Click Animation ™.and makes the facial animation process fly by. The basic version is offered at a download price of $39 in the Unity store. Of course, it has some limitations in comparison to the complete version.

Primarily, the range of facial expressions and movements is limited. For professional animators or users that want a nearly unlimited number of facial movements at their disposal, the complete version is recommended.

If you are currently using previous versions of the Unity plugin, you can easily upgrade for between $5 and $115. For new users, the complete version costs $160.Each can save animators thousands of hours and funds that would otherwise be spent manually modeling and animating 3D models. Windows operating system is required for the download. To create and animate custom-built 3D heads quickly, you should have at least: 4-core i7/i5 CPU (or their equivalences) running at 3GHz, with 64-bit OS and 8GB RAM.

For more information on the new NaturalFront 3D Face Animation Unity Plugin complete and basic version, visit the Unity store.



NaturalFront Releases Free Unity Plugin On All Operating Systems

clock June 19, 2016 18:19 by author EliciaT

 

In February of this year, NaturalFront released a free version of the 3D Face Animation Unity Plugin. It hosted a number of features that made the facial animation process quicker, eliminating the need for rigging, morphing, key-framing and other costly techniques.

Now, NaturalFront has released the 2.0 free version of the plugin in the Unity store. After reviewing user feedback, we noticed a significant number of users requested that the plugin be made available on all operating systems and listened to those requests.

Before, the plugin was only compatible with Windows. With the 2.0 free version, users can test out the software on all operating systems, including: Windows, Mac and Linux. The free version has received high praise for its features and capabilities. Users can expect the same with the new plugin download.

What features come with the free plugin?

Using traditional computer animation techniques to configure facial models and animate them, takes animators weeks or longer. With NaturalFront’s 3D Face Animation Unity Plugin, realistic facial models can be created and animated in a matter of seconds.

Users just need to upload a headshot photo into the Unity software and mark specific points on the face to create a mesh. Then, a fully-functional 3D facial model is generated and already has a range of different animations built in. Also, since the plugin works seamlessly with Unity 3D Editor, you can start animating it right away.

The plugin not only makes animating a wide range of facial expressions fast and easy, but it improves the lip syncing process as well. Animators can download the audio track straight into Unity and the plugin will help match the lip movements to the audio file.

How can you get the NaturalFront Unity Plugin 2.0?

Downloading the free 2.0 version of NaturalFront’s Unity Plugin is easy. You can visit the Unity store and download the new version here. Users must have the Unity 5.3.5 version or higher to download. To create and animate custom-built 3D heads quickly, you should have at least: 4-core i7/i5 CPU (or their equivalences) running at 3GHz, with 64-bit OS and 8GB RAM.

If you have already downloaded the old version of the plugin, you can update your version to work with all operating systems. For a beginner’s tutorial on using the plugin, check out our video.



There Will Be a Toy Story 4: What to Expect

clock May 12, 2016 17:09 by author EliciaT

 

When the original Toy Story film was released in 1995, it revolutionized the animation industry. It was the first feature film to be created entirely by using computer animation technology. With Steve Jobs leading Pixar in its early days, the film was renowned for its technology innovation but also for its witty script, loveable characters and unsurpassed animation.

Now, over 20 years and three successful films later, the franchise has announced that it will be adding a fourth film to continue the tales of Woody, Buzz and the rest of the beloved toys.

After the neatly wrapped up and captivating ending to Toy Story 3, the possibility of a fourth film didn’t seem to be on the horizon. However, it is, and filmmakers have a huge challenge to create another film that stacks up to its predecessors. Toy Story has been one of the rare instances, in which each film━breaking box office records and receiving critical acclaim━has been a dazzling addition to the franchise.

Too often, franchises seem cursed to create sequels that are subpar or down-right terrible, especially when they keep adding more movies to the lineup. However, Toy Story 4 may be able to break the franchise curse again and delight us. Here’s why:

 

1. John Lasseter is directing again.

The famous animator and Disney executive will be the film’s director once again. Lasseter was part of the original story development team, alongside Pete Docter (Inside Out, Up) and Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E). The Chief Creative Officer of Disney has always been involved in Toy Story in some way but didn’t direct Toy Story 3. This time around, Rashida Jones and Will McCormack are reported to have joined the writing team.

 

2. Woody and Buzz will be back━along with some long-lost characters.

Since the beginning, the cowboy and astronaut have led the cast, and this time is no different. Disney hasn’t revealed too many cast details, but it is known that Tom Hanks and TIm Allen will be reprising their roles. Another character that was absent during Toy Story 3 will return━Bo Peep.

Woody’s former love interest was a prominent part of the first movie but seemed to fade out in Toy Story 2 and was missing from Toy Story 3. It is assumed that the toy had the fate of so many toys and was tossed aside or given away by her owner in between. It is likely that the next movie will reveal more about what happened to Bo Peep.

3. The story is unique.

Toy Story 4 has some high expectations to meet━Toy Story 3 is the third highest grossing animated film of all time and has a 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, recent reports say that the film doesn’t plan on continuing the story from where the last movie left off. Instead, it is meant to stand on its own as a love story between Bo Peep and Woody as he sets off on a journey to find out what happened to her.

After three successful works in the Toy Story franchise, a fourth film wasn’t expected. But, now that it is officially happening, the excitement of fans and animators is mounting. Toy Story 4 will be released in June of 2018.



The Most Anticipated 3D Animated Films of 2016

clock April 14, 2016 22:05 by author EliciaT

Looking at this year’s lineup of animated films, there are a number of promising titles. However, a few of the 2016 animated releases stand out from the rest. Here’s a list of the top 3D animated films to look forward to this year.

Kung Fu Panda 3

The DreamWorks Animation film is the third featuring the cuddly, karate-chopping panda Po, voiced by Jack Black. As the third installment, Kung Fu Panda 3 faces the challenge of not falling into the category of just another mediocre movie, trailing behind the success of its predecessors. However, this movie stood on its own, as creators animated it in two languages━English and Mandarin.

The storyline is not bad either. Po finally meets his biological father and visits his village with other pandas, which he must help save by training them in the art of kung fu. It is playing in theaters right now.

Zootopia

Zootopia is a 3D computer animated film by Disney’s Pixar Studios. The film takes place in a city of anthropomorphic animals. The main characters are a rabbit police officer and a con artist fox working together to find an otter that is missing. On the surface, it may sound like a simple, comedic animated flick about animals living in the big city. However, the film touches on real-world issues, such as intolerance and racism.

The animation is impressive too. Animators wanted to make sure every detail in the film was just right, specifically when it came to the fur. They studied animal hair under a microscope to aid in their animation and created unique hair types for each of the 64 animals featured in the film.

The film has surpassed expectations━it currently has a 98 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, has smashed box office records and has received widespread critical and audience praise. So far, it is the highest grossing film of the year.

The Angry Birds Movie

If you are a fan of the popular Angry Birds game, you’re probably already looking forward to the release of the animated movie. The Finnish game developer partnered with Sony Pictures to create the feature-length film. In it, the birds have more depth and story than in the game. Red, Chuck and Bomb are the three main birds that are on a mission to figure out why green pigs have invaded their island. Angry Birds fans can watch the film when it is released in May.

Finding Dory

In the 2003 animated film Finding Nemo, audiences fell in love with the lovable but forgetful Dory. This year, the film is finally getting a sequel in Finding Dory, with Ellen DeGeneres returning as the voice of the blue tang fish. This time the story focuses on Dory, as she struggles to remember her family and loved ones and embarks on a journey to find them. Along the way, she is helped by her fish friends, Hank the octopus, Destiny the whale shark and others. Marlin and Nemo make an appearance too.

However, the release of Finding Dory isn’t just exciting because it is the long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo. Filmmakers also put a lot of work into it, experimenting with new animation software and techniques in order to create it. For example, animators used Renderman RIS and path tracing techniques to create more enhanced lighting effects in the water. The film opens up in theaters in June.

Moana

Another animated movie by Disney, Moana is about a girl in Oceania, who embarks on a journey at sea to get to an island━that may or may not exist. Many are looking forward to the new movie, since it is the first to feature a Polynesian princess. Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, is the voice of the demi-god Maui, while Moana is voiced by Auli'i Cravalho, a 14-year old native Hawaiian. The film is being directed by Ron Clements and John Musker (The Princess and the Frog) and will be their first time directing a full feature 3D computer animated film. You can check it out in theaters in late November.

 

This year, animation fans have a lot to look forward to. From animals dealing with relatable problems to cultural firsts, 2016 seems to be a promising year in animation. What animated flicks are you excited for this year?






Top Contests for 3D Animators

clock March 27, 2016 18:32 by author EliciaT

Participating in media arts and animation contests is one way to help animators share their work with others, get constructive feedback, improve their skills and maybe even make some extra cash along the way. However, there are hundreds of contests out there, some not worth the time or entrance fees. As animators time is extremely valuable, so we have picked out some of the top contests that are worth checking out.

Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film

The Stuttgart competition is one of the biggest and most renowned animation events in the world. The competition runs in conjunction with the international film festival, which lasts for about six days and nights and brings animation companies and leaders from every corner of the globe. The festival doesn’t only focus on animated films either. It also has a category dedicated to computer games.

The festival takes place April 26 to May 1, 2016. Winners may have their productions showcased at the event and win a lump sum of cash.

Animation Block Party

 

If you are a young animator looking to get recognition on the east coast of the United States, then Animation Block Party could be the contest for you. The contest is international but has an entrance fee between $25 and $45, depending on when you register. The prizes aren’t as grand as some of the other contests on the list, but winners have a chance to share their media with a crowd in Brooklyn. The last day to submit your animations is June 3, 2016.

Nickelodeon Shorts Program

 

The TV network channel Nickelodeon has an annual international animation competition. The competition accepts ideas for programs and shorts that would be targeted to young kids. For animators that are in the early stages of a production, this contest may be more feasible. In order to submit their ideas, applicants must have strong visuals, which can be in the form of storyboards.

Winners receive production and development support to transform their pitches into animated shorts that may be aired on the Nick TV channel, website or mobile app. Interested applicants can view last year’s winners here. Submission is free and the deadline is April 15th.

Melbourne International Animation Festival

 

The annual festival in Australia has grown significantly since it first launched in 2001. It brings guests and entrants from all over the globe. If selected, winners are considered for other festivals like London, Sydney and New Zealand International Film Festival. The submission deadline has passed, but the festival takes place between June 21-28. 

Animayo

 

Resumen Animayo 2015 from ANIMAYO on Vimeo.

Animayo is an international festival and competition that includes animated films, video games and visual effects. It is held in different locations around the world, such as Los Angeles, Gran Canaria, Madrid and Mumbai. The application is free and winners may have their works promoted by the festival for up to five years after submission.

Animation can be a strenuous, time-consuming art form, so it is important to recognize when an individual’s hard work pays off. Participating in festivals and competitions gives animators recognition and opportunities to progress in the industry.

 



The Complete Version of the NaturalFront Unity Plugin

clock March 2, 2016 21:36 by author EliciaT

 

Earlier this month, we released the free version of the NaturalFront 3D Face Animation Unity Plugin. Now, the complete version is available to download in the Unity store. The full version gives users more freedom and offers a wide range of features that help make the animation process faster and smoother. Below are some of the main capabilities and how animators can use them in their Unity animations.

3D Avatar Creation Process

The Unity plugin revolutionizes the 3D facial animation process. Instead of spending days or weeks creating models manually, users can have a realistic, ready-to-animate facial model in seconds.

In order to generate a character with the plugin, first you need a quality headshot photo with a plain background. Upload the photo into the program, and it will prompt you to click key points on the face. Then, the program will generate a model that has around 1,000 vertices and a range of expressions, saving users hours of rigging and sculpting facial features. Creating an avatar usually takes between 15 seconds and 2 minutes with the plugin .

Synchronization and Animation

Accurate lip syncing is one of the hardest animation tasks to master. However, the Unity plugin simplifies and improves traditional lip syncing processes. After a model has been created, users can begin adding audio and synchronize it to the character’s mouth shapes and movements. Simply upload an audio file and select key points and expressions. Users can also playback the animation to ensure that the expressions and lip movements match up with the audio. Adjusting the lip sync can be done in just a few mouse clicks.

Fine Control

Some of the primary benefits that come with the complete version of the Unity plugin, are that animators have more choices and more freedom when it comes to animating facial expressions. For example, users have the ability to customize expressions by individually selecting different parts of the facial structure. This allows for animators to slightly tweak a facial animation and make it as accurate and realistic as possible.

With the complete version of the Unity plugin, animators can create facial models in seconds, synchronize audio and mouth movements, fine-tune expressions and much more. To learn more about the Unity plugin, you can watch the tutorial video that explains how to use it for facial animations. To download the Unity plugin, visit the app store here. To try the tool out first, animators can also download the free version with limited features here.





Which Animated Feature Film Will Win the 2016 Academy Award?

clock February 28, 2016 16:49 by author EliciaT

 

The Oscars show is this weekend, and everyone has their own opinions as to which nominees will take home awards. The animated feature film is one of the younger categories in the Oscars. It was established in 2001, with Shrek becoming the first winner. This year, the group of nominees is more diverse and unpredictable than many before.

There are nominees from different studios all over the world. Below are the nominations for this year’s animated feature category and winner predictions for Sunday night.

Anomalisa

Anomalisa is not your traditional animated film. For instance, it is the only R-rated movie in the category, making it one of the few animated movies that is intended for adult audiences. Although the story could be told in live-action, there is something to be said for the stop-motion. The characters were created using 3D printers in a style that is uniquely realistic.

Also, the film has some humble beginnings, in comparison to some of the other nominees. Writers Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson funded the project with a Kickstarter campaign and had additional support from the production studio Starburns Industries.

Shaun the Sheep Movie

From Aardman Animations, Shaun the Sheep may seem simple in comparison to its contenders. However, the film and its characters seem to be loved by both audiences and critics. The movie is inspired by the British TV series of the same name, and it follows the quirky misadventures of the charismatic sheep, Shaun. It has a 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and it highlights the best of the stop-motion animation style that has made Aardman famous.

Boy and the World

An unusual pick for the Academy, Boy and the World is a Brazilian released animated film that is devoid of dialogue. There are some intelligible noises from characters, but it relies almost  completely on the beautiful animations to tell the story.  If it were to win the Oscar, it would be a first for the South America region.

When Marnie Was There

When Marnie Was There, is said to be the last film that will be created by famed Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki. The anime movie is based on the story of a girl that forms a strong relationship to her neighbor, who may or may not be a real person. It is the fifth film from Studio Ghibli to be nominated for an award, and would make the second win if chosen.

Inside Out

Inside Out is a 3D animated film from Disney’s Pixar. The film is unlike any other Pixar releases before and it’s story is original, which is why it has also landed a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Some of the main characters are based on the basic human emotions that we all experience━Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger and Fear. If history is any indication, Disney will most likely take home the prize. Since 2001, the company has claimed nine of the fourteen awards.

Even though Inside Out is the popular pick for this year’s winner, the diversity of nominations and animation styles may surprise viewers. The Oscars premieres on February, 28 at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. If you plan on tuning in, which animated film do you think will win on Sunday night?



Free Version of Unity3D Facial Animation Plugin Now Available

clock February 7, 2016 22:49 by author EliciaT

 

Today’s 3D animators are constantly under pressure to create high-quality models and animations in shorter periods of time. When it comes to 3D facial animations, it is extremely difficult to capture real-life expressions by using traditional animation techniques. The process may take months or years with teams of artists working together, and still, the expressions can turn out awkward and unrealistic. Luckily, there are a few emerging technologies that could help improve the creation process for 3D animators.

The new NaturalFront® 3D facial animation plugin for Unity is a very-easy-to-use solution that is vastly cutting down the time usually required to create complex 3D facial animation. The plugin allows animators to create realistic 3D facial models and their animation in seconds, without the need to rig, sculpt, or perform any other tedious tasks.

How does the plugin work?

The plugin is designed to work seamlessly with Unity3d Editor. Users simply need to upload a portrait of a model’s face and input a few settings. For the best results, the photo should be taken indoor using flashlight, and with the subject facing the camera. Once uploaded, users will be prompted to select certain points on the face to create a mesh. The plugin will then automatically generate a 3D model, with a few thousand vertices. More importantly, once created, the 3D model will instantly come with built-in 3D animation that includes abundance of different, real-life facial expressions, without your performing any conventional time-consuming tasks, such as rigging or creating morphing targets!

Why should you download it?

Using traditional 3D computer modeling and animation techniques, it may take an animator days, weeks or even years to complete high-resolution characters. Animators can significantly reduce the number of work hours that they dedicate to facial modeling animation through the tool, because it eliminates the need to rig, model, morph or keyframe.

With this Unity plugin, a model can be generated within a few seconds or minutes, depending on the processing speed of your computer. More importantly, animating expressions can be easily accomplished by only a few simple clicks.

With the Complete version of NaturalFront® 3D Facial Animation Unity Plugin soon to be available, animation and synchronizing with audio can be done super-fast and easily by our unique 1-Click Animation ™!

How can you download it for free?

Downloading the Unity plugin is simple, with a free option recently available. Animators have the opportunity to test out the facial animation tool at no-cost by downloading a free version here. Upload a photo, adjust the settings to fit your preferences, render your model in seconds, and start animating facial expressions in minutes. Essentially, you can kiss-goodbye to your old-fashion, time-consuming and costly techniques!

If you have questions about using the plugin or want to share your experiences using the tool, feel free to comment below. For more information about the tool, check out this tutorial video.



3 Predictions for the Animation Industry in 2016

clock January 19, 2016 15:48 by author EliciaT

 

Last year was a promising one for the animation industry. Animated film successes like Inside Out and The Peanuts Movie rejuvenated interest and demand for 3D animation. Furthermore, innovators made big leaps with 3D animation technologies. What can we expect to see in the animation industry in 2016?

Top animation companies will see box office and stock gains.

Stocks rose 10 percent last year for top media companies Dreamworks, Hasbro and Disney. Dreamworks successfully released Home, with $400 million in sales, while Disney broke records with Inside Out and Star Wars:The Force Awakens. Their improved performance could signal a promising start for animated endeavors in 2016.

There is an exciting lineup of films planned for all three companies in the next several years. Plus, partnerships with other brands suggests a positive outlook for the animation industry. Dreamworks recently announced that they are expanding their deal with Netflix with more original animated series and streaming in more than 130 countries. Towards the end of 2015, Hasbro also announced a partnership with Paramount Pictures to create films based on their iconic characters like G.I. Joe.

 

The bar for facial animation will be raised.

In 2016, you can expect facial animation and technologies to be even more sophisticated. Facial animation has long been one of the greatest challenges for 3D animators. However, in recent years animation technologies have focused on improving the process.

Last year, media corporations invested in technologies that improve the quality of facial animation, raising the bar for animated productions. Also, software like Naturalfront is making it easier for animators to create realistic, accurate facial expressions in a very small fraction of the time that it would have taken a few years ago.

Video game industry will experiment more with mobile devices.

Mobile devices have infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. In fact, the number of mobile devices now exceeds the number of people on Earth. They are becoming commonplace in workplaces, schools, stores, and dozens of other places. It was only a matter of time before they started to significantly impact the video gaming industry too.

Simple games have long been a staple of mobile app stores. However, hardcore video games have yet to truly find a place on mobile devices. This year, that could change. Consoles will likely still remain relevant for years, but companies will start to explore mobile platforms as the demand continues to grow.

According to a 2015 study by Mintel, over half of Americans now play video games on mobile devices. Another study by the NPD Group found that 63 percent of children ages 2 to 17 preferred to play games on a smartphone or tablet. With growing demand, game companies can’t afford to ignore possibilities for mobile expansion.

This year will be an exciting one for animators and the animation industry. As new technologies push boundaries and films continue to draw crowds at the box office, it will be interesting to watch what 2016 holds for animation. What predictions do you have for the animation industry in 2016?






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