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.





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.



Why Motion Capture Isn’t The Best Choice for Your 3D Business

clock November 9, 2015 07:31 by author EliciaT

 

Even the greatest 3D animators struggle with mastering realistic facial animations. This is because the complex muscle system that controls numerous, subtle facial expressions is hard to capture using traditional 3D animation methods.  

Methods like rigging and morphing are often time-consuming and inefficient. As a result, some animators have tried to use motion capture, also called mocap. Motion capture for facial animation uses a system of wires, cameras, and sensors to capture the motions of real people and transfer them onto a 3D character model.

Major, renowned 3D animated productions like Avatar and characters like Gollum from Lord of the Rings were created using motion capture technology. Furthermore, the technique has transformed computer animation, primarily by making it possible to transfer human emotions onto a 3D character. However, motion capture has its own set of challenges and is not suitable for every situation.  

Why Isn’t Motion Capture The Best Choice?

There is a reason that major films have used motion capture in their animation process━they have huge budgets. To accomplish the highest quality, accurate video footage, it usually requires many cameras and an environment conducive to collecting motion data. The well-known 3D characters created by motion capture were made possible in a studio, fully equipped with hundreds of expensive, high resolution cameras.

The total setup and hardware costs can range from $200,000 to a million dollars. Animators can try to minimize the costs of motion capture by using cheaper and fewer cameras, however, the price is still high and the results can be lackluster.  

Furthermore, motion capture may make it easier by automating the process of transferring video of human movements into a 3D animation. However, it does not mean the entire process is automated. In order to make the animation flow smoothly, it still requires skilled 3D animators to manually clean up the animation. For animators that want high quality 3D animations while minimizing the cost and work time, there is another option━Curve Controlled Modelling.

What is Curve Controlled Modeling?

Screenshot (40).png

Curve Controlled Modeling or CCM is a type of 3D animation that is completely software based, meaning that it doesn’t require the expensive hardware costs of motion capture. It uses a tool called NURBs or Non-uniform rational B-spline curve to simulate the movement of muscles, making it ideal for facial animation.

NURBs curves are equations that allow animation software programs to animate the muscles of a 3D object. This allows for astonishingly complex movements to be generated very quickly, which is crucial to successfully animate facial muscles.

With CCM, all you need is a software program, and the knowledge of how to use it. It is relatively easy to get both of these things, while it usually more difficult to obtain the tools to correctly use motion capture. With the complex and feature rich software that is available on the market for CCM animation, you’ll be able to animate complex facial muscles without spending an arm and a leg on hardware and studio space.



Why Rigging Is Bad For 3D Facial Animation - revisited

clock October 23, 2015 13:54 by author EliciaT

 

 

Animating realistic facial expressions in 3D is one of the most difficult tasks for animators to accomplish. Unlike the rest of the body, movement of the face isn’t controlled by a simple hierarchy system of joints and bones. Instead, dozens of complex muscle movements control facial expressions.

Furthermore, facial movements are subtle. A slight change in the position of the eyebrows or mouth can completely alter an expression--and the meaning we attribute to it.

For example, a smile may seem like a simple expression to capture. However, there are many different types of smiles, each with their own significance. In fact, psychologists at the University of California at San Francisco once mapped and studied over 3,000 facial expressions. 

Facial animation is challenging, because of the variety of expressions and the complex system of muscles that work together to create each one. Therefore, some of the traditional methods that animators use to control body motions simply are not suitable for facial animation.

What Happens When You Use 3D Rigging For Facial Animation

One of the common methods that animators use is 3D rigging. The way 3D rigging works is by constructing and attaching simulated bones and joints to a character model.

In many situations, 3D rigging is one of the most useful tools in an animator’s tool bag. It is useful when moving limbs and other body parts that rely on a hierarchy system.

However, for facial expressions, 3D rigging is often very time-consuming and inefficient. Animators first need to construct a rig that is based on a loose idea of the locations of muscle tissues. Then, they must make a guess (remember your last visit to a casino?) as to how those muscles move to create various emotions. The whole process can take weeks or months and can result in inaccurate and unrealistic facial expressions. How can the current animation process be improved?

Curve Controlled Modeling

 

An innovative technology called Curve Controlled Modeling (CCM) is here to substantially improve the facial animation process.

What is Curve Controlled Modeling?

Curve Controlled Modeling (CCM) is a newly developed technology that is designed specifically for animating complex muscle movements. It utilizes a modeling tool called NURBs or Non-uniform rational B-spline Curve.

If the history of technology development is one of your favorite subjects, you might recall that some of the most important advancements are based on finding and using analogies. For example, the Theory of Gravity is based on the analogy between a falling apple and orbiting Moon. The Theory of Relativity is based on the analogy between on-the-earth standstill and out-of-this-world speed-up. Curve Controlled Modeling is also based on a powerful analogy that was recently discovered (can you guess analogy of what). How can this analogy help you? It can help you complete complex 3D facial animation much more quickly and at a much lower cost than traditional approaches. Once again, the Moon is not going around for nothing. 

Rigging animated models is still an important part of the 3D animation process. However, when it comes to facial animation, it is certainly not the most efficient option. Curve Controlled Modeling can help animators complete life-like facial animations while eliminating rigging time and formidable costs associated with them. To learn more about CCM technology, view our videos here.







 



Latest Natural Front Intuitive Pro 3.1 Animation Software Released

clock January 4, 2015 21:51 by author christpaul

It's not that long since we released the last version of Natural Front, but we are never inclined to rest on our laurels in terms of providing the best possible service to our customers. So we have already taking feedback from our valued users to help create the next version of Natural Front Intuitive Pro, which we are naming the 3.1 version of the software.

We are quite pleased with the new improvements that we have included in this already powerful software package. Updates that have been made to the Natural Front Intuitive Pro 3.1 program include the ability for users to play a captured video directly from the software.

This particular innovation was strongly requested by users in feedback, so we were keen to deliver this particular form of animation support as quickly as possible. We are delighted to announce that it is now fully in place for the 3.1 version of the animation software, and we are extremely confident about the robustness of this feature.

Users downloading the 3.1 version of Natural Front Intuitive Pro will find that they can use any captured videos as a reference for 3-D facial animation. It is possible to place the video and any animation produced side-by-side, which greatly facilitates the process of creating 3-D animation. Already Natural Front Intuitive Pro was a massively slick and powerful animation program, but we're confident that this feature takes it to the next level.

We have also addressed several bugs which existed in the 3.0 version of the software. Of course, we work diligently to ensure that there are no errors in our Natural Front program, but it is almost impossible to eliminate these completely even with diligent testing. But after a lot of work from our engineers, we're now confident that the animation will be even more consistent when different levels of abstraction are used in the same animation process.

This means that animating different parts of a face individually, or animating the whole face based on a few primary expressions, will become even more easy, user-friendly and efficient than before. We are extremely proud of the animation capabilities of Natural Front Intuitive Pro, and equally proud of the fact that animation studios all over the world have used this powerful program to create absorbing 3-D animations.

Finally, Natural Front Intuitive Pro also benefits from a new user-friendly user interface. We were already happy with the ease-of-use of the program, but believe that we have bettered it with this new interface.

All in all, this is another excellent Natural Front Intuitive Pro release, and we can't wait to see what professional animators are able to produce with it.



The Importance of Simplicity for 3D Animation

clock October 18, 2014 09:31 by author christpaul

The infamous scientist Albert Einstein once stated that the best solution to any problem is always a simple one. This ethos is very much at the centre of the Natural Front approach to animation. We strive to make the most challenging and time-consuming tasks in 3-D animation as simple as possible; perhaps simpler than you can even imagine.

The Natural Front Intuitive Pro software is based on our own revolutionary 3-D technology. It has taken a huge amount of loving care and effort to turn our ideas into a constructive software package that can produce world-class 3-D animations. The principle which drives the Natural Front software has never been commercially explored previously, and it is the unique nature of the software which has perhaps above all else contributed to its success.

The Natural Front Intuitive Pro software enables animators to work in the core of 3D modeling and animation in a way that is both unprecedented and hugely effective. The approach that we take to 3-D animation makes us stand apart from other animation companies and software, particularly in the respect that the Natural Front Intuitive Pro software does not rely heavily on traditional modelling and animation techniques as is common in the industry.

Not only is our curve-controlled modelling a unique element of the Natural Front software package, but we have also acquired the exclusive rights world-wide to commercially explore this revolutionary 3D technology. This means that only Natural Front Intuitive Pro will be able to offer you our fantastic 3-D animation package which makes creating the most absorbing animations imaginable easy and painless.

This means that we can offer unique benefits through our software, particularly to SMEs. Natural Front has worked with animators and animation studios all over the world, and as an SME ourselves, we fully understand the pressures that modern businesses have to cope with. The Natural Front Intuitive Pro software was precisely designed to meet the needs of animation studios on a budget, and we pride ourselves on offering incredible value for money with our system.

By using Natural Front’s unique technology, you not only get your 3D animation business a giant step ahead of competition, but also start a revolutionary journey. In no time at all, you can be creating animations better than you could have ever hoped. So don't delay, sign up for our 30 day free trial today.



The Ethos Behind Natural Front

clock October 5, 2014 08:21 by author christpaul

The driving force behind Natural Front was to create a computer software package that could deliver outstanding 3-D character animation. However, it wasn't good enough for us to produce a package that merely did the job well, we wanted to make Natural Front Intuitive Pro the best 3-D character animation software package on the market.

So with this ethos in mind, from day one of developing the software we deeply considered what elements we wanted the Natural Front package to comprise. Firstly, and arguably most important, was the ability to create absorbing facial animations easily. Not only did we want animators using Natural Front to be able to create world-class animations, but we also intended for them to be able to do it in a relatively hassle-free way.

At present, the most widely used techniques in 3-D character animation and 3-D facial animation are 3-D rigging and morphing, also know as blending key shapes. Most animators consider these to be a necessary evil, even though the laborious nature of the process makes it quite a headache.

The reality is that these techniques are extremely inefficient when utilised for 3-D facial animation. The reason behind this is that an effective approach in the core of 3-D modelling and animation has been lacking. Rigging and morphing have been the industry solution to the problem, but experienced animators will tell you that they are and insufficient solution. Other 3-D animation software has a focus on motion capture and tracking, but with Natural Front Intuitive Pro we intended to create a completely new system which blows such notions away.

Natural Front is not opposed to motion capture, tracking, or any of the rigging process. However, we do believe that it is currently utilised inefficiently. That is why we developed our system for capturing 3-D animations which is as simple as possible to utilise. Our curve-controlled modelling system makes the process of 3-D animation considerably easier, and also by delivering efficiency savings we can pass economic savings onto you the consumer. 

To paraphrase Albert Einstein, the simplest solution is usually the best solution, and this was very much the ethos and mentality that underpinned the development of Natural Front Intuitive Pro. Since we released the first version of the software, it has become a key animation package for small-to-medium animation studios in particular, and continues to go from strength to strength.



Natural Front Intuitive Pro - The Best Choice for Small-to-Medium Animation Studios

clock September 22, 2014 15:29 by author christpaul

Natural Front has been working with a variety of small-to-medium studios and indie developers for some years now, and in that time we have developed an industry-wide reputation for providing animation packages of the very highest quality. We are particularly proud of our Natural Front Intuitive Pro software, which makes facial modelling in particular extremely easy, without in any way scrimping on the power.

By applying our patented technology to the way realistic 3-D facial animation is created, you can create truly world-class 3-D animations in an incredibly short period of time. This enables animation studios and freelance animators to greatly cut down on the cost of animation, which can be prohibitively expensive.

At Natural Front we have made the decision to be particularly focused on 3-D animation and specifically facial animation for a wide variety of reasons. Firstly, 3-D animation is becoming very popular. It has been an established genre across all manner of cinematic, film and other productions for many years, but over the last few years its reach has grown stratospherically.

Now 3-D animation studios are cropping up all over the world, and Natural Front is delighted to be able to state that its products are being utilised by animators all over the globe. To be part of this 3-D animation revolution is both exciting and inspiring.

Additionally, our team of software engineers at Natural Front are all animation fans, and thus we understand the laborious process which is facial animation. There is no doubt that 3-D facial animation is the most expensive and time consuming part of any animation. Yet it is also the most important if one is to bring a particular character to life. That's why we created our curve-controlled modelling system which makes facial animation straightforward, but delivers absolutely incredible results.

Natural Front Intuitive Pro completely removes the need for rigging, morph targets, key-framing or blend shapes. It provides a standalone software package which isn't dependent on time consuming and often irritating techniques such as motion capture or tracking. However, future releases of the software are going to support this technology, owing to feedback from our customers.

This is another key aspect of Natural Front, we engage in a constant two-way feedback loop with our customers and animators, and our developers very strongly take personal feedback into consideration when developing the Natural Front Intuitive Pro product. We're confident this is the best software package on the market for small-to-medium-sized animation studios and freelance animators, so why not try our free 30 day trial today?



How Natural Front Intuitive Pro Makes Facial Animation Easy For Professionals

clock August 2, 2014 17:27 by author christpaul

Natural Front Intuitive Pro is the ultimate solution for 3-D facial animation. With Natural Front Intuitive Pro, you can create a photorealistic 3-D face starting from photographic references within but a few seconds. Animators from all over the world have already proclaimed Natural Front to be a massive quantum leap forward in 3-D animation techniques. The whole animation process is astonishingly simple and mostly automatic with Natural Front Intuitive Pro.

Natural Front Ontuitive Pro makes it extremely easy to import audio tracks. This enables you to imbue your characters with emotions, make them talk, and take on a whole character of their own. Furthermore, the software enables you to blend expressions and create talking mouth shapes. This is all handled in an incredibly user-friendly and intuitive manner.

Once you're happy with the character that you have created, you can easily import your 3-D created face into any 3-D software package of your choice. To achieve the same results using other software would require you to first model the face manually. Any animator will tell you that this is an incredibly time-consuming process, not to mention a difficult and highly skilled one.

And that's not the end of it. Once this has been done, it would then be necessary to rig the facial model, at least if you were using other 3D rendering packages. The whole process would take days or weeks, and is well known to be one of the most challenging in the entire field of animation.

By contrast, with Natural Front Intuitive Pro the facial modelling process is extremely intuitive, straightforward, and it requires merely a few clicks from animators. Professional animators who've used Natural Front Intuitive Pro have remarked that getting to grips with the software involves almost no learning curve.

Once animations have been created in Natural Front Intuitive Pro, they can be added very easily to any 3-D software program of choice, making the process of creating animations considerably easier. If you are a games creator, Natural Front Intuitive Pro enables you to import animated expressions and talking characters in literally a matter of minutes.

It is this ease of use and quality of animation that has established Natural Front Intuitive Pro as a major leader in the 3-D facial animation field. Saving professional animators and professional animation studios both time and money, Natural Front Intuitive Pro is the ideal solution for anyone hoping to achieve world-class animation on a budget.



Natural Front Intuitive Pro Solves All of Your Facial Animation Conundrums

clock July 13, 2014 18:39 by author christpaul

Do you own an animation business? You will know then how overhead costs and logistical issues can be a massive drain on your creativity and impede your animation studio from getting things done. In the competitive world than modern animators find themselves in, it’s hard to have issues detracting from performance, and many small to medium animation studios find themselves wishing that there was but a single, simple solution to all of their animation issues.

If you’re in the business of creating high quality 3D facial animation in particular then you will know all of the problems that you might encounter. You’re all used to the old way of creating 3D animations, and the issues that you associate with it.

The old way involves manually modelling a face, creating a complex net of rigging with which to manipulate the animation. Many studios are only too aware of both the cost and time that needs to be invested in such an animation method. It can eliminate small animation studios from the bidding process for projects that involve facial animation.

Freelance animators also struggle with 3D animation, particularly with regard to faces. The start-up costs for a 3D animator can be extremely high, and purchasing some of the high end software that is usually utilised to create 3D animation can be extremely expensive. And then, the freelance animator must ponder whether the feature set included in the software is even something that they will need in the long-term.

Another issue related to 3D facial animation is the skills gap. Many small to medium digital and animation agencies avoid bidding for or taking on projects that require complex 3D animations, as the skills required to produce them just aren’t inherent within their teams.

But there is a solution to all of these issues. Natural Front Intuitive Pro is an exceptional 3D facial animation solution which has received commendation both critically and from customers. It negates the need for complex and time consuming processes such as 3D rigging, morphing and facial motion capture. And it comes at a price that suits the budgets of small to medium studios and even independent freelancers. And Natural Front Intuitive Pro is renowned for its user-friendliness; meaning you don’t have to be a software or animation expert to use it.

All over the world, small to medium animation studios and freelance animation professionals have realised that they can get world-class results from Natural Front Intuitive Pro. If you’re in the same position, why not sign up for a free trial today?



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