FaceRig

During the start of 2014, Holotech Studios, a Romanian indie developer, started an indiegogo campaign for very special software, based on driving digital characters through image based tracking, all in real time. They successfully funded the campaign with help of many supporters and released it on Steam Early Access with various monthly (and sometimes daily) patches. Today, July 7th of 2015, their software is now out of the Early Access program. This is FaceRig.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

A software that allows any user with a webcam to embody themselves as 3D digital characters, with different backgrounds and then output the real time render to wherever they want, either as an animated video export for later reproduction, or in real time through other services, like Skype video calls.

It allows you to choose through various different characters which all track very well to your facial expressions and mouth movement. You can set different types of backgrounds depending on which one would suit more the 3D character or whichever you prefer (there is a greenscreen option to add a custom background or transparency as well). Nevertheless, you can customize your character with simple cosmetics to add a more unique feel to them. Just make sure to place yourself in front on the Webcam correctly, and have proper illumination.

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FUNCTIONALITY

Ok, but why would one use this software other than to mess around in Skype calls? This is software with many intended purposes, one of its main things is to help people interact with each other in a more role-play matter, for fun! It also proves to be interesting for animators, 2D and 3D artists to learn more about this technology. Streamers and Youtubers who are recognized for their use of their Webcam and interactions with their audience can create a new sort of persona to identify themselves with this software, again, merely for fun purposes. But what exactly to the users need to know when using this software for the media and other audiences?

FaceRig offers 3 different versions;

  • FaceRig Classic allows you to monetize your real time renders (or pre-recorded) to Youtube/Twitch under specific limitations. If you just want to use this software for non-commercial purposes and at a low cost, for simple hobbies, role-playing and what not, this is the one for you.

  • FaceRig Pro is essentially the same as Classic, but the $60+ you pay extra allow you to deal with less limitations for commercial use, specifically if you want to use the license as a business of for profit. More inclined to Youtubers and Twitch streamers in this matter as they are mostly gaining an income with help of a FaceRig avatar. It’s all detailed on the EULA for the Classic and Pro versions respectively, but it’s mostly what I have mentioned in terms of the liberty you get to use them.

  • FaceRig Studio will be released later this year, but its focused for users who use it at their jobs or development studios. This license allows you to work with your mo-cap renders with other 3D software like 3DSMax or Autodesk Maya, as well as other sorts of media. This will be the most expensive one, or so we expect it to be, but artists will be able to customize and change many aspects to adapt to their projects.

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HOW WELL DOES IT PERFORM

The real time expression tracking obviously works in the Webcam stream input, as well as your audio which you can listen to its feedback if needed be. Once the tracking sets your face, the facial expressions and head movement are very spot on and accurate. Unless you have some sort of apparels like glasses and what not, character eyes might get weird reactions, but mostly the mo-cap render appropriately.

When changing characters or backgrounds, it loads very quickly, quite impressive for a real time software, it mostly depends of course on your graphic settings; FaceRig offers many optimization options which allow you to accommodate to your system specs. It allows you to reduce or increase texture quality, the Rendering API( either DX9 or DX11), the shadow quality, application loop rate, face tracking loop rate, lip sync rate (all these at specific framerates), and of course many User-Interface preferences to show or hide buttons, just to make a cleaner broadcast.

In the options menu you can also set which Webcam to use and which Audio Input, as to your Webcam’s mic or a dedicated microphone (you’ll want clean audio if you’re going all in!). Not to mention there are basic yet awesome Voice Effects to add more realism to your character, basically a pitch shifter which works around the tone of your voice on low and high frequencies, or a Robot Voice. You can also add text and image overlay on top of the avatar.

CHARACTERS & FACERIG UPDATES

The software is treated with many patches to solve issues and improve performance, but its work is also dedicated on the amount of characters it has. Right now it has more than 15 different avatars, all with different customizations, some from Holiday specials, others are the protagonists of their respective games, most are from free downloadable content and others are priced the like the Halloween pack.

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FaceRig is released on PC and will be coming to iOS as FaceRig Mobile (depending on how well the software will do), Mac and probably Linux if all goes well. It is a fun and clever software to mess around, it functions quite well and a lot of work has been put into through all its development, much more is to be expected. Now imagine if it had full body motion capture!

4

In Short

  • + Clean User Interface
    + Well implemented optimization and configuration options
    + Real time renders and functionality are mostly accurate
    + Character design and environments are very well made

  • - Tracking can become an issue when using certain apparel

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