If you believed that DNA is an attribute of humans, it’s time to believe in something else: Epic Games MetaHumans also have DNA, which contributes to the form of each individual MetaHuman’s head.
Epic Games announced a new release of MetaHuman. With this release, the team behind the digital humans project extends the framework to make it easier to share your MetaHumans—either for fun with friends, or in order to collaborate and iterate on them with colleagues in professional pipelines. The company also announced that this release introduced a new and much expected option: it is now possible to edit aspects of MetaHumans’ unique DNA files to customize them or integrate them into your pipeline.
Sharing MetaHumans made easier
Epic Games says that now “sharing your MetaHumans just got a whole lot easier.” All you’ve to do is download your digital human’s description as a MetaHuman binary file from MetaHuman Creator and send it to a recipient using your preferred method, such as email or Google Drive; on receipt, they can instantly view a copy of that MetaHuman by uploading the file to Creator. Simple. If it sounds a bit like the “beam me up Scotty” version from Star Trek, it’s because it really appears to be a modern and digital transportation system, adapted for digital humans.
Epic Games claims that for teams working on characters, this new approach provides a faster way to collaborate on and refine assets. And because each MetaHuman can now be described in a single text file (rather than as an asset, like you would get using Quixel Bridge), teams can use their own versioning systems to track versions and iterations.
The new sharing feature means you can:
- Quickly and easily show off your MetaHumans to friends
- Collaborate on MetaHumans with team members in a more streamlined workflow
- Smoothly hand over MetaHuman assets to external teams
- Share MetaHumans with yourself—for example, between different accounts
MetaHumans also have DNA
All humans, of course, have DNA. It’s what defines them, what makes them unique. But did you know that MetaHumans also have DNA? MetaHuman DNA contains all the parameters that contribute to the form of each individual MetaHuman’s head.
Digital DNA is not exactly new, and classic games as Creatures, a biological simulation launched in 1996 for PC and other platforms – and now available on Steam, if you want to explore it – already used it. At launch time, Douglas Adams, author of ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’, commented about Creatures: “The same processes which gave rise to life in the real world have been modelled in software and the results are awe-inspiring.” Later, in 2008, Spore, from Maxis, developed by a team lead by Will Wright – the author behind The Sims series, SimCity, SimEarth and SimAnt – explores development of a species from its beginnings as a microscopic organism, through development as an intelligent and social creature. Published by Electronic Arts, Spore was scheduled to become a CGI-animated film by 2009, but the project never saw the light of day.
MetaHuman DNA follow on the steps of these first essays and offers those using digital humans or digital actors the tools to create different individuals. With this new release Epic Games takes things further. In fact, until now, the MetaHuman DNA file has been a black box, making it difficult for studios to integrate MetaHumans into their proprietary pipelines, or to customize them in ways that go beyond their original constraints. As part of this release, things have changed.
Epic Games announced that they are making a MetaHuman DNA Calibration Library available to address the initial limitations. The library includes both a C++ and a Python API, as well as a DNA Viewer application that enables you to import DNA files into Autodesk Maya. With these tools, you can edit MetaHuman DNA files as follows:
- Rename and remove joints, BlendShapes, animated maps, and meshes to conform with pipeline requirements
- Select a subset of LODs to retain, so you can pick the ones that make the most sense for your project
- Translate, rotate, and scale the rig, for example to create MetaHumans at non-human scales (pixies, giants)
- Adjust the neutral shape by editing the vertex positions and setting a new bind pose
The library, which is pre-compiled for Windows and Linux, is available on the Epic Games GitHub repository. The package also includes the source code, enabling you to compile the library for custom environments, together with technical documentation comprising an overview, an explanation of the API, examples, and more.
If you haven’t already done so, you will need to connect your Epic Games account to your GitHub account before you get started. The team at Epic Games hopes creators everywhere find these tools useful.