The greatest art behind the process of creating a modular digital avatar is making the pieces of the puzzle fit and flow into the space: a hairstyle matching a head, a torso connecting well to a skeleton, and a pair of pants fitting nicely on a character.
“Creating the entire body system is what drives me, as a 3D artist, to be passionate about modularity.” - Filip Cubrilo
In this system, all the body elements can be combined to achieve different results without altering the blueprint. Part of this passion is powered by the surprise element. This is the component that the character’s creator is prepared to receive once the outcome of the artistic work is ready to be revealed. There is always a pre-established expectation and a result. Many times, the reality of an excellent result exceeds those expectations. That is when the characters start to have their own life and are no longer dependent on their creator, that is the 3D artist.
After the 3 main stages of creation are finalised and the avatars have body texture and a skeleton, the next step is to blow energy into the characters and animate them. Behind the digital avatars, thousands of pieces of code communicate to the character about what it should be capable of doing. These codes are the energy supporting the animation and capture the functions and abilities of each avatar or object. At the back of the codes, there is a lot of programming, algorithms, and maths.
As far as the character’s skin colour, every avatar benefits from a neat and unique texture that becomes the complexion of their skin. The skin tones can be swapped between characters, to add flexibility to this modularity function.
The biggest challenge of the modular characters is making the clothes fit the character and achieving a nice harmony of elements. Just like humans do, avatars also wear layers of clothes when the weather requires it, therefore making these layers flow together naturally to attain a realistic high-quality result is key. Avoiding overlapping elements, stiffness of body parts, and transparency of elements, together with having a trained eye for detail are just a few of the magical touches that are required as a 3D artist to give life to a superior character. On top of it, there is continuous testing and playing with it from all angles to ensure the end user benefits from a realistic and accurate avatar, while receiving the best and most memorable learning experience.
“If you already have a certain hairstyle, you should be able to repurpose it for different characters, but then not all the characters have the same head dimensions. Therefore, adjusting them to match to perfection makes the practice fun and the job precise.” - Filip Cubrilo
Not every creative solution is game, set and match. Therefore, sometimes, external inspiration sources can be of great help for the 3D artist to elucidate a creative mystery. When challenges come across, some of the inspiration corners for Filip are web pages such as www.artstation.com. On this platform, he uses several channels to check out specific anatomy tags, such as face details, lips movements or different body postures.
Following skilled 3D artists on LinkedIn and Instagram, such as Rowena Frenzel, turns out to be of great support for the modular character creator. Other relevant inspiration sources on Instagram are blendersecretsdotorg, where you can find short videos with secrets and useful tips on how to use Blender more efficiently, as well as more focused channels, such as eighty_level, that shows how to shape realistic body parts or complex objects, like crystals or other natural materials.
When struggles with the systems crop up, it might be useful to go on Reddit and check out tips and tricks about any of the following platforms: Blender, Unreal Engine, and Substance Painter, which are being used at Apprend.ly daily.
What also helps when it comes to going more into depth regarding specific anatomy details, is attending biology lectures that contribute to obtaining a more holistic approach to the human body. This supports a more profound work that is made with understanding and care for integrated art.
It might take months to reach the perfection of a character and make the clothes fit and flow. This represents a highly curated process that Apprend.ly has already taken care of so that the user can benefit from a high-end modular digital avatar that is easy to manipulate and repurpose within different stories.
Knowledge of anatomy, body mechanics, self-analysis in the mirror, colour mastery, constant revisions, double checks on textures, and team alignment are a must in order to make the character come to life correctly. Achieving a high-quality digital avatar, that radically improves the experience of the user through care for the details, takes the audience to a higher level, where they can emotionally bond with the character whilst engaging with the learning content.
When the tiniest technicalities are finally polished, such as perfect alignment of muscles, and natural mouth or eye movement, that’s when the digital avatar is considered finalised, and the 3D artist feels accomplished. The ultimate goal of the digital avatar creator is to generate an emotional bond with the audience through the efforts put into each detail of the character. Spreading emotions and positive feelings through a high-end digital avatar that is alive and ready to foster deep connections with the user comes as a result of the artist’s highly curated work.
Check out how you can create your own serious game and benefit from modular digital avatars in your theatre play.