In the last installment, we talked about the poly reduction feature of InstaLOD in Character Creator 3. Now we are going to delve into another extremely unsexy and downright boring part of character creation… at least for games… Levels of Detail (LOD).
LOD ranks up there with watching paint dry on the wall or waiting for VUE to render… well… anything. Real-time engines tend to work better with lower poly crowds/objects the further you get from camera reducing the load on the engine.
We all know that, but we really don’t ever want to deal with it. We take a lot of time, effort and a fair amount of bitching to get our models done. Reducing them down to usable levels is almost blasphemy and painful for some.
It took a lot of work to get that jewelry just right and now you are going to mangle it via optimization?
It is a fact of life though. Your models will be optimized. To deal with this we had to think ahead. In the early days… we had to think way ahead or we might hit a dead-end. That’s not so bad today but those dead-ends still exist even though they are turning into a rarity as tools get more comprehensive.
The FBX Remesh Export Menu in Character Creator 3 with InstaLOD Options
With the addition of InstaLOD, Reallusion has turned what used to be tedious into a simple menu driven process that can produce up to 5 levels of detail with Lowest, Low, Normal, High, and Highest. You can also set a “Fuzzy Target” count from Low, Lowest, Normal and High or choose the Maximum Face Option and type in your target face count.
Mesh Details run from Lowest to Low, Normal and High. It can also bake textures from 512 to 4096. All of this combines to create a powerful and fast LOD tool that will make polycount appropriate copies of your character in minutes while you sit and watch. You can also keep your original avatar mesh retaining the original, untouched mesh.
Since I’m more familiar with Unity that was my test engine for this review. I used a female sniper character I had created in CC2/ZBrush, pulling the high poly model out of my 3D morgue.
The character import to Unity hasn’t changed for the past several years. I used the same import technique as my online tutorial from 2013. Those import and animation methods still apply.
After importing the high poly mesh I converted it to a game character base, yet another new feature, which simplifies the mesh.
Screenshot of Unity Interface with LOD Characters Generated by InstaLOD and Character Creator 3 Pipeline
Video Test in Unity of Character Creator 3/InstaLOD Generated Characters
From there I chose the InstaLOD re-mesh menu choice and three different levels including my original mesh. The original was 75000 while the re-meshed LODs came in at 8012, 3970 and 786 respectively. The 8K and 4K LOD’s came out quite respectable and very usable at most camera ranges.
The low end 786 face character had a bit of a pointy head and other pointy features that shall remain nameless but considering these would be used at extreme distances to the camera those points don’t show up.
Animations were not affected by the LOD conversion as all the characters retained their original motions. There weren’t any spazzed out limbs or freaky feet when the animations were replayed.
The LOD process is so simple with InstaLOD that there isn’t much to write about as it usage is fairly straightforward. Select the mesh, select the menu, make some choices then press the button for instant LOD goodness… game engine ready.
Whether it’s polycount reduction or satisfying the needs of an LOD hungry game engine, Reallusion’ inclusion of InstaLOD in the latest release of Character Creator 3 is a boon to character developers. Simplifying the LOD process while freeing up more time to be creative is never a bad thing.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.