Spring Bones for Hair Sway

Apr 09, 2021 at 12:11 pm by Warlord720


By now most iCloners know Reallusion’s latest update to Character Creator 3 and iClone 7 brought a new hair and beard system that was sorely needed. Hair has been one of the weakest points of iClone along with water and lack of crowds but Reallusion has been addressing these items over the years. This list of deficits wants and needs gets smaller with each update. Reallusion has a history of listening to user feedback and it shows with all the improvements.

Henry the Red, Viking, and other characters using the new hair and beard system with spring bones added.

Like AccuLIps, the hair and beard system is in its infancy and while good, has some growing to do but the first iteration was a home run in terms of quality. With hair and beards now broken up into sections, one can build just about any kind of beard and mustache. I look for a lot of beard kits to hit the marketplace.

I made a Roman Senator beard kit for testing and did find one problem area… physics. It’s still hard to control when you want a bit more than subtle movement but less than flying all over the place.

Another test subject was Henry the Red from Army of Darkness that had two long swirls of hair similar to a mustache but placed in the goatee area. It should be noted that in the movie Henry was portrayed by Ricky Grove (gToon), managing editor of this magazine. Since he is an actor it is not hard to get a headshot and audio… and it made for a great test character.

 Spring Bones 3DS Max
Bones added to fibermesh in 3DS Max with a Skin modifier. Chin strands from Henry the Red

The problem was the swirling hair strands. They were twin twirls of hair that swung back and forth with movement. Being unusual strands of hair, they had stood out in my mind over the years, so I sought to replicate them. That was when I found out that it just couldn’t be done… controllably, with physics. It was either too much or too little movement which is common to a lot of 3D hair physics. Generally, it’s poor mapping or a map so convoluted it just cannot be used.

This is where I went back in WarLord’s Ancient Toolbox and decided to add bones to convert to springs for more control and much better sway. The beard was made in ZBrush with Fibermesh which gave me an object I could then dump into 3DS Max, add some bones and skin.

From here I took the exported beard into 3DXchange and set up the new bones as springs. While not a perfect solution for all beards it was more than adequate to control the sway in this case. I wanted a sway that could easily be seen but not comical or overpowering. In 3DXchange I used the default settings before exporting.

You can add several spines of bones across a beard if needed. In this case I created a single spine down each clump of twisting hair. The more bones the smoother the movement it seemed so don’t skimp or you’ll get rough blocky movement as the skinning has to work with what you give it. I did curve the bones to match the profile of the beard before skinning.

Spring Bones 3DS MaxThe more bones the smoother the motion. Side strands from Viking hair.

Since I used spring bones… it needed to be an accessory so it wouldn’t get glued to the neck and chest area of the character during skinning which would negate the swaying movement. I attached to the jawbone for movement. The hair and rest of the beard are skinned as usual to react to facial movement.

This combination of hair, beard, and spring-boned accessory make for a versatile and more realistic beard that sways with movement. This is a great workaround if you are handed a beard or hair that needs movement but has a poor weight map. Instead of tweaking the weight map… you tweak the spring settings.


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






Sign up for our newsletter

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience possible More Info
Got it!