I hate to say it, but I might as well. This new plug-in from Reallusion has me excited as a teenager at a Beatles concert in the '60s. OK ... at my age I can't really get that physically excited, but this plugin is different and for good reasons.
The great thing about this plugin is that it passes my first and foremost test for coolness... ease of use.
With drag and drop ease one can create a physically compelling character complete with freckles, warts, wounds, skin textures, and lots of stuff in between. You just jump in and start using it. I have yet to look at any help documentation because you know… I don't like that stuff… but I haven't needed it so far. Like other Reallusion tools it can be as simple as you want to make it, or you can dig very deep into custom features.
I have always been a fan of Reallusion products and that is no secret. The main reason is the earlier mentioned ease of use thing. That's important to folks like me that can't be bothered … err… I mean that are too busy to read the documentation. While I eventually get around to it I am not one to let that stale reading ruin my experience when something new comes out and I bet I'm not alone in this.
When I first laid eyes on the product, I do what I always do… start dragging and dropping presets to see what they do and how they are manipulated. In terms of manipulation… there are a lot of options. So many in fact you may get bogged down but just remember… you don't have to use everything!
What I really like are the Photoshop-like layers they give you to pile on the skin effects. There are so many effects they are difficult to list and you can combine and pile them on top of each other. Each layer loaded with its own maps and sliders… just the thing we like to see.
I immediately pulled out some older characters and put them through Skin Gen with the presets and was astounded with the immediate difference it made. What might have been a good character before can now be a great character.
As in any plug-in like this, it leads to overuse which can completely change the appearance of an original character. This requires backing out of some of those layers because like any tool it can be overdone.
To get a bit more specific when you go into a layer there is a long menu to transverse that contains many options and sliders. This is where the magic happens and that's only one layer. Combine this with a great Headshot plug-in photo and you can get fairly realistic results from the iClone engine.
Notice I said the native engine… something I don't render in very often, but I found myself content with the results as the native render has improved a lot over the past few years. Skin Gen now makes it possible to have… wait for it… good close-ups!!! Something I thought nearly impossible with a real-time engine and low to mid poly characters.
Skin Gen Plug-in Interface. Note the layers on the right side.
Everyone I know that has come into contact with this new plug-in has little to complain about…a feat rarely achieved with the diverse userbase of Reallusion.
This is not to say it doesn't have at least one drawback. The speed at which the SkinGen plug-in is activated means a brief wait. It's not a deal-breaker by any means but when I'm being creative, I'm anything but patient. The devs acknowledged this issue early on. I think it was mentioned about using an SSD to speed it up, but it wasn't that bad. I'm used to it now.
They were probably worried about it exceeding our increasingly short attention span, but… when you get my age… everything takes a long time to load.
I will cover SkinGen in more detail and the other goodies that came along for the ride like the engine and other plug-in updates including the enhanced Unreal Live Link. Links are below to the SkinGen and CC3+ webpages so you can hop over and have a look for yourself. This is one plugin that I will say is essential to my toolkit and you may find that to be true for you too.
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.