One thing iClone and Character Creator 3 can do is hide body parts. You have several ways of accomplishing this if you need to replace a limb with a prosthetic or robotic limb. Or as was the case here, a desire to create a talking head character.
There are several ways to accomplish this from simple opacity maps to checkboxes, but sometimes those HIDE checkboxes don’t seem to work like you think they should, or they appear to not work at all.
Being an old-school Boomer, I tended to use opacity maps as the body of the standard character is broken into pieces like arms, legs, torso, feet, and head. Sometimes, depending on the props on the scene, you can simply apply a black color to the opacity channel and hide the rough parts with props. The trouble is this doesn’t work for all scenes.
The Hide Body Mesh tool in CC3 is used to hide the leg mesh for a prosthetic limb.
As mentioned earlier, the Hide checkboxes are here and there depending on what you are working on. Sometimes they are grayed out or they don’t hide what you thought they would. Sometimes reading the manual actually solves the problem, but a lot of us just don’t like manuals. We like articles, videos, forums, anything but that damned manual!
So, this leads to frustration and discussions around the best techniques for hiding body parts, and to be honest... I’m not sure what the best practice is in this case, but I know what I do because it is so simple anyone... yes anyone... can do it.
There is no confusion, but it does involve a dummy, and I don’t mean your second cousin from Detroit. If you are an old hand at this then you already know what a dummy is in terms of animation, but newbies, who tend to overcomplicate things, are generally confused by a dummy or null object.
Talking Heads using a Cloth Dummy set to render the body invisible.
I mean... why would you want to put in an object that cannot be seen in the final render? Good question with an easy answer. To accomplish a task or trigger a tool that might otherwise be unavailable. If that confuses you... just let it sink in for a bit and continue on as it gets clearer as we go.
Yes, there are other ways to do this. This is just my way and seems to save time, which is very important if you are on the clock as a freelancer. The only drawback for newbies is the fact you have to go back and forth from Character Creator 3 to iClone 7. But only once! After that, you save out the dummy in both apps for future use.
Crawling Arm created with Hide Body Mesh Tool and Cloth Dummy
No checkboxes, no layer order, no hierarchy, no surprises... just a simple cloth dummy that hides what you select in Character Creator 3 using the Cloth Hide Mesh Settings. Want to change what the dummy hides? No problem. Go back to the Cloth Hide Mesh Settings and make the changes you need.
You can also save out the cloth dummies as you make them for each leg, arm, and other body parts. After time, you will have a full set of dummies with no need to jump back and forth between applications, even though it’s incredibly easy to make that jump.
You can use any piece of cloth to do this. If your character has even one cloth on it, just use that and the Hide Body Mesh tool. However, for a quick talking head in a jar or crawling arm... the cloth dummy is drag and drop simple.
Custom character created by attaching props to limbs then using the Hide Body Mesh tool. I attach the props in iClone and jump to CC3 to use the tool.
Using an Existing Cloth CC3:
- Using the default CC3 Base Plus female with bra and Underwear, select one of the garments, then go to the Modify tab and press Hide Mesh Body Tool under Cloth Hide Mesh Settings.
You will get a popup with an ominous message about losing the factory settings when using this tool on Reallusion content (as opposed to custom content). Ignore that for this demonstration, as I’m just using a common character to show you how to do this. The character is a throwaway in this instance. You’ll still have the original character available, as it only affects the character in the project.
After clicking past the popup, use the tool to hide whatever parts you desire. I jump back and forth between the Basic and Advanced tabs for selecting an entire limb versus part of the limb.
This will lead to some rough edges and the limbs will not be closed at the ends. You will need to cover that up as it will catch the eye. Use props, cloth, camera position, and so forth to hide the open areas.
Creating a Cloth Dummy:
- Start with the character in CC3 and transfer to iClone 7 or start with the character in iClone 7.
- In iClone 7 add a box to the scene such as Box_001 under Template, Props, 3D Blocks. NOTE: Do not attach the 3D box provide in Props in CC3 as it cannot be skinned.
- Scale the box down to 5% or so and place it inside the character's mesh. I put mine in the head.
- With the box (now our dummy) selected, attach it to the character anywhere, then go to the top of the Modify tab and Check Set as Dummy. This will stop it from rendering should a pose poke it through the body.
- Send the character and attached box back over to CC3.
- Select the box and rename it Visibility Dummy or whatever you wish. With that box selected, click the Transfer Skin Weights button and skin is as "OTHER."
- Select the Box (Dummy) and click on the Hide Body Mesh Tool, then select whatever body part you need to hide.
You now have a dummy made that works in iClone or CC3. You can save the dummy as a cloth that can be applied to any CC3 based character.
As I said earlier, there are many ways to do this but for my workflow, this is simple and fast, achieving the same final result. Remember though... in all cases... the body is still there. The head or arm won’t be on the ground when you load it into a scene. It will be where it normally is so you must position the body piece. Make sure foot contact is off if you run into problems.
For me, out of sight is out of mind, and I quickly forget the rest of the body is there. That is until I load a motion and have to adjust and remove unwanted motions from other body parts which is simple enough.
For a prosthetic... skin it as cloth and set the body part it covers to invisible, as this will work on any CC3 character.
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.