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Creating a Complex G3, 360 Character Head in Cartoon Animator 4 - Tips and Recommendations

Desert Scavenger G3, 360 Head.
Creating G3, 360 character heads in Reallusion's Cartoon Animator 4 is something of a daunting task if you are working with a more detailed character head design. Your first attempt is bound to be a lot of trial and error. Mine certainly was and, in this article, I'm going to share with you what I learned.

That said, this is not a tutorial. It's a run down of my experience creating a head for my own character. I've linked to Reallusion's video tutorials below.

I chose to use a redesigned version of my G3 Desert Scavenger, Rey, Star Wars, parody character. Since the biggest part of her redesign was a completely new look head I thought now was a good time to try a more complex 360 head than my previous Color Monkey heads.

The process of setting up a 360 head is not hard but there is a lot to take in. To prepare myself I went through Reallusions first eight video tutorials which cover almost every aspect of the 360 head creator (which you'll find in the character composer).

The easiest way to access these tutorials is through the Cartoon Animator's tutorials page on the Reallusion website. Just open the 360 Head Creation section. There are actually four additional videos you can watch (for CA4 Pipeline Users) but the first eight will give you more than enough information to create your first 360 heads.

All my  tips and suggestions are based on creating a human character so may not be relevant to non human characters in part.

Getting Started


The easiest starting point is to create your character's head as a standard, front facing G3 character head - even if your character body is a 'side' or 315 degree angle character. Once your head is complete you'll be able to turn it to match whatever body angle you're using.

If you watch the tutorials you'll see it is possible to create a head that can turn a full 360 degrees however, unless you really need that, limiting your head to a 180 degree (left to right) turn is less work and will give you a good range of movement. You can always extend it to a full 360 degree turn later (or use other tricks to suggest a back view for those moments when you need one).

Top Left - how my head sprites appear when assembled
in Photoshop. Everything else, sprites that I had to create
or modify for the face, hair, and hip/upper body
with extended neck.
A key point to designing your head is to use flat colors rather than gradients. Particularly make sure each color is on its own layer in your graphic editor. For example, on my character you can see there is a light and dark shadow on each side of her face. These shadow elements are each on their own layer and, I didn't actually add them to my head until after I got the eyes, nose, and mouth moving how I wanted on the face.

If you have any elements that may not be seen once the head is turned left or right consider making it a separate sprite. For example my characters front hair on the standard G3 version is all one sprite. On the 360 version I split the sprite into left and right sides.

Another thing you may want to do is give your character a longer neck on the hip/upper body sprite. I found mine was initially too short causing my 360 head to look like it was floating on my side views.


360 Heads are as Complex as You Make Them


Here you can see my character has 11 set
viewpoints. All created by deforming the
front facing sprites. Above shows how I
deformed the front facing face shape to
achieve a side facing face shape.
360 heads can have as many as 25 individual angles each with full sprite replacement so you can get each angle looking exactly how you want. Fortunately it is completely optional to create sprites for all 25 angles, and even optional use all 25 angles.

My character only has actual sprites for one forward facing angle. Every other angle is achieved by transforming, deforming, masking, and moving my initial forward facing sprites. For the most part I feel my character's head looks pretty good at each of the eleven angles I created for her. Cartoon Animator does the rest in terms of managing the transformation between set poses.

I would recommend this approach. Try to create as much of your head turn as you can with your forward facing sprites. Only add in a new sprite if you're not able to achieve the results you want (or you just want the highest quality face turn achievable).

Work on getting the elements you have moving with the head as it turns so that they look like they are maintaining their position on the head throughout the turn.

Fill in the Gaps Last

Once I had the existing sprites all turning from side to side my character had a bald patch between her front hair and back hair.

Mid Hair Sprite that I created
after I'd finished positioning
all my existing sprites.
It was at this point I realized I'd need an additional sprite to fill that gap. So I created a mid hair sprite which did not need to be split into left and right sprites since it sits inside the mask of the face shape (essentially the side you can't see gets hidden by the mask).

I suspect it's probably easier to work this way. Rather than trying to anticipate all the sprites you'll need before you start. Just create what you know you'll need. Create the rest once you start putting your head together.

The Face


With a simple face design like mine you can pretty much get away with using existing sprites for every angle. All you need to do is distort them to match the perspective of the head.

If you have a character with a larger, protruding nose you will probably need to create new sprites for various angles.

If you're trying to save time you want to avoid creating new sprites for the eyes or the mouth for every angle. Remember, these features contain multiple sprites for all your character's expressions and lip syncing. Chances are if you need to create a new sprite for a particular angle, you're going to need to create a new sprite for all the mouth or eye sprites for the character to work convincingly.

I'm not saying you shouldn't do that, but again, if you're trying to save time, explore the transform and deform options as much as possible before committing to creating new eye or mouth sprites for specific angles.

Work on One Element and Angle at a Time and Preview a Lot


You probably wouldn't do this kind of movement too much
in an animation because it draws attention to the effect not being
true 3D, however having all these head positions is very useful.
I found the best way to approach things is to work on turning the face one way, gradually working to the extreme (i.e. as far as you want the face to turn). Then mirror that angle to the opposite side and preview.

If something isn't quite right, make an adjustment and mirror again. If anything on your head isn't symmetrical (on my character the front hair isn't symmetrical), fix it once everything else is working as it should.

I also recommend starting with the nose or the mouth. If you can get those moving from side to side naturally it's easier to place the eyes and eyebrows in relation to them.

 ---o ---o--- o---

I think that's all the highlights from my first attempt at a more complex G3 360 head character. My end results definitely have room for improvement but I'm still quite happy with what I achieved.

Creating this style of head for your characters certainly gives them added flexibility with what you can do with them. Watch my demonstration video below titled 'Rise' to see how I managed to get multiple angles of my character despite it being a single angle character. The 360 head definitely helped.



In my next post I'll be looking at the behind the scenes making of the above animation.

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