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Using Morph Maps to Drive Character Facial Expressions in Modo 701

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Gift

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Learn how Modo's powerful Morph map functionality can be used to create and drive facial expressions for your characters, in the latest tutorial from Tomasz Lechocinski.


1. Create Morph Maps to Drive a Character's Facial Expressions

Step 1

Morph Maps are a very easy way to animate character facial expressions in Modo. They are vector maps that store offset values for every vertex in the mesh. In short, they are equivalent to blend shapes in Maya.

A single mesh can have an infinite number of Morph Maps, and by adding many morph deformers and changing their strength, you can render different states of the character's face. Do the following:

  • Press O on keyboard while hovering the cursor over the 3D viewport, go to the Drawing and Control sub tab and tick on Enable Deformers [1].
  • Select your character mesh in the Item List [2].
  • In the Lists Palette, go to the Morph Maps section and create a new Morph Map [3], and give it a name: face: bad: eyebrows.
  • Right click on it and from the context menu, choose Add Morph Influence [4] and change its name to: M: face: bad: eyebrows.
Modo_Face_Rigging_1

Step 2

Now create a facial expression for your character. A mad face will be the most obvious for this tutorial.

  • In the top bar of the Viewport, turn on Symmetry on the X-axis [1].
  • From the Falloff drop down, select Soft Selection [2].
  • Select the vertices on character's eyebrows and move them down with the Move Tool (W) [3]. When you are happy with the pose, drop the tool using the Space Bar.
Modo_Face_Rigging_2

Step 3

Disable the morph temporary. With the Morph Influence item selected in the Item List, open the Properties panel and disable Morph Influence.

Modo_Face_Rigging_3

Step 4

Create Morph deformers for each side of your character's face:

  • In the Lists palette, under the Morph Maps section, create a new map [1] and give it a name: face: bad: eyebrow L.
  • Right-click on it and from the context menu, choose Add Morph Influence [2] and change its name to: M: face: bad: eyebrow L.
Modo_Face_Rigging_4

Step 5

Now we will copy and paste the information from one vertex map to another:

  • Disable Symmetry [1].
  • Disable Soft Selection Falloff.
  • Select the Morph Map face: bad: eyebrows and from the Right-click Menu, choose Copy [2].
  • Select the Morph Map face: bad: eyebrow L and from the Right click Menu, choose Paste.

Now the information from one vertex map is passed to another.

Modo_Face_Rigging_5

Step 6

Now it's time to clear the symmetrical deformations and make this Morph Map affect only one side of the character's face:

  • With Morph Map face: bad: eyebrow L selected, change your selection type to Vertex.
  • Select the Right side of the face with the rectangle selection tool. To do so, press the RMB (Right Mouse Button) and drag on the Viewport.
  • Go to Vertex Map > Clear ... you will be presented with a pop up window. Press OK. Now your Morph Map is affecting only the Left side of the face [1].
  • With the M: face: bad:eyebrow L morph influence selected in the Item List, open the Properties panel and disable it.
Modo_Face_Rigging_6

Step 7

Now we will repeat all of those steps for the Right side of the face:

  • In the Lists palette, under Morph Maps, create a new map and give it a name: face: bad: eyebrow R [1].
  • Right-click on it and from the context menu choose Add Morph Influence and change its name to: M: face: bad: eyebrow R
  • Select Morph Map face: bad: eyebrows and from the Right-click Menu, choose Copy.
  • Select Morph Map face: bad: eyebrow R and from the Right-click Menu, choose Paste.
  • Select the Left side of the face with the Rectangle Selection Tool.
  • Go to Vertex Map > Clear ... you will be presented with a pop up window. Press OK [2].
  • With the M: face: bad: eyebrow R morph influence selected in the Item List, open the Properties panel and Disable it.
Modo_Face_Rigging_7

2. Create a Locator and Custom Channels to Drive Deformations

Step 1

In the item list drop down go to Add Item > Locators > Locator. Move it above the face of your character with the Move Tool (W) [1]. Now edit its properties in the Display tab as follows:

  • In the 3D Items [2] sub tab, add the Label: Face controls.
  • Change the Fill Color to User and change its value to yellow.
  • In the Locator Shape sub tab [3], change the Shape to Custom.
  • Change the Style channel to Replace.
  • Change the Shape channel change to Circle.
  • Thick Solid to fill it with color.
  • Change its Radius to: 9.7 cm.
Modo_Face_Rigging_8

3. Create the Face Rig

Step 1

Change your Modo Layout to Setup using the Layout Switcher (Ctrl+`). In the Schematic View window, press the little icon in the left corner [1] and create a new workspace for all the face rig controls. Name it Character _face. Make sure that the Make active option is on.

Modo_Face_Rigging_9

Step 2

With the locator Face controls that you created earlier still selected, open the Channels palette and add two new User Channels [1]:

  • Create a channel named face_bad_eyebrows.
  • Change its Type to Percentage.
  • Change the Minimum Value to 0 and the Maximum Value to 100.
  • Create another channel named face_bad_eyebrow_L/R [2].
  • Change its Type to Percentage.
  • Give it a Default Value of 0. To do so, just type 0 in the entry field and press Enter.
  • Change the Minimum Value to -100 and the Maximum Value to 100.
Modo_Face_Rigging_10

Step 3

Now add the Face Controls locator new channels to the Schematic View. Select both channels in the Channels Palette and in the Schematic window, press the Add Selected button [1]. To simplify the view in the Schematic, disable viewing of dynamic connections. Press the button with the pink rhombus in it [2].

Modo_Face_Rigging_11

Step 4

With both channels and the locator still selected, go to the Assembly palette and under the Utility horizontal rule find the Command drop down menu. Select item.channelHaul [1].

Now whenever you select the locator Face controls in the 3D view in Item Mode, you will get a pop up window with the created user channels. You can easily change their values by dragging the sliders.

Modo_Face_Rigging_12

Step 5

Now add the Morph Influence channels to the Schematic Viewport to build your rig:

  • In the Items list select the M: bad: eyebrows Morph Influence item.
  • In the Properties panel, go to the Morph Influence horizontal bar and select the Strength Channel by clicking on its name [1].
  • When you press it right, a little square with a dot inside it will change its color to orange [2].
  • Now in the Schematic window, press Add Selected.
  • Repeat the above steps for the M: bad: eyebrow L and M: bad: eyebrow R Morph Influences.
Modo_Face_Rigging_13

Step 6

Now select all three Morph Influences in the Item List [1] and in their Properties palette, Enable them [2].

In the Schematic view connect the face_bad_eyebrows channel with the M: face: bad: eyebrows channel. Just drag a line from the right dot of this channel to the left dot of the Morph Influence Strength channel. Now the values from the face_bad_eyebrows channel are driving the Strength channel of the M: face: bad: eyebrows Morph Influence.

Modo_Face_Rigging_14

Step 7

Now you will connect the channels to animate the Right side of your character face. But to do so, you will need to add a Channel Modifier called Relationship.

  • In the Schematic view, go to the drop down list: Add > Channel Modifier > Channel > Channel Relationship [1]. Add two channels modifiers.
  • Connect the input of it with the face_bad_eyebrow_L/R channel.
  • Connect the output of it with the M: face: bad: eyebrow R channel [2].
  • Then select this Channel Relationship node. You will get a pop up in the 3D view [3].
  • In the top of this pop up window, move the Driver slider of face_bad_eyebrow_L/R to 100% and change the Driven Strength to 100% [4].
  • Then press the button with the yellow square inside it at the middle of the window, to add another key. When you add a key the square will turn white.
Modo_Face_Rigging_15

Step 8

Now you will connect the second Channel Modifier.

  • Connect the input of it with the face_bad_eyebrow_L/R channel.
  • Connect the output of it with the M: face: bad: eyebrow L channel [2].
  • Then select this Channel Relationship node. You will get a pop up in the 3D view [3].
  • In the top of this pop up window, move the Driver slider face_bad_eyebrow_L/R to -100% and change the Driven Strength to 100% [4].
  • Then press the button with the yellow square inside at the middle of the window, to add another key. When you add a key the square will turn white.
Modo_Face_Rigging_16

Step 9

To have a better understanding of what is going on, open the Graph Editor by pressing the Graph button of the selected Channel Relationship node. Now when the Driver Channel value is 0.0% [1], the Driven Channel value is also 0.0% [2]. When the Driver Channel value is 100% [3], the Driven Channel value is 100% [4].

You can modify the way that Modo interpolates the change between values by editing the curves in the Graph Editor. I have marked the Driver keys red, and the Driven keys blue.

Modo_Face_Rigging_17

Step 10

Now your simple rig is ready. In Item Mode select the locator and a pop up window will show up. You can now change the values of the face_bad_eyebrows channels from 0 to 100%, to see your character is getting mad.

Modo_Face_Rigging_18

Conclusion

You can also now change the values of the face_bad_eyebrows_l/R channels from -100 to 100% and see how your character is changing on only half of the face. This way you can have full control over how your character's face is looking. Remember you can have many different values of these channels on top of each other. Just like layers in Photoshop with different opacity. They will add up on one another to deform your characters face. You can use this technique to make many different facial expressions.

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