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Daz 3D Studio or iClone for character creation - pros and cons?

I have a hobby project which needs fast and simple runtime generation and customization of somewhat generic NPC characters (no fancy creatures or clothes, just modern humans with common clothing).

The characters will require LOD levels for close scenes and crowds (but no more than 50 simultaneous characters expected to appear).
Facial animations is a must-have, at least for close LOD levels. With distance, it is ok to reduce facial animation accurateness.

So, I looked at Daz 3D and G3 model. It seems a good starting point and FrankieV here on forums has explained a lot about this option. But there’s a catch - it seems, G3 and Daz Studio alone does not provide everything required for facial animations and there might be also some other animation issues in UE4 if I directly import G3 model (although it seems, UE4 compatibility with G3 gets better with each UE4 release).

As I understand from FrankieV comments in other topics, clustered (essentially facial bones) approach for facial animation is optimal approach if multiple LOD levels are required and also for easier animation sharing between different characters.
It is more difficult to get accurate facial expressions and lipsync with bones than with morphs; morphs are easier to tweak but they take more time to map to different characters and LOD levels, and also morphs consume more CPU resources (correct me if I’m wrong; maybe latest UE4 versions have some options to solve this).
To compensate for less control of facial features in bone animation, I could use so called “wrinkle maps” (if only I could find how to control texture visibility based on facial bones).

Does Daz 3D software have clustered facial rig or do I have create it in some other software?
Does Daz 3D software have wrinkle maps for facial animations?

But the problem with Daz is that I’m not sure if this clustered facial animation approach will work if I import Daz FBX directly into UE4. It seems, I have to go through MotionBuilder, which is available only as an expensive subscription, and that is not an option for a hobbyist who works on a project in free time (evenings, weekends). That’s insane to pay for entire month if I use the software only a few hours in a month.

This leads to the main question:
Can I achieve LOD levels and facial & body animations for Daz3d models in UE4 without using MotionBuilder or any similar expensive software? Can, for example, Blender do the same things as MotionBuilder for Daz3d model and produce an FBX with facial & body animations and LODs ready for UE4? Modo Indie also seems an affordable option, if only it could offer something better than Blender.

If the pipeline Daz3d -> some cheap or free software to adjust animations & LODs -> UE4 is not possible, then my next option seems to be iClone. It is pretty expensive (over 700 USD) but at least it is a one time payment, and they claim to support UE4.

Still the same questions apply:
Does iClone software have clustered facial rig or do I have create it in some other software?
How easy it is to generate LOD levels and wrinkle maps from iClone to UE4?

Judging from this video:

it might require some complex blueprint (not sure, if it’s freely available or provided by iClone itself).

**Are there any other compatibility issues with iclone -> UE4? (twist bones? root bones? IKs? something else?) **

If iClone would do everything “out-of-the-box”, I might consider it. But if I still have to do many things manually then there is no point and I might as well go with Daz 3d + some (unknown) free/cheap software.

The third option I would want more than anything in the world - to have a few base models (male female + basic cloths) fully rigged with LOD levels and facial cluster rigs fully compatible with UE4 and Blender (Rigify etc.) or Modo Indie, so I can freely jump back and forth customizing them in the 3d editor and importing into UE4 without any other software in between. Unfortunately it seems nobody wants to share their custom models - at least there are no UE4 characters in the marketplace with LOD and facial animation support in their description. So, this will stay as unfulfilled wish…

Well the big difference between Iclone and Daz Studio is Iclone has an up front cost where DS and the G3 product is free and you only pay a one time extension fee for the use of Daz Originals for the purpose of a video game where run time packages needs to be included as part of the package. If doing a 2D game then your licensed in hand based on what you purchased or download from a CC0 source with out any additional licensing requirements.

I do not have enough knowledge of Iclone to give a informed opinion so I’ll stick with DS as it’s what I’ve been using for years.

In DS yes you can create LOD versions of the same models via Decimator

https://www.daz3d.com/decimator-for-daz-studio

The better option is there is a plugin for UE4 that can do the work for you at run time and as of 4.15 Auto LOD is already built into UE4 for static mesh so it can be assumed the the ability to do auto LOD for skeletal mesh is on the way.

Yes in DS you can create your own animations using tools for key frame animations or make use of BVH animation packages. MotionBuilder does make the process of authoring animations easier but if on a budget the same can be done in DS with out the benefit of paying for convenience. Since FBX is FBX you could export to Blender and go that way.

DS/G3 supports both cluster as well as morph target export and in most cases what you see in DS is what you get. The facial cluster for G3 contains 70 bones which is more than enough if you need to have a broad range of player models that share the same animation sets.

Daz Studio business is to sell usable art assets and in most case you can with make what you need, download from CCD or buy individual art packages as an add on.

Wrinkles for example.

https://www.daz3d.com/xtreme-forehead-wrinkles-hd-for-genesis-3-male-s

As to compatibility issues prior to the release of UE4.15 there was enough import issues going DS>UE4 that unless you knew how to work around the problems I would not have recommended Daz Studio as well as Genesis 3 as a preferred application for the purpose of production grade assets.

With 4.15 there has been a massive improvement as to 1-1 export/import of a lot of the sub component elements making up the completed character model so as to fully developed character to UE4 so you can assemble your custom models in DS, make use of the character set up tools, and export the complete package to UE4 and in most cases UE4 does a good job of maintaining the fidelity of the work.

Other improvements.

The skin weighting problem is gone and no need to take a side trip to Max to fix the problem.
In 4.15 hardware rendering for morph targets is now supported. A big one since prior to 4.15 performance issues was noticeable using morphing.
Optimization of morph data in UE4 is typical of most 3d application where only the transforms of the shape changes are stored and not the entire vertex count of the entire model.

As an opinion the flexibility of Daz Studio and the Genesis3 product go hand in hand with Unreal 4 as to licensing concerns as in you do not have to worry about additional out of hand expenses until you are ready to release your game and even then the license extension for DS is very reasonable as compared to the up front cost of Iclone.

Iclone has a Daz extension, allowing you to inport your Daz characters into Iclone’s 3dX Pipeline. The problem many people face with IClone is the pricing of the suites. I preordered IClone 7 for $549 (US) which came with IClone 6 products that are the same as my package. It also included the Daz extension, Clothing Essentials and Morph Essentials which are normally seperate items you have to pay for. Another downside to Iclone is that if you purchase the products they offer on their marketplace, you’ll need to get the Export version of that package/item, which can be up to 3x the cost of the standalone item you can use in IClone. On the flip side of that, you can inport Mixamo and Daz characters and have them rigged in Iclone for use in Unreal. You can also use the charcter creator of IClone 7 to make a character and export it already rigged for use with the Unreal Mannequin and the anims for that. I would say you’re choice would ultimately come down to how much you want to spend for either software package.

The Plugin is called Simplygon. Not sure if Epic plans on developing their own LOD generation (the static mesh auto LOD seems to be exactly the same as with Simplygon), but as Simplygon is completely free nowadays, including royalties (which was 2% some time ago) there’s no reason not to use it.
It doesn’t work “in runtime” though (neither for skeletal nor static meshes), you generate the LODs in editor.

Well Daz is a pain in the *** to import the skeletons and convert animations properly. If iClone is properly rigged I’d use that.

Daz also is not cheap.

Wrong

as in it’s only hard until it becomes easy.

Wrong

There is TONS of assets in CC0 that one could land up paying as mush as one pays for Blender

The Daz 3d Models are not cheap 500 Dollars is for the Indy License, and they want 2000 dollars for the Commercial License. But that’s just the hiring fee to have the right to use the Daz 3d model… But often their models are not even game ready… So here comes the catch… After buying the Commercial or Indy License for Slias there’s a problem. You have to buy more Daz 3d program licenses if you want to make Silas become game ready.

Silas happens to be several million polys too much for a game he happened to be a Daz 3D made Morph Product so he wasn’t even game ready. So Long story short, when it comes to considering buying Daz 3D models for video game use Its not just one license you have to worry about when it comes to buying from Daz 3D but you have to buy mutliple licenses from them in order to use their products with their other 3d approved products which is all they allow you to do with the license, for not everything they sell in the Daz store is covered by the indy or commercial gaming license either. So if Silas is wearing something from Sickle you have to buy the indy sickle license. if Silas is using a background made by Raw3d Art, you have to buy the indy raw 3d Art license. Silas needs not once but
3 licenses to cover his butt. he may need several other licenses as well, the licenses to the other Das 3D product
programs in order to get his mesh game ready as well. And So on and on this goes. So instead of looking at 500 or 2000 dollars for commercial or indy use, to get him game ready or any other 3d daz model game ready, we’re looking at up to 4000-5000 or more dollars after we’re done buying up all the other necessary licenses to the Daz 3D products in order to cover Silas poor butt with his clothing, rigging, character morphs, or any other Daz 3d models whether using him for indy or in commercial products.

So what a headache Daz 3D are. Therefore I do not agree with their terms
and conditions that I can use Silas under and so I will not enter into any binding contracts with them.
I do not agree with their line of reasoning of having to spend up to 5000 or so dollars in licensing fees with
them just to make their 3d models become game ready for using their 3d data… It does make me wonder that if you want to make a 2nd game, you might have to buy the licenses all over again just to cover the 2nd game !!

That to me means pain for the individual game developer, and also small studios on tight budgets.
so i don’t see this license as being very friendly.

500 dollars for under 100,000 and 2000 for over 100,000 but that just for a license extension if you wish to included the run time assets as part of the project which is a one time license fee. The indy license is also know to go on sale for as little as 100 and covers all aspects of a Daz Original model/asset which is the license out team purchased.

With a Platinum account you can discount even further.

This is of course if you wish to to make use of Daz Originals more so for the parametric character creation but there are once again free alternatives.

P.S. the Genesis3 series of base models comes in at a light tris count of 32k and 16k poly.

The difference between Iclone and Daz Studio as to cost is the Daz Studio application is a free download which does not cost you a cent and to add a parametric character apollo maximus will do nicely with injectors available for that character.

DS also comes with a free FBX bridge for Zbrush, Hexagon, and photoshop so one can make thier own free assets if they wish from scratch.

Comparing to Iclone to be even on par with being able to share between Iclone and UE4 you need at least the 300 dollar package, per seat, and still have to purchase a license, per seat, to export to any other host just to render.

https://www.reallusion.com/ContentStore/Royalty_Free/index.html

In the end one can not really compare the two but all in all if the need is for a character creation tool one will have to dig deeper based on need and not just on price tag alone.

Hmmm I guess it depends on what you need them for so you still need to use the other related suites programs according to the license. On a company scale or large studio of people that might make sense, but on an individual scale or small studio, its gets expensive if you don’t already have the suite or suites…

What; you modify the default rig in Daz? Also, grumpy much? yeesh.

Sorry.

Only when I have not had my coffee :smiley: Using the default G3 rig but re-targeted all our animations using MotionBuilder. Our character modelers are using the Zbrush bridge to make morph targets which are injected into the the base G3 framework. From there we can output just the heads with morph targets and cluster shaping that is also transferred through LOD’s made in DS.

I can’t even manage to be grumpy without coffee, more like a zombie.

Thanks for the tips. Think it’ll work with G2 meshes or is it bound to G3 only?

Sure but one will have to purchase the Decimator plug-in.

https://www.daz3d.com/decimator-for-daz-studio

Typical use is to first export the LOD 0 model, any model, and import into UE4.

You would then apply Decimator and dial in the level of detail you want for LOD1 and export. In UE4 you would import the LOD into the base form and set the screen distance. Repeat for additional LOD’s and the expoter will maintain the skin weights and morph targets.

P.S. The only real difference as to use between G2 and G3 is the G3 supports cluster shapes where the G2 does not but only matters if you wish to use cluster shaping or data driven facial animations.

  1. Does the Platinum Account award a 30% price reduction for the indie/commercial license?
    i.e. instead of paying 500$/2500$ (I assume the 2000$ mentioned is an upgrade from indie? As the site lists 2500$ for full commercial), you now get a PA for 70$ (year) or even just 24$ (quarter) and immediately save 150$ on indie or 500$/750$ on commercial?

  2. LODs - is it possible (feasible) to export LOD1, LOD2, etc. with reduced bone counts (less finger joints) and simpler facial rigs, compared to LOD0?
    Does DS have tools for that? Are you using something of that sort in your pipeline, or do all LODs have the same bone/face structure?

(I remember reading in some release notes that it’s now possible in UE4 to deactivate bones for lower LODs… but am not sure about that and can’t find it right now)

  1. Yes the Platinum Account discount includes the license fee. IE $500.00 = $350.00 and the commercial is $2500.00 = $1750.00. Keep in mind the license extension is “ONLY” required if you are planning of releasing the runtime assets as part of the game and is a one time payment that you can defer up to release day. You do not need the extension for rendered 2d elements, like sprite sheets, and does not require a purchase of an “export version” of any asset you purchased. It is of interest like all things that goes on sale from time to time the indie license has been know to go on sale for $100.00 so a good idea would be to put it on your wish list as Daz3d has been know to do per item sales

  2. Gets a bit tricky as UE4 has it’s own requirements but how things are imported can be done as an instance of a “master” character rig and most times one has to plan what kind of assets they need as part of a character construction.

For example if you export the G3 framework you can maintain the framework just like 3ds Max works the stack from the bottom up so if you make LOD0>LOD3 then each instance will maintain cluster rigging as well as morph targets. There are rigging tools so if you wish to restructure then I would assume that you can as this is what DS is intended to do as a tool.

The other side if you say have a set of hair assets you can rename the wold space root and can be exported as a stand alone asset with reduced bone count necessary to support and it will snap to the same base character in UE4 and you can make use of the pro hair materials from Epic with “good” results.

Overall exporting in Daz Studio is not really exporting but more like harvesting of a lot of different assets and bring the stuff into UE4 is just one option available depending on need.

Thanks for the comprehensive answers, FrankieV.

DS sure looks like a great character creation framework.

FYI (for anyone interested in the Indie License for Daz3D and waiting for a discount) - it just went on Sale for $175

That’s $146 with a Platinum Account (including the account upgrade for 3 months) or $122 if you already have a PA.

Personally I’ll wait for the next one (or the one after that), as my project’s progress won’t justify the purchase any time soon, unfortunately.

I just find it difficult regarding the skeleton to find a decent solution. The DAZ3D skeleton structure i like more, keeping it also has the benefit on being able to easily reimport many assets from DAZ3D. But you need a proper rebind pose to generate compatible animations from the UE4 Skeleton. Frankie, since you worked with DAZ3D/UE4 already a lot, do you have an animation/perfect rebind pose ? I was working on something like that using motion builder but lost it a few months ago in a hardware failure.

Would also be interested in any advice regarding retargeting of UE4 animations to the DAZ3D character/skeleton.

Also, any basics how to start with the topic of facial expressions would be immensely appreciated (how do I export a complete facial expressions and then activate those in UE4? I hope I don’t have to address each and every Morph Target myself and feed it custom data?).

What are you using for Lip Syncing? Does Daz3D have such capabilities, or does the character go through iClone?

PS: The sale on the Indie License already ended. Guess it was a 24 hours thing (I have a visualping.io alert set to the page).