Pinocchio comes out to play as Character Generator

Autodesk introduces Autodesk Character Generator as a cloud-based resource. It is the latest evolution of Evolver software acquired by Autodesk in 2011 and has been available in Autodesk Labs as Project Pinocchio.

Autodesk has announced the debut of Autodesk Character Generator, their latest cloud-based product developed from its Evolver technology acquired in 2011. It has been living in Autodesk Labs as Project Pinocchio. Now Autodesk is making the full product available to subscribers of all versions of the Entertainment Creation Suite, as well as Maya, 3ds Max, Softimage, MotionBuilder, Mudbox, and Maya LT. It’s also available with some rental packages including Max, Maya, and Maya LT. For those who want to try it out, Autodesk also has a free version available; all you have to do is sign up for a free Autodesk account.

Autodesk Character Generator
Autodesk Character Generator provides a range of character types as a basis for creating a new character. (Source: Autodesk)

The software lets you combine characteristics from basic character types to create a new character. It’s fun, if not completely gratifying. As an online site, using the slides results in a lag and not every action results in a predictable reaction, meaning there’s not a lot of fine control. Still, it’s a simple matter to get a character created in a few minutes. Character Generator also lets you download the rigged character  as an .fbx file or Maya .mb file, along with a texture map.

If you’re a full subscriber you can choose a resolution from crowd, low, medium, and high. You can add a facial rig. And, depending on the options chosen you’ll be charged cloud credits. A high resolution character is 5 credits, which translates to about $5. Subscribers are awarded 100 credits when they sign up for a product subscription and they can buy them in packs of 100 for about $100.

The free option limits resolution, doesn’t allow facial rigs, and also limits downloadable body types to human, though you can play with the Gorn or Bulk styles to create more cartoonish characters. The characters you create can be saved online and recombined for further evolutions.

The characters can be used with Autodesk’s products of course, but as you might expect, a certain amount of hoop jumping is required to take them somewhere else to play. The Blender community reports that if characters can be exported to Collada .dae then they can be imported with rigs. The meshes for your character can be exchanged to a number of products using FBX.

One of the things Autodesk could do much better is make resources easier to find on its site. Hint: Character Generator is here.

What do we think?

Character creation is becoming much easier and as a result budding animators are able to create something they can work with much easier. This was the original goal of Michel Fleury of the University of Quebec at Montreal where the Evolver software was first developed. It’s taken a while since the tool was introduced at Siggraph in 2006, but as technology like this becomes more available it will give 3D content creation the boost it needs to be used by more people.