Create an avatar in Adobe Fuse and make it usable in High Fidelity is still a complex thing to achieve. The following tutorial explains one way to do it without any loud and buggy editing in Blender or others 3d editor that cost more than the price of a new computer each year.
The object of this tutorial is, in fact, to show you how you can avoid having to edit in “Blender” because the FBX import of Blender contains some bug or limitations that will cause a server degradation to the rigging which is not what we want. Unless you are a monk of the rigging and prefer to invest an astronomic amount of time to fix this manually in Blender, you might be very happy to avoid this.
This can be done in 7 steps, where at the end you will get a good avatar, correctly rigged. You will be even able to customize it a little, and you will have fixed the most disturbing issues.
Step 1: Create the avatar in “Adobe Fuse”
Adobe Fuse is a free avatar creation software. You can download it from the Adobe web site or from Steam.
This is quite intuitive to use, you select the different body parts, then you customize all the different measurements, chose its clothes, the hair, adjust the different textures. If you have used “Second Life” before, you should be relatively in known territory.
But like nothing is perfect in this world, there is a couple of things that it could be useful to know about Fuse.
- Take it easy with “Roughness”. In the texture customization, you will see adjustments for the “Roughness”. A high roughness will mean flat, and a low roughness will mean glossy. But keep in mind that if you set it to 0, that will be so glossy that it will be as a mirror. Take care to not put it too low for everything that is glossy but not a metal, it might be problematic once rendered in High Fidelity. Most of the time this is already not too badly set by default. I notice that it’s quite always too low for they eyes and it causes what people call “the black eyes” (because it reflects too much the environment and the default sky in High fidelity is dark.)
- Transparency will suck. It’s preferable to avoid everything that contains transparency. Some hair model, for example, won’t look as what you see in Fuse. (You will figure it immediately at the “step 2” when you will export to Mixamo.) To fix this, it would require editing the material in Blender, which we try to avoid. And even if you could, the results might be disappointing. (So far, it always be for me.)
- Forget the eyelashes. Eyelashes use transparency, and they will look like a footballer this once in Mixamo.
But don’t worry, we will simply remove them later. (Yes, we can live without them.)
- Textures size… In Fuse, by default, all the textures are 512 X 512. It can do the job for some small piece of clothes but I recommend to at least set the body’s texture to 1024 X 1024. (I personally set them all to 1024 X 1024.)
My “Abobe Fuse” refuses to launch…
Many people got problems to launch “Adobe Fuse” after a certain time. (We suspect a bug with the remains of an old license system)
If it happens to you, don’t panic… There is a workaround.
In the “Adobe Creative Cloud” launch pad, click 10 to 15 time very quickly on the “Fuse” icon.
It will take a few seconds, and you should get 2 or 3 instances of Adobe Fuse that will open.
Keep one to work and close the others.
Step 2: Export to “Mixamo” to generate the rigged .fbx avatar
Once your avatar is completed in Adobe Fuse, it’s time to generate a rigged model form it. To achieve that, we will export it to “Mixamo“, a tool own by Adobe, specially designed for that use.
- First of all, save your Fuse avatar (CTRL-S) because the export could be crashy and it can force Fuse to close.
- Before proceeding to the Export, let’s do some setup. Do “Edit > Preferences“. In the preference, Make sure to check at least the following options: Triangulate Mesh, Remove Occulted Polygons. Set the Character Scale = 1.
- Once done simply click on the button “Send to Mixamo” to launch the export. (In Fuse, top right corner)
- Follow the instructions and Fuse will open a web browser open on the Mixamo website to start the rigging processing. A few minutes later you will get this window with your exported avatar:
- Make sure to have options “Facial Blendshapes” = “Enabled“, and “Skeleton LOD” = “Standard Skeleton (65)“.
- Click on the “FINISH” button, then click on “USE THIS CARACTER” and finally click on “DOWNLOAD“.
- Select the following Download settings: “Format” = “FBX (.fbx)“, “Pose” = “T-pose” and click “DOWNLOAD“
- You will get an FBX file, this is your future avatar. Store this file somewhere on your disk.
Now that you got a rigged avatar you might have noticed some imperfections in the Mixamo preview if you compare to what you saw previously in Adobe Fuse.
But don’t worry, we will fix at least the 2 first issues in the next steps.
Step 3: Convert and fix the FBX using FBXoMap.
Now that we have a rigged FBX file, we want to solve that black eyelashes problem by removing them.
We are also interested to convert our fbx file as an fbx file that won’t have its textures embedded. Why? Because it will allow you to edit those texture file to fix a couple of issues and allow you a certain level of customization.
To do this we want absolutely avoid to use “Blender” because its “Import Fbx” is buggy and limited since it doesn’t use the original Autodesk API. (Apparently, they couldn’t use it because Autodesk didn’t allow them. So they crafted one of their own that, sadly, doesn’t support correctly the rigging.)
This is why we will use the “FBXoMap” software. (Coded by me and using the real thing.)
- Download “FBXoMap”. You can get the software here: FBXoMap
- Install “FBXoMap”. Just unzip it where you want, and launch FBXoMap.exe to use it. (There is no installer, just a zip file.)
- Launch FBXoMap.exe.
- Select your Mixamo rigged fbx file as the Source .fbx file.
- Select the Target .fbx file. You can keep the same folder, but enter a different name for the Target file. (We don’t want to override our original Mixamo file)
- Check the option “Remove eyelashes ( Mixamo fbx)“. (But do NOT check “Save as ASCII file Format” )
You will get something like this:
- Once done, click on the “Convert” button, and let it work until you get the “Conversion executed.” message.
- If you look in your folder, you will see 2 new things:
- A folder (.fbm) that is containing all the textures file of your fbx
- Your converted fbx file (which is smaller than the original fbx, because the texture are not embedded inside of the file)
At this point, we have a version of your avatar fbx with the eyelashes removed, and we have a full access to the texture files to be able to edit them.
Step 4: Package the model for High Fidelity
We have now to make this readable by High FIdelity. Do do this, we are going to use the “Package Model” functionality provided by High Fidelity.
- Launch “High Fidelity Interface” and do “Edit > Package Model“. (If you don’t see “Package Model” under the edit menu, do this: “Setting > Advanced Menus“. This will add it.)
- On the “Package Model” pop-up, Make sure to have the option “Model Type” = “Avatar Body with Head“, then click on the “Browse” button.
- Select your converted avatar .fbx file and click “Open“.
- Click “OK” on the “Package Model” pop-up. This will open the “Set Model Properties” window
- Click on the “.” button to select a “Texture Directory“, and select the “.fbm Folder” of your avatar (the one that contains all the textures)
- Click “OK” on the “Set Model Properties” window. Now it will ask you to indicate a folder where your packaged avatar will be saved.
- Select a folder… (Personally, I like to have it next to my original files, so I simply create a “HF” folder in the same directory than my fbx file.)
- Once done, check what has been generated in the HF folder. You will find there a “.fst” file, with a folder with the same name next to it…
- In that subfolder, you will find the .fbx file of your avatar and a “textures” directory that will contain all the textures of your avatar that High Fidelity is supporting. (Well, almost.)
- If you edit the .fst file in a text editor, you should see that the “texdir” path will correctly lead to the “textures” directory.
Technically, we would be done for the “High Fidelity – package model” step. But sadly there is a bug when High fidelity package the texture for a Non-embedded FBX file. It doesn’t copy the glossiness texture. We have then to do it manually like so:
- Go to the original .fbm folder
- Select all the “_Gloss” files and copy them (CTRL-C)
- No go in the “textures” folder of your packaged avatar and paste (CTRL-V) them. Now your avatar is correctly packaged for High Fidelity.
Step 5: Texture level fix and customization
If you can’t wait to see your avatar in HF, you can already start to use it. For that, jump to the Step 6. But there is still a couple of fixes that can be done at the texture level using a simple image editor like “Photoshop“, “the Gimp” or “Affinity Photo“. You can also do some visual customisation at the texture level, like branding, tattoo, scar… Here what can be done:
Fixing the glowing nostrils
For any reason, the color inside the nostrils of the avatar generated by Fuse has been left too bright, and like it’s a small cavity, the rending pains to deal with it and tends to flood it with light. A solution is to darken them on the “_Diffuse” texture file of the body.
In a picture editor (Photoshop, The Gimp or Affinity Photo) edit the “_Diffuse” texture file of the body and apply this image to it to darken the nostrils.
Fixing the metal / non-metal specularity.
In High Fidelity, the specular color is used to determine what is metallic and what is not. In the specular color texture, when something needs to be metallic, it must be WHITE and it must be BLACK when it is not metallic. But it’s not the case for all the rendering engine on the planet, some are supporting it as a grayscale. This is the case for “Adobe Fuse” and some of the specular texture generated by it won’t be correct for High Fidelity.
If you are checking in the texture files, you will find the “_Specular“. These are the one that might be to fixe here.
Let’s take an example. This is the “_Specular” file for the boots of my avatar. (Generated by Fuse)
They are in leather, with some metallic eyelets. As you can see, the metallic part is light gray. But like this is not WHITE, High Fidelity will read them as non-metal. Then instead to look golden metal, they will look glossy yellow.
To fix that, you need to put in WHITE what is metal and in BLACK all the rest of the picture. Like this:
With the same logic, the “_Specular” texture of the body (where there is nothing metallic) will become a completely BLACK texture.
If you want to get correct metallic material on your avatar, you better to retouch the “_Specular” textures.
Now that you have access to the texture files, it’s very easy to customize your avatar with tattoos, branding, scars… You can do it on the “_Diffuse” textures.
If you are more audacious, you can even play with the “_Specular” (metal (white)/non-metal (black)) and the “_Gloss” (flat (dark gray) / Glossy (light gray)).
Tougher, but not impossible, you can also play on the “_Normal” map for some small details.
Step 6: Store your avatar somewhere online
To use your avatar in High Fidelity, you need to store its files on a web server available publically. You need to put online the “.fst file” with the subfolder that contains the “.fbx file” and the “textures” directory. (All that has been packaged in the HF folder)
You will find free web hosting solutions on the web.
Step 7: Use your avatar in High Fidelity.
Launch “High Fidelity Interface” and do “Settings > Avatar…“.
Enter the URL of your “.fst file” in the “Appearance” field.
Click “Save Changes“.. et Voilà!
Hint: If you want to see how your avatar looks, there is a “Mirror” application available in the Marketplace, this is very useful.