I have been searching doggedly for years on how to make this concept a reality. What concept, exactly? Why, the VTuber concept, which is streaming (or recording) as a 3D anime rendered character in real time.
Sadly, whatever pipeline has been suggested by 3D nerd gurus seems to require mastering the insanity that is Unity, or breaking your braincells on Blender. I'm just not that patient, and so, I found another way.
Why would I want to do this?
First of all: it's fun. Secondly, I'm too lazy to look presentable on camera. Lastly, the possibilities for author shenanigans—with a cast of completely bonkersville characters—are powerful.
Using face capture technology to speak through a 3D 'puppet' is an absolute creative game-changer. And I've found out how to make it easier than ever before.
Not only are the tools I've found simple, they're also completely free, and take 99% less time than any other pipeline on the market.
I want to give you this power, because everyone should experience the joy of screaming from the mouth of a goofy 3D anime avatar at least once in their life.
This guide assumes the following:
- Your computer is not a potato
- You have a webcam with audio and video handy
- You have ideas about what you want to do
Step 1: Make your avatar with VRoid Studio
VRoid studio is a free 3D anime character creator that lets you mess with meshes, fuck with features, and hack up hairstyles. You can change your character's textures right inside the program if you want, as if drawing on top of a canvas.
However, you don't need a tablet. You don't need Photoshop. You don't even need to have an artistic bone in your body.
All you need is a vision, a computer, and a little bit of time to make your idea a reality. The software is very easy to use, but if you get stuck, don't worry.
As creative nerds have already created excellent tutorials on this, we're going to reference them:
Learning VRoid Studio: Face Editor
VRoid Hair Tutorial (Easy):
After you've played around a bit, make sure to export your brand new 3D anime character model as a VRM file.
To export your 3D character, navigate to the CAMERA/EXPORTER TAB. Then click on EXPORT. Finally, go to the right-hand side and click EXPORT again.
You'll be given the next screen, which is superfluous. You don't have to worry about any of the jargon featured below.
Quite simply save your VRM file, keep it someplace safe, and snag the next free program on this list.
Step 2: Import your 3D avatar in VSeeFace
VSeeFace is a super easy to use tool that tracks your VRoid avatar to your facial movements. Not only is it easy to use, but it's also free. Furthermore, VSeeFace also has guides baked into the program itself if you get stuck.
The first step is to import your .vrm file, which is pretty self-explanatory. The second step is to tweak your 3D avatar's tracking, by clicking the SETTINGS button.
Be very aware that too much tweaking can warrant extreme [and hilarious] facial reactions, so here's my setup in case you need it:
How your tweak your 3D avatar's face tracking is your own personal preference.
I'd advise against enabling any of the fancy expression options under settings.
Your VRoid character is going to look like a nightmare if you do. If that's what you're going for—because you're an agent of chaos—then check every settings option above the red text and rock on.
Now that you've tweaked your 3D avatar's settings, it's time to center your character. Sit comfortably, relax your face [don't make a weird face like I'm making], stare at your camera, and click the RESET POSITION button.
Move around a little bit. Tweak your smoothing, movement range, and drift speed options accordingly.
Now that you have your VRoid 3d anime avatar imported and optimized, hit the little icon in the lower right corner that looks like a star, and then move on to the next free software.
Step 3: Snag OBS, import media source, and select VSeeFace
OBS, otherwise known as Open Broadcaster Software, is a very handy, free software that lets you stream and combine a bunch of media sources together.
Download OBS and install it. Open the program.
At this point, you should have VSeeFace running, you should've clicked the tiny icon in the lower right corner of VSeeFace, and you should see that OBS is picking up absolutely nothing, unlike my screenshot above.
To get this up and running, add a new GAME CAPTURE SOURCE by clicking the plus sign under the SOURCES window.
Name this whatever you want, select CAPTURE SPECIFIC WINDOW for MODE, select VSeeFace, and hit OK.
You'll notice your avatar is most likely moving around, and they're on a black background. To add a background, you'll go to add another source by clicking the plus sign, but choose IMAGE this time.
If you have a powerful enough computer to stream a game [my laptop isn't, but my partner's desktop is, and this setup isn't on it right now], you can add another game source using the same method you used to get your 3d anime avatar in OBS.
You may have to play around with moving your 3d anime avatar on top of the media source or other game source you included. This is done by clicking the item under Sources and dragging it with your mouse.
If you're not picking up audio, change your audio settings in OBS by using the center panel, and clicking the gear icon[s].
When you're ready to record, hit START RECORDING on the right-hand side. When you're done, hit STOP RECORDING. Your video file will most likely save in Videos under My Documents as an MKV file.
I haven't yet used this for streaming video games, but it works like a charm.
Warnings for the VRoid > VSeeFace > OBS Workflow
Sadly, there's no hand tracking included in this pipeline. Hand tracking for 3D streaming, or ARG/VR models is a form of ancient mysticism propagated by ye olde Kinect devices.
There are pieces of hardware like Leap Motion that can achieve this for you, but where it stands, there's really nothing that does this just from your webcam.
Wakaru [free and in beta on Steam] apparently offers this, but you need two different colored gloves to achieve it, there appears to be no finger tracking, and I have not personally tried it. Therein, I can't vouch for it.
If you're just here to making goofy faces, or like I'm using it [ranting about stuff, book promotion, and crappy music videos for my crappier music] it works perfectly.
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below. I'll do my best to help you. Lord knows I've slogged through umpteen tutorials already, so if I can help you avoid common pitfalls, I'll do my best.
Kira Leigh is a renegade freelancer hellbent on releasing an obnoxious, anime-inspired sci-fi trilogy fueled on 90s chaos. Check out their professional services here, read their anime/gaming articles, send them a message on LinkedIn, or sign up for goofy book updates.