Creating New Characters with Morphs

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by Paolo Ciccone | October 2013 | Open Source

This article by Paolo Ciccone, author of the book The Complete Guide to DAZ Studio 4, introduces you to morphs.

A morph is a modification of a geometric model that alters its original shape. Using morphs, we can change any character into something completely different. Studio makes this operation as simple as moving sliders on the screen.

In this article we will have a look at the following topics:

  • Applying morphs
  • Mixing morphs to create new characters
  • Saving morph presets for future use

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

Understanding morphs

The word morph comes from metamorphosis, which means a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one. Good old Franz Kafka had a field day with metamorphosis when he imagined poor Gregor Samsa waking up and finding himself changed into a giant cockroach.

This concept applies to 3D modeling very well. As we are dealing with polygons, which are defined by groups of vertices, it's very easy to morph one shape into something different. All that we need to do is to move those vertices around, and the polygons will stretch and squeeze accordingly.

To get a better visualization about this process, let’s bring the Basic Female figure to the scene and show it with the wireframe turned on. To do so, after you have added the Basic Female figure, click on the DrawStyle widget on the top-right portion of the 3D Viewport.

From that menu, select Wire Texture Shaded. This operation changes how Studio draws the objects in the scene during preview. It doesn't change anything else about the scene. In fact, if you try to render the image at this point, the wireframe will not show up in the render. The wireframe is a great help in working with objects because it gives us a visual representation of the structure of a model. The type of wireframe that I selected in this case is superimposed to the normal texture used with the figure. This is not the only visualization mode available. Feel free to experiment with all the options in the DrawStyle menu; most of them have their use. The most useful, in my opinion, are the Hidden Line, Lit Wireframe, Wire Shaded, and Wire Texture Shaded options. Try the Wire Shaded option as well. It shows the wireframe with a solid gray color. This is, again, just for display purposes. It doesn't remove the texture from the figure. In fact, you can switch back to Texture Shaded to see Genesis fully textured.

Switching the view to use the simple wireframe or the shaded wireframe is a Great way of speeding up your workflow. When Studio doesn’t have to render the textures, the Viewport becomes more responsive and all operations take less time. If you have a slow computer, using the wireframe mode is a good way of getting a faster response time.

Here are the Wire Texture Shaded and Wire Shaded styles side by side:

Now that we have the wireframe visible, the concept of morphing should be simpler to understand. If we pick any vertex in the geometry and we move it somewhere, the geometry is still the same, same number of polygons and same number of vertices, but the shape has shifted. Here is a practical example that shows Genesis loaded in Blender.

Blender is a free, fully featured, 3D modeling program. It has extremely advanced features that compete with commercial programs sold for thousands of dollars per license. You can find more information about Blender at http://www.blender.org. Be aware that Blender is a very advanced program with a rather difficult UI.

In this image, I have selected a single polygon and pulled it away from the face:

In a similar way we can use programs such as modo or ZBrush to modify the basic geometry and come up with all kinds of different shapes. For example, there are people who are specialized in reproducing the faces of celebrities as morph for DAZ V4 or Genesis.

What is important to understand about morphs is that they cannot add or remove any portion of the geometry. A morph only moves things around, sometimes to extreme degrees.

Morphs for Genesis or Gen4 figures can be purchased from several websites specialized in selling content for Poser and DAZ Studio. In particular, Genesis makes it very easy to apply morphs and even to mix them together.

Combining premade morphs to create new faces

The standard installation of Genesis provides some interesting ways of changing its shape. Let's start a new Studio scene and add our old friend, the basic Female figure.

Once Genesis is in the scene, double-click on it to select it. Now let’s take a look at a new tool, the Shaping tab. It should be visible in the right-hand side pane. Click on the Shaping tab; it should show a list of shapes available. The list should be something like this:

As we can see, the Basic Female shape is unsurprisingly dialed all the way to the top. The value of each slider goes from zero, no influence, to one, full influence of the morph. Morphs are not exclusive so, for example, you can add a bit of Body Builder (scroll the list to the bottom if you don't see it) to be used in conjunction with the Basic Female morph. This will give us a muscular woman. This exercise is also giving us an insight about the Basic Female figure that we have used up to this time. The figure is basically the raw Genesis figure with the Basic Female morph applied as a preset.

If we continue exploring the Shaping Editor, we can see that the various shapes are grouped by major body section. We have morphs for the shape of the head, the components of the face, the nose, eyes, mouth, and so on.

Let's click on the head of Genesis and use the Camera: Frame tool to frame the head in the view. Move the camera a bit so that the face is visible frontally. We will apply a few morphs to the head to see how it can be transformed. Here is the starting point:

Now let’s click on the Head category in the Shaping tab. In there we can see a slider labeled Alien Humanoid. Move the slider until it gets to 0.83.

The difference is dramatic.

Now let’s click on the Eyes category. In there we find two values: Eyes Height and Eyes Width. To create an out-of-this-world creature, we need to break the rules of proportions a little bit, and that means to remove the limits for a couple of parameters. Click on the gear button for the Eyes Height parameter and uncheck the Use Limits checkbox. Confirm by clicking on the Accept button. Once this is done, dial a value of 1.78 for the eyes height. The eyes should move dramatically up, toward the eyebrow.

Lastly, let's change the neck; it's much too thick for an alien. Also, in this case, we will need to disable the use of limits. Click on the Neck category and disable the limits for the Neck Size parameter. Once that is done, set the neck size to -1.74. Here is the result, side by side, of the transformation.

This is quite a dramatic change for something that is done with just dials, without using a 3D modeling program. It gets even better, as we will see shortly.

Saving your morphs

If you want to save a morph to re-use it later, you can navigate to File | Save As | Shaping Preset…. To re-use a saved morph, simply select the target figure and navigate to File | Merge… to load the previously saved preset/morph.

Why is Studio using the rather confusing term Merge for loading its own files? Nobody knows for sure; it's one of those weird decisions that DAZ's developers made long ago and never changed. You can merge two different Studio scenes, but it is rather confusing to think of loading a morph or a pose preset as a scene merge. Try to mentally replace File | Merge with File | Load. This is the meaning of that menu option.

The Complete Guide to DAZ Studio 4 Bring your 3D characters to life with DAZ Studio with this book and ebook
Published: October 2013
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Book Price: $44.99
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Character creation with morphs

Hard to believe that the "cutie" shown in the following image is our old friend the Basic Female, but it really is the same figure. I created that lovely character using an additional product called Genesis Creature Creator Heads, which is sold at http://www.daz3d.com/shop/genesis-creature-creator-heads.

Once that product is installed, Studio will provide a plethora of head morphs that can be dialed to create a vast set of unique characters. In the following steps, I will show you how easy it is to obtain the preceding figure.

Inside the monster factory

As usual, let's start with a new scene (File |  New) and add the Basic Female figure. Click on the head to select it, and then click on the Camera: Frame tool to frame the head fully inside the frame. If you have the Genesis Creature Creator Heads product installed, you will then be able to see a series of interesting morphs in the Shaping tab. Look in the Editor subtab and inside the Head category.

The list goes on and on. All those variations can be mixed together. Remember that you can click on the value of a slider to enter its value directly via keyboard. This is one of those times where this feature is much more useful than trying to move a slider with the mouse?

  1. While in the Head category, dial Alien Grey to 0.12.
  2. Set the slider of Alien Oculoid at 0.33.

    This is already shaping the head in a radical way.

  3. To regain some volume for the cranium, set the slider of Alien Scalp at 0.22.
  4. Set the slider of Beast at 0.36.
  5. Set the slider of Beast Pug at 0.20.
  6. Set the slider of Demon at 0.69.
  7. Set the slider of Frankenstein at 0.24.
  8. Remove the limits for Horns Front High and set the slider value at 2.15.

    Here is how the morph dials should look at this stage:

  9. Set Scalp Crest to 0.96.
  10. If you rotate the camera to look at the figure, you see that the nose looks quite flat. Click on the Nose category and look for the parameter called Nose Size. Disable the limits for it and set the value to 2.69.
  11. Monsters don't have long eyelashes, so we need to fix that. Click on the Eyes Category and look for the eyelashes values. If you look at the top of the list of values, there is an input field labeled Enter text to filter by…. This field Can be used to restrict the list of values shown. Enter the text lashes to show only the values that have that string in their name.

  12. set the slider of Eyelashes Curl at -1.
  13. Set the slider of Eyelashes Hide Layer at 1.
  14. set the slider of Eyelashes Length at -1.
  15. In the filter field, remove the lashes string and enter pupil to show all the values with that word in their name.
  16. Find the Pupil Slit value, disable the limits for it, and set it to 1.73 to give the character a cat eye.
  17. Change the filter to show the Iris values and set the Iris Size to -0.5.
  18. Clear the filter by clicking on the red arrow with the X in the middle.
  19. Click on the Mouth category.
  20. Find the Mouth Height parameter and set it to -0.6.

Admire your creation; it should be the same as the one shown at the beginning of this section. The only issue is the vaguely unsettling effect of seeing lipstick on a monster. This is the result of using the original texture for the Basic Female figure. Let's not worry about this problem just yet. We will need to get familiar with materials and the Surfaces tab to change the lip material to something more suitable.

Summary

What can be done with good morphs is quite astounding. We can take an everyday figure and turn it into something really different. Using the same workflow, we can create human characters that are different from the basic figures provided by Studio. By purchasing special morphs, we can also create a large variety of characters with one single basic figure. For example, there are ethnic morphs available that cover a lot of different races, which can be wonderful for adding variety to your scenes.

What we have seen in this article is all about the substance of the scene, its content.

Resources for Article:


Further resources on this subject:


The Complete Guide to DAZ Studio 4 Bring your 3D characters to life with DAZ Studio with this book and ebook
Published: October 2013
eBook Price: $26.99
Book Price: $44.99
See more
Select your format and quantity:

About the Author :


Paolo Ciccone

Paolo Ciccone is a software engineer and photographer who lives in Santa Cruz, California. He has been developing software for more than 20 years in a large series of disciplines, including IDEs (JBuilder) and 3D modeling and rendering. His field of expertise is developing multiplatform applications (Mac OS and Windows) that help computer graphics artists achieve photorealistic results.

In 2010, he founded Prêt-à-3D (www.preta3d.com), a company dedicated to bringing high-end computer graphics tools to the masses. His Reality software for Poser and DAZ Studio has been used for video game illustration and for the preproduction of Hollywood large budget movies such as Jurassic Park IV and Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

For more than two decades, Paolo has taught all kinds of classes, from training for large corporations to live workshops about 3D graphics.

Paolo's experience with 3D software started in 1999, with the first public version of Blender, and then evolved to include other programs, including DAZ Studio, which he has used since version 1.0. Paolo is very active in the online community and he publishes a weekly blog covering topics about 3D graphics.

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