MakeHuman Tutorial - Free 3D Character Creator

Here’s a YouTube tutorial which introduces MakeHuman, a free 3D character creator for Windows and Mac. I dug through the pile on YouTube and this video seemed the most accessible.

You can if you wish export your MakeHuman characters and then bring them in to your SketchUp scenes. You can also take them in to Blender to animate and further customize. Another option is to apply pre-made animations to your MakeHuman characters in Mixamo. I believe some folks are using MakeHuman characters in game engines like Unreal Engine and Unity.

This video describes an entirely free work flow which allows you to:

  1. create a character in MakeHuman
  2. animate your character in Mixamo
  3. tweak animation in Blender
  4. import your animated character in to Hitfilm

Hitfilm Express is a free video editor which can work with 3D files. So you can for example…

  1. animate the camera in your SketchUp scene,
  2. export your SketchUp scene as a movie,
  3. import movie in to Hitfilm,
  4. layer your animated MakeHuman character on top of your SketchUp scene.

Like this…

Further discussion here:

Thanks for sharing.

I was curious so I tried to create a character (just the default one in Mixamo) as a fbx, brought into Blender, saved as DAE and then open in SketchUp. I was trying to see if there was a way to create a character and then animate it in SketchUp with Animator. I could not see the “skeleton” of the character in the outliner in SketchUp so therefor I could not animate. Just had to see if there was a way.

If there was a way to create a character where I could then see the parts of it in SketchUp, then I could animate it there with Animator.

You can add a skeleton to a character in Mixamo, MakeHuman and probably Blender too. But I’m not sure that would help in regards to SketchUp.

I can see in Justin’s videos that in Animator you could animate a character sliding down the sidewalk for example. You seem to already know that.

But as best I can tell you can’t animate parts of a character such as arms and legs to create real walking. I could be wrong, that’s just my best understanding at the moment.

The only solution I know at the moment is to export an animated SketchUp scene to a video, import the video in to Hitfilm, and then layer an animated 3D character on top of the SketchUp video.

I would love to see SketchUp evolved so that the scenes could more easily include people in action, but that’s probably asking too much, and if such a feature were added it would be quite unlikely to be included in the free version. And most of the Pro users probably don’t care about such things.

Unreal Engine and Unity might possibly be a solution, but that’s a different subject, one I’m not qualified to comment on as of yet.

Would you be interested in creating characters who can talk? If yes, I could be helpful there.

Yes you can animate portions of a character (like arms, legs, and etc.). It does take a little work and it depends on the organization of the model. You can animate groups, sub-groups, components, and sub-components. Any portion of a model that can be accessed, can be animated. I have a very bad example that I am would be embarrassed to post. But, believe me, it can be done.

Not sure what I would do with a talking character but it would be interesting to see one.

Would also suggest you start a thread on this topic in SketchUcation forum. Seem Fredo6 (author of Animator) is more active on that forum.

Ah, I see. Ok, thanks for that, a new horizon.

Would also suggest you start a thread on this topic in SketchUcation forum

Thanks for this suggestion. I’m generally aware of that site, but hadn’t gotten around to engaging there yet. Will check it out.

Not sure what I would do with a talking character but it would be interesting to see one.

Well, here’s a general philosophical point. Architecture is created to serve human beings. But the human component of Sketchup land is pretty lifeless. Thus, from an artistic perspective, one wonders what the point of the buildings are?

Anyway, to quickly illustrate a talking character, here’s a quick vid I made years ago when I was just getting started in all this.

I’ve since learned how to layer talking heads on top of moving characters in Hitfilm, which is rather more interesting.

Here’s another old one.

The above talking head videos were made in CrazyTalk, one of my favorite softwares. The above examples were made when I first began learning CrazyTalk and don’t really do justice to what the software is capable of.

I see CrazyTalk is currently selling for $50, but if you get on their mailing list and are patient you can get it for less, $30 or so. This is for the 2D version.

They have a 3D version at a higher price, but while I LOVE the 2D version, the 3D version didn’t seem ready for prime time. Best I can tell they’ve stopped developing it and have shifted focus to their other 3D products such as iClone.

Back to MakeHuman…

MakeHuman comes with a quite limited number of built-in assets such as clothes which you can apply to the character. These built-in assets are complemented by a much larger collection of user created assets.

Most of the assets, built-in and user created, look pretty good in MakeHuman.

However I’ve noticed that issues tend to arise when trying to transfer a MakeHuman character with user created assets to any other software, such as Blender or Hitfilm. Sometimes the assets are distorted, or simply vanish. A typical situation is that three assets make the trip to some other software just fine, while one doesn’t.

I’m not really qualified to diagnose what exactly the problem is in each particular case. Overall it seems the problem is that the 3D industry has failed to establish reliable data standards and so any time you try to move any 3D model from one place to another issues of various kinds are common.

The point here is that while MakeHuman, Mixamo, Blender and Hitfilm are all fine software, 3D workflows which depend upon moving data through multiple softwares seem inherently unreliable. Dealing with chronic issue does become tiresome.

As much as I enjoyed learning how to hack this workflow together (mostly from pros on the Hitfilm forum) and as well as it sometimes works, my journey from here will probably be to focus on finding self contained environments that don’t require transferring models between softwares. For static scenes SketchUp is a great example of such an all-in-one environment that is reliable.

I dunno. It looks like the next step for me will be to start poking around in Unreal Engine and/or Unity.

OK - I just started a thread in SketchUcation to discuss animating a 3D character in SketchUp using the Animator plugin. Click here to view/participate in the thread (it seems Fredo6 who created Animator is more active in SketchUcation)

Thanks for expanding my SketchUp horizons in that direction. I’ll join the thread later today and see what I can learn.

Oops, tried to post in that thread, but the system ate my post. Guess I’ll stick around here for now. If you learn anything interesting over there, please let us know.

There was a really interesting post in that thread by faust07 who pointed to another thread where he had created animated 3D characters done in SkrtchUp using the MSPhysics plugin. I asked, but he has not responded yet, where he got the 3D craracters.

I did see that, and it did look interesting.

My guess for now is that it’s possible to fully animate human characters in SketchUp scenes by various methods, but that most users will find it to be more trouble than it’s worth to them.

I can’t really say, just a guess, but it might be more productive to look for tools specifically designed for animating human characters (like iClone for example) and then see if there is a way to import SketchUp models in to those environments.

Or see if someone can come up with a way to import/include an animation in a SketchUp model.

Wanted to bump this thread a bit to encourage users interested in animation to check out the thread Dave started over on Sketchucation. Starting to get interesting!

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