SonaGraf has been working on high end garments for Metahuman for over a year now, and we have learned a lot about the pipeline and the challenges that come with it.

Digital garment design isn’t that different from, well physical garment design. The principle is the same, if you want garments to fit the particular person, you can’t just pick up off the shelf cloth and expect it to fit well. This is where talent like Alexa Kusulas  come in. With her help we were able to create this realistic Japanese late 2000’s office uniform that our main character will wear in our feature movie.

It all stats designing a garment that fits the shape of the avatar, in this case we have our own Metahuman that we have customized. (we have our internal system that allows us to do whatever we want with the DNA). The default Metahumans have western looking body proportions, Japanese women have generally less curvier bodies.

The key is to design the shape to fit the avatar, we can’t come up with a fitting garment by tracing Pinterest patterns, it’s as simple as that – it needs to be made to fit.

After some tweaks this is what we came up with. The garment works and is ready to be exported to our garment pipeline that involves complete retopology using tools like Houdini and ZBrush. The key element here are the UVs that come with the pieces exported from Marvelous. Another key element are the scripts that we use to automatize the process, giving us more room to think about art direction of the garments than getting the polygons in right place.

This character that will be in our upcoming film is called Ryoko Kisaragi that takes p lace in early 2000’s, the time of PHS phones and CRTs. The first scene of the film where she appears takes place in sterile bubble economy office, a black glossy tower somewhere in Tokyo, where Miss Kisaragi is faced with her first challenge, or opportunity in her life rather.  We needed a garment that is simple has a kind of silent elegance to it. There are no buttons on the vest, because I figured out the company wants to stand out by that aspect, that’s clearly velcro in the inside.

So for successful digital garment visualization, the key points would be to ensure the garment is made to fit the avatar properly, and then plan how the character is going to move.

Then there is a choice to be made – either simulate or rig the clothes via process called “skinning”, the triple A video game approach (it is harmless despite it’s creepy name, trust me).

Simulating cloth can be done in Marvelous, Clo or Houdini for example, that matches the animated avatar movements, the animation can be handmade or sourced from motion capture rig. My studio uses a custom Rokoko rig for example, and Xsens  and even cute Mocopi. The simulation data can then be exported into Unreal Engine for example for rendering as Alembic.

Rigging cloth on the other hand is generally faster approach that means attaching the cloth into the character’s “skin”, so it is kind of like glued into the character. This can also use partial real-time physics setup inside Unreal so that hem of a skirt for example is moving in the wind, taking leg collisions into account so it doesn’t penetrate the body of avatar.

My company uses both methods depending on the project’s needs to create high end garments for Metahuman

Digital Fashion is exciting and offers many new possibilities. Especially when coupled with technologies like volumetric video or virtual production.