VRChat avatars with expressive and realistic facial movements? With the help of blend shapes, it's possible!
We're going to explore how to add blend shapes to our VRChat characters, a significant enhancement that can completely transform your interactions in the virtual world. From a higher level of realism and expressiveness, to the ability to customise your character and stand out in the community!
Ready for a new level of immersion and fun in VRChat? Let's go!
To do this we will choose our favourites 3D software:
Blender (From 2.79b Version onwards)
Unity (Latest version supported by VRChat SDK, check their webpage for more information)
Small details always matter
Isn't it great when you talk with somebody online and you see his mouth moving while he talks? It really improves the experience, specially in Virtual Reality.
The truth is that in the development of metaverse platforms, realism is not necessarily pursued, but since we have the ability to talk to others in these worlds, the simple fact that our avatar moves its little mouth is a plus.
That's what this is about. Creating different shapes so you can see yourself talking when you look in a mirror.
How many blend shapes we need for VRChat?
Let’s say you already have your avatar modeled and rigged, or recently acquired it from VIPE. It's time to create blend shapes to add realism to the thing.
The first step is to find out how many blend shapes we need to create in total. Did you know that VRChat uses 17 different blend shapes? You can certainly add more, with expressions, and different moods and animations, but in this tutorial we will only be going through the basic ones:
lower lid left
lower lid right
Creating blend shapes with Blender
Now that we know what we need to do, how do we do it?
We are using Blender for this part of the process, since it’s probably the most used software for all thing VRChat.
Your avatar should be imported in blender with its skeleton, so we will add all the blend shapes. Blender calls them Shape Keys, but it’s essentially the same thing.
By clicking on the + button, Blender will create the BasisShape Key, which is the default state of the avatar. It’s super important to be sure that this first shape key is correct since it will be used as a reference for all the other shape keys that we are going to create.
Clicking again on the + will create the first shape key. Rename it to one of the names on the list above, and now it’s time to create!
Select the key you want to edit, and go to edit mode in Blender. Be sure you have the correct shape key selected while you work on the mouth shapes, and just keep making them.
If you are unsure of how one particular mouth shape should be, here is a screenshot of all the different mouth shapes we made for one of our 100Avatars collection!
Little trick: if your avatar is symmetric, you can duplicate the blink and lowerlid shape key and mirror it to change the other eye.
The Sil shape key should be exactly the same as the default, all the other ones are different. Once you have your long list of shape keys, it’s time to go to Unity!
Unity and VRChat SDK
You should have your Unity latest stable version already set up. Then, upload your avatars to VRChat Cross-Platform (PC and Oculus Quest).
With the 3D character imported, we will add a new component called VRC_Avatar Descriptor.
Look for the LipSync section, you can change its mode. We will use Viseme Blend Shape.
Now you need to input the correct mesh with the blend shapes. Then, all the blend shapes you created should fill the spaces automatically. If this doesn’t happen, either you selected the wrong mesh or it’s time to go one by one putting each!
Make sure you leave no space in blank, since it won’t work if you do.
Now, where do I put the blink shape key? Just a bit below, in the Eye Look menu, set it up exactly as in the image below and there you go!
Once it's finished, you can upload the character like you usually do, and that’s it. Easy peasy!
More realism, more immersion!
Blend shapes visemes offer an incredible means to infuse your avatars with life in VRChat. I wholeheartedly recommend integrating them into your upcoming avatars.
Creating the necessary shapes, depending on the model, typically takes around 30 minutes to an hour, but the end results are truly impressive.
The process of crafting these blend shapes is immensely enjoyable, so don't hesitate to give them a try! Your avatars will thank you for the added expressiveness and realism they bring to the virtual world.