Source: Pixiv Entry on Virtual YouTubers
Virtual YouTuber, also known as Vtuber, is one of the hottest trends on the otaku side of YouTube. First we have the so called Four Heavenly Kings including Kizuna AI, Siro, Mirai Akari, Kaguya Luna, and Nekomasu. Later, hundreds and hundreds of different VTubers made their debut – Overlord’s mobile game Mass for the Dead has a VTuber, crowdingfunding site Greenfunding has a VTuber, and even Fist of the North Star has a VTuber. Looks like being a VTuber has never been easier, but the reality is actually the opposite.
▍The Authentic VTubing
Thanks to our knowledgeable friends here at QooApp and a little investigating, it turns out that creating and running a Vtuber channel can be quite a large and expensive operation. Some of the required staff for a Vtuber might include a character designer, 3D modeler, illustrator, animators, and animation supervisors for the virtual aspects of the Vtuber’s avatar. That’s not all however, Vtuber production also requires a camera crew, lighting team, and 3D software expert to properly capture the actions and expressions for the Vtuber.
And last but not least of course, a seiyuu is necessary to play the star role. The necessary resources to create and run a Vtuber channel can be quite daunting and cost much more than a typical YouTube channel. For those who find themselves camera shy, being a Vtuber seems like an impossible goal.
VRChat came out in 2017 as one of the more popular options for independent VTuber. While a VR headset is not required to play or interact with others online, the game does allow for full body motion capture. Should VTuvers invest in both a VR headset and tracking system (which can cost up to around $1,400 USD for a device such as the HTV Vive Pro Kit), they would have full control over their virtual avatar. And with the help of another user or even with a clever setup in game, they could use VRChat to create their own Vtuber videos. Combining this with custom content such as anime character avatar, there are creators who have managed to showcase their talents and gain popularity.
Watch this small Platelet own the dancefloor in VRChat!
▍VTubing for All
While VRChat isn’t as expensive as a full Vtuber production, it can still be pricey for the average user. A more accessible alternative that came out recently is Custom Cast (カスタムキャスト), a free app by Dwango Entertainment for both Apple and Android smartphones. With it, users can customize premade virtual avatars and create their very own Vtuber. Once the user has their avatar ready, they can select a background environment and then begin filming. Custom Cast will utilize the smartphone’s camera to track the user’s face and perform basic lip syncing using the phone’s microphone. There are different poses that the user can set for their avatar and if they are using an iPhone X or newer model, Custom Cast will even track the user’s blinking!
While one of the benefits of Custom Cast is the ability to easily create a Vtuber, one of the biggest draws for the app is the ability to stream a video directly as the user’s virtual avatar. Utilizing the Nicocas app, Custom Cast can live stream directly to Niconico. When the user is broadcasting live, Custom Cast tracks the user in real time, matching their head movements with their avatar and lip syncing based on the user’s speech. The final product is a live stream of their virtual self that functions just like a video selfie.
Custom Cast does work as a quick and easy way to try out the world of Vtubing. However, it is rather limited in its levels of customization and applications. When designing a virtual avatar, you can fine tune the character’s proportions and there is even an in-depth level of hair customization. Unfortunately, there are not that many types of clothing, accessories, and colors to select from. So it is difficult to create a completely unique avatar of your own.
As for recording, Custom Cast does a decent job at tracking the user’s head, but in several tests the lip syncing was exceptionally simplistic and would sometime miss a few words (while definitely not a deal-breaker, it was certainly noticeable and worth mentioning). In addition, the app is designed for selfie style videos, so the variety of video content one can create is most likely going to be limited.
Testing Out the App: Our Custom Vtuber (Left) and a Testing of the Recording Feature (Right)
Custom Cast might not be as elaborate and in-depth when compared to a full-fledged Vtuber production, but as a free smartphone application, it has the benefit of allowing everyone and anyone to give Vtubing a try. And even though options such as VRChat and Custom Cast are not perfect, the release of accessible virtual avatars is definitely beneficial as individuals can express their Vtubing creativity with limited production and budget restrictions. Let’s hope that with the release of Custom Cast, more talented VTubers are discovered!
We are looking forward to seeing your creation!
• The World of Virtual YouTubers
Graphic Designer and Illustrator, gamer addicted to JRPGs and rhythm games, always hanging out with his cats and building up those social links!