For years, virtual YouTubers, or VTubers, were a part of a more niche industry that only found small success in the Western world, contrary to Japan and other Asian countries where the concept originated from.
But now, that’s changed. VTubers have become more popular recently around the world. Streaming enthusiasts might already have noticed them on YouTube or Twitch with more and more appearing at the top of streaming audience rankings—and this trend likely won’t die out.
One of the reasons for this rise in popularity is technology. Creating an avatar and meeting the requirements to become a VTuber have become increasingly accessible. Today, you only need a computer, a streaming setup, and software—most of which are free—to enter this fast-evolving community. It’s entirely possible to begin without spending a single dollar and without a virtual reality setup. The quality of the software available has also improved tremendously, which offers a much more immersive experience now.
If you want to test out being a VTuber for yourself but don’t know where to begin, we’ve got you covered. Here’s the best software you can use to create content or play with a virtual character.
Avatar creation software
The first step is avatar creation—and it’s not that easy. Although it’s difficult, it’s also crucial and shouldn’t be taken lightly if you’re serious about getting into VTubing because it’s the whole foundation of your identity.
Before you create content with your virtual avatar, it’s recommended to test your avatar out in games first, such as VRChat, just to see how it’s perceived by the other players and figure out if you’re comfortable with it. Contrary to what its name might suggest, a virtual reality setup isn’t required to play this free game, but your options will be limited without one.
Published by Japan-based artists community website Pixiv, VRoid Studio played a major part in bringing virtual streaming to the world of content creation. It’s free, can be downloaded on the website or on Steam, and allows you to create your avatar from scratch. It was released last year when the trend was beginning to gain popularity in Western regions.
With this software, community figures can also post presets, which can be found on this website. Some of them are free and others authorize use for commercial purposes, but this is far from the majority of available models. The software runs both on Windows and Mac.
It’s easy to use and includes sample avatars, although it’s also possible to start from scratch. It’s simple: you choose a body model and then customize it at will. Everything from your hair and clothes to your body can be customized. It might be better to try presets for hair and clothing, though, when you’re first starting out. Otherwise, you might need to check out some tutorials. It’s also recommended to look for presets in Japanese to access more content on Booth.
Animation software is essential to creating content such as videos and streaming. It allows the user to have their movements tracked by the software to match the virtual avatar. Some of them require a webcam and others need a virtual headset, but other software that works without both of those features have appeared.
This software is popular among gaming streamers thanks to the additional features dedicated to them, on top of being free. It includes options to enable mouse-keyboard and controller animations to display action with more realism during their gaming sessions. It also supports LeapMotion, a useful accessory to make the tracking more accurate for those who are willing to pay to upgrade their stream’s quality.
VMagicMirror is also popular among content creators who don’t have or simply don’t want to use a webcam. It doesn’t require a recording video device to work, although the animations are randomly generated in this case, rather than following the user’s body movements. It still offers a lively animation with AI-generated movements, on top of lip-syncing.
VMM also features facial expressions that can be triggered by simple shortcuts or controller inputs, as well as by key phrases. Some other software options require you to keep your window active to switch expressions, so it’s a real advantage to be able to change using shortcuts for gaming sessions, in particular. It can be downloaded for free or with a $10 donation on this website.
The downside of this software, which is common for the other free software options available, is the lack of precision of its camera tracking and texture management. The tracking doesn’t always translate real movements perfectly and can jitter. Hair sometimes blends with clothes or facial elements, for example, which gives a less immersive feel. It also doesn’t translate real eye blinking, displaying virtual blinking instead.
This is one of the most recent options on the market, available on this website. It quickly gained popularity in the community since it’s free and has high tracking accuracy for free software. It also offers hand tracking through the LeapMotion accessory.
Its other strength is expression recognition. While most tracking software requires you to use shortcuts to change expressions manually, VSeeFace includes a beta service that automatically detects facial expressions.
It can be set up by recording every expression, which will enable the software to recognize the ones you want to automatically display. This can be especially useful for beginners who fear getting lost in the various shortcuts and don’t want to worry about that.
Many other features and upgrades will be regularly introduced to the software since it’s still recent and is sort of in a beta version. It’s also developed by numerous community members, which allows the software to quickly evolve.
This software’s strength lies in its accessibility, similar to VMagicMirror, since it doesn’t require a virtual reality setup to be used. On the contrary, it offers manual hand and body motions to be able to give more personality and breathe life into the avatar without using VR. It’s free and joined Steam last year.
Fortunately for beginners, the software’s website offers official tutorials to use the software to its full potential. The players who can’t use a VR setup can manually choose numerous body movements and positions, such as waving hello and running, to give more personality to their avatar. This feature is one of the main reasons why it gathers so many users. It also features body tracking for the users who own a VR setup.
In addition to the emote feature, VUP offers all the basic options, such as motion capture, background settings, and lip-syncing. It requires a camera, however.
This software is the go-to option for artistic streamers. It features pen tracking and shows the virtual avatar directly drawing on their screen, which is a great way to be immersive and engaging while doing an art stream.
Other options are included, such as the control of the pen’s position in the avatar’s hand, background, lip-syncing, and face display in a corner of the screen. The users can also choose other activities that will be shown in front of the displayed screen, such as gaming position, which can be a unique way to show your gaming sessions. The software is available here and can be downloaded as a trial version or paid version (for roughly $9.55).
If you’re willing to spend some money on a tracking software to offer the best quality to your community, Luppet can be a solution. The Japan-based software is one of the main references among the VTuber community and costs 6,000 yen (around $57). A demo can also be used, but it’ll show a watermark on the screen, which can be disturbing if you want to look professional when creating content.
The main strength of Luppet is that its motion tracking is more accurate, smoother, and less jittery than other free software. It also has all of the basic features required. The user interface has a good aesthetic and is intuitive, which makes it relatively easy to use without needing to ggoet through tutorials. The textures of hair, clothes, and facial features are cleaner, too. These are small details, but if you’re a perfectionist, you’ll clearly see the difference.
Luppet includes background, lip-syncing, character, and webcam calibration settings, and supports LeapMotion. It also features a great range of expressions that can be triggered with shortcuts and can even be mixed by pressing several keys at once. So if you press angry and joy shortcuts at the same time, for example, the avatar will show a mixture of those two expressions. This can give a better sense of immersion and make the avatar more lively. It requires some practice to be used to its full potential, but it’s particularly useful for those who have some experience with VTuber software.
Changing your voice isn’t mandatory to set up your avatar, but it can also be a big part of your character. Many VTubers use voice-changing software to match their avatar better. Their most-known use is to change one’s voice to a deeper or higher voice, but it’s also possible to change it in many other ways or to slightly adjust it.
Countless free software options are available and they’re rather similar. It all comes down to what kind of change you’re looking for. Many famous streamers use VoiceMod to change their voice to add comic effects or simply to enhance the quality of their microphone. It’s easy to set up since it only requires you to switch your main microphone from the active peripheral of your recording device to VoiceMod’s. The drawback of the software is that you have to pay up to $29 to adjust your voice at will, instead of choosing extravagant presets like titan voice, baby voice and others.
For audio improvement or slight voice adjustments, Voicemeeter can be a good free option. Users can download it here and it can bring your voice to the next level, but you might need to look for some tutorials to use it well if you’re not used to sound mixing.