Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Facial animation is one of the hardest tasks for a 3d-modeler, probably more difficult than any other kinematic representation, since the human face is so often recognized as a deeply expressive communicator. For example, consider the oddity of the faces featured in the following videos:

Meanwhile, software engineers at Image Metrics (the people behind Grand Theft Auto 1-5) have been working on this issue for several years, and most recently released the results of Emily Project which can be seen in the following video.

The Times of London commented on the video in a recent article:

"Emily - the woman in the above animation - was produced using a new modeling technology that enables the most minute details of a facial expression to be captured and recreated. She is considered to be one of the first animations to have overleapt a long-standing barrier known as 'uncanny valley' - which refers to the perception that animation looks less realistic as it approaches human likeness.

In the past, computer game animators have purposely simplified their creations so that the audience realizes immediately that the figures are not real. Previous methods for animating faces involved putting dots on a face and observing the way the dots move, but Image Metrics analyzes facial movements at the level of individual pixels in a video, meaning that the subtlest variations - such as the way the skin creases around the eyes, can be tracked.

Researchers at a Californian company which makes computer-generated imagery for Hollywood films started by filming an employee talking. They then broke down down the facial movements down into dozens of smaller movements for the appearance of reality.

'Ninety per cent of the work is convincing people that the eyes are real,' Mike Starkenburg, chief operating officer of Image Metrics, said. 'The subtlety of the timing of eye movements is a big one. People also have a natural asymmetry - for instance, in the muscles in the side of their face. Those types of imperfections aren't that significant but they are what makes people look real.'"


Blogger chris shusta said...

I was just reading about this and it's pretty fucking smart. The video on their website (with the 2 faces side-by-side) is a pretty good demonstration, but I'd much rather see it with a wrinklier face with more subtlety. Also, the face rig doesn't seem to hit its extremes hard enough.

August 19, 2008 at 10:05 AM  

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