Next-Gen Avatar Captures Facial Expression

Photo: Image Metrics and Anthony Verducci

That's Glenn Derene of Popular Mechanics, who turned himself into an "emoting" avatar (i.e. with facial expressions), courtesy of a new generation of motion capture software by Image Metrics:

Image Metrics focuses on one of the traditional weaknesses of motion capture: natural facial expression. For his face to be rendered with conventional motion capture, an actor would have a series of dots painted on as reference points for postproduction software to later attach a digital “skin” to follow his expressions. This technique was used to great effect in the Pirates of the Caribbean sequels, in which Bill Nighy played the aquatic Davy Jones, complete with a beard of slithering octopus tentacles. Nevertheless, painting a face full of markers can be as time consuming and laborious as traditional makeup work, and the back-end CGI is time intensive and takes a lot of processing power.

Tracking all aspects of a face’s motion (including eyes and lips, which are difficult to attach markers to), Image Metrics then sets its software loose to automatically map that motion to a template character. Changes in the actor’s expression automatically create changes in the expression of the avatar. Here at PM headquarters, we filmed a close-up video of my face with a garden-variety camcorder (OK, not that garden variety—this is our test lab after all). We then e-mailed the movie file to Image Metrics, who used it for the video above to turn me into what I can only assume was the company’s most embarrassing set of characters. (with a pretty cool video) - Thanks Matt Sullivan!

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