Computer Graphics World

September/October 2013

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Page 9 of 52

Motion Capture If eyes are the window to the soul, then the face surely is the front door. For many years, CG artists and animators have tried to reproduce human faces digitally and to produce creatures with human emotions that play across their faces. Those with a keen eye for detail have painstakingly copied expressions frame by frame from video onto digital characters. And for many years, CG scientists have helped make that task easier and faster by creating camera- and sensor-based systems that capture, with various degrees of accuracy and artistry, human faces in motion – thus, giving the artists and animators a digital starting point based in reality. We've seen the results in film – from the first major attempt to reproduce actors' faces in Final Fantasy (2001), through Robert Zemeckis' body of work from The Polar Express (2004) through Beowulf (2007) created at Sony Pictures Imageworks, to A Christmas Carol (2009) from ImageMovers Digital. Also in 2009, Digital Domain's performance of the digital, aged version of Brad Pitt created for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) helped that film receive an Oscar nomination for best picture and brought home an Oscar for best visual effects. Similarly, when done well, digital characters animated using facial expressions captured from humans bring home Oscars and Oscar nominations for best visual effects and drive boxoffice success: Davy Jones created at Industrial Light & Magic for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) and the Na'vi created at Weta Digital in Avatar (2009) gave those studios Oscars for best visual effects. Weta Digital's Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and the Hulk created at ILM for The Avengers (2012) resulted in Oscar nominations for best visual effects. So, what's new? Three things: At the high end, facial motion capture and retargeting is becoming more realistic as studios and companies perfect their tools and artists become more practiced. Game engines can play more realistic characters. And at a nearly consumer level, 3D sensors, such as Microsoft's Kinect and those from PhaseSpace, combined with capture and retargeting software, are "democratizing" facial capture. The opportunity for actors to play themselves at any age, size, or shape is becoming more appealing and available as digital dopplegangers and characters become ever more realistic and costs decline. In games, sports figures look more ■ VICON'S CARA SYSTEM provides facial capture data comparable to that from body capture in an optical volume. like themselves, and warriors, aliens, and avatars can carry believable emotions – especially in cut-scenes and cinematics, but, increasingly, in gameplay. Soon, consumers will be able to create avatars that can wear their facial expressions and see expressive versions of themselves in kiosks. It's an exciting time for facial-capture products and tech- niques. As Brian Rausch, CEO of the motion-capture facility House of Moves, puts it: "We've all gotten really good at body capture. It's been 20 years now. Most body rigs tend to look roughly the same. The variations in how people apply the data are small. But faces … that's still the Wild West. Everyone has their own ideas. It's like a bunch of mad scientists blowing things up while we're out in the middle of the street. It's weird, but cool. Very cool. " The House of Moves has performers wearing markers on their faces and bodies, and captures both simultaneously in motion-capture volumes with hundreds of cameras; other times, the performers wear head-mounted cameras. "It costs a lot to surround an actor with cameras, Rausch says, "and " we can get solid information from the head-mounted cameras. But, sometimes the helmet bars get in the way. Every technical solution has a place and use. " It would be impossible for us to target everything happening with facial capture right now, but to begin coloring in the picture, we talked with several vendors and service providers in this space, with studios that continue to push the state of the art, and with a game developer that moved to a unique, low-cost solution for quickly animating dozens of faces. C G W S e p t e mb e r / O c t o b er 2 013 ■ 7

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