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Backfilling the Uncanny Valley
April 11, 2008 9:18 PM   Subscribe

Facial CG Animation is getting better. 1, 2 <<warning : noisy!!, 3, 4, 5, 6.

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posted by Dave Faris (33 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hm. It doesn't creep me out, but there are still lots of things to fix. I bet it's still firmly in the valley for some people though – I have the luxury(?) of having grown up with weird deformed faces desynchronized from their voices.
posted by blacklite at 9:29 PM on April 11, 2008


The things I'm noticing now (it doesn't matter how good you make these things, it seems, you always notice something else) seem to be lip and tongue movements. Your mouth should be in a certain position to go "ss" and "sh", etc, and the last one especially seems to get that wrong.
posted by blacklite at 9:31 PM on April 11, 2008


I was set to snark on the creepy fakeness CGI still has, but #2, 3 and 4 are pretty amazing.
They still can't seem to get the talking thing down.
posted by chococat at 9:32 PM on April 11, 2008


It may be just me, but I'm impressed that most of these don't put me off too much. It's a nice step (climb?) out of the uncanny valley. The two that put me off were the eyeless "masks" in the second to last video and the quick facial movements in the last video.
posted by flatluigi at 9:35 PM on April 11, 2008


i didn't cringe either. It still seems like talking plastic dead people though. I think if the brightened up the eyes it might help. Brighten as in make them more lively.
posted by joelf at 9:51 PM on April 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


And then there's this.
posted by aqhong at 9:56 PM on April 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


The last one puts the lie to the technically impressive first few. Even though it appears that the animation is capturing expressions, it's not, really--it's visually mimicking them. Even with a sophisticated model and animation the last one looks completely false and soulless.
posted by sonic meat machine at 9:56 PM on April 11, 2008


The last one is the oldest of the lot, made in 2006/early 2007. The others are more recent innovations.
posted by Dave Faris at 10:06 PM on April 11, 2008


Awesome post.

I'm amazed at some of the stuff they can do -- but what's really impressive is that there are deterministic math formulae behind it all. There's a science to mimicking facial expression, and that's what's so cool about it.

If this catches your interest, and you're in the SoCal area, you definitely should check out SIGGRAPH -- it's where academics and industry people show off the latest and greatest.
posted by spiderskull at 10:13 PM on April 11, 2008


#3: Michael Stipe shaved?
posted by pmbuko at 10:26 PM on April 11, 2008


It really seems like the number one hurdle they still have to get past is the fact that CG skin always looks solid and plastic. It was especially obvious in that first link, when the actress made a face which required slack skin or furrows/wrinkles in the skin the model ceased looking anything like the intended expression.
You just can't get around the fact that facial expressions are not made by the skin itself, but by the muscles underneath which the skin is loosely resting on.
posted by nightchrome at 10:31 PM on April 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sounds like a former president -- building a bridge to the future, over the uncanny valley and into the Promised Land.

That said, I'm going to be incredibly creeped out when I see one of these on a giant bus station video screen, watching me get on the bus. That's just too far.
posted by Leon-arto at 10:54 PM on April 11, 2008


For me, it's the smiles that are the most obvious giveaways.
For some reason, they've managed to make pretty much every other expression look good, but the smiles always look pretty bad to me. Something about the mouth and surrounding area just doesn't look right.
Speaking specifically about the first link, which was good in every other regard, I thought.

Also, I was hoping there'd be some facial animation in #3, just cause the texturing job on that one looked really good and it'd have been interesting to see how that would affect the realism of the facial expressions.

And they really should have put eyes or grey placeholders or...hell, anything other than just black nothingness on the "masks" in #5, cause that was kinda weird and a tiny bit creepy looking.
posted by agress at 11:02 PM on April 11, 2008


Neato. Though after watching #2, I kinda couldn't help thinking if only they had used that kind of CGI for I Am Legend, the film wouldn't have sucked quite so bad.
posted by Effigy2000 at 12:10 AM on April 12, 2008


I was just thinking what some of this reminds me of -- the portraits at Disney World/Land in the Haunted Mansion that follow you around with their eyes. There, it's just a trick lens system. Here, it could be done realtime. Why is Disney not on it?
posted by Leon-arto at 12:26 AM on April 12, 2008


I guess that the reason why #6 is different from the others is that it's actually a man-created animation, i.e. the animator (Steven Stahlberg) defines the moves after observing them in real life.
The others are motion-captured, i.e. the data points are taken directly from real-life performances, so it's more like digital rotoscoping.
posted by elgilito at 3:52 AM on April 12, 2008


Still too smooth. I suppose part of the capture process has to run the captured data through some estimation/smoothing algorithms that, for me, turn them all into zombies.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:23 AM on April 12, 2008


Seems like tongues will continue to be a particular problem. In #6 the lips seem okay but the tongue is saying "la la la". Can't stick retro-reflective markers (like #5) on your tongue, I guess... not until the actress can get a "Jody". Camera-based tracking (#2) isn't a total solution either.

("Jody"? Anyone?)
posted by rlk at 5:47 AM on April 12, 2008


The progress that has been made in the last ten years is amazing. Even the "plastic" skin has become quite believable in a lot of cases. I agree with agress: the mouth (especially the smile) is the giveaway. There's still not enough subtlety.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:11 AM on April 12, 2008


Your last example was posted to YouTube in 2006, so it's a little out of date. I found a lot of this stuff pretty good, and while it was obviously CG I don't find it "Uncanny" at all, so I think they are "climbing back out" of that valley. Or maybe I've just become desensitized to it.
posted by delmoi at 8:33 AM on April 12, 2008


Yeah it's like there's a sort of low-pass filter applied to everything - any small, fast, really subtle motions get left out. But the mo-caps where pretty cool.
posted by GuyZero at 9:04 AM on April 12, 2008


It's just great that these faces look exactly like those I see in magazine ads and tv commercial. I mean, they look so real. D'oh!
posted by ddaavviidd at 10:14 AM on April 12, 2008


The combination of CGI and pornography will birth some of the most interesting fetishes.
posted by iamck at 3:09 PM on April 12, 2008


Will? Has. NSFW!
posted by Dave Faris at 5:36 PM on April 12, 2008


Oh god no... I wish I could unsee that.
posted by GuyZero at 6:06 PM on April 12, 2008


One more step to the complete digitization of movies I think. what.. another 5 - 10 years and we'll have our first movies that are completely animated but not marketed as being animated, and will be hard to tell.
posted by edgeways at 6:25 PM on April 12, 2008


That truly looked amazing. But then, I thought Beowulf looked great too...
posted by bauermaster at 1:05 AM on April 13, 2008


Serious question: what's the point of doing this?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:15 AM on April 13, 2008


Well, the most common use these days is to pull actors into videogames. In the 90's, they used live action cutscenes because the graphics weren't up to par. (Although, apparently Electronic Arts is still partying like it's 1995.)

Another reason is to make live-action movie special effects look more realistic. As with #2, it'd be tricky to make a man morph into a green Hulk using make-up and film effects. Not that it hasn't been tried (1912), and tried (1941). and tried (1981), with varying degrees of success.

But even less dramatically, if you use this method, and you decide sometime down in post production that you want the scene to be look another way -- everything from the costuming, to the actors, to the camera angles, to the setting -- it wouldn't involve a total reshoot, which would be massively expensive. Just juggle a couple of numbers and re-render. I think that's probably the holy grail of this process.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:27 AM on April 13, 2008 [1 favorite]


Serious question: what's the point of doing this?

What's the point of art at all then?

There is an art to this, and craftsmanship, be it digital and programmatic.
posted by juiceCake at 8:40 AM on April 13, 2008


Thanks for the response Dave.

Having recently watched bits of King Kong, I was impressed by the awesome effects, even as I found the use of them overdone and overwrought, done mostly because "this'll look so cool" as opposed to enhancing the story.

At this point, as CGI continues to race towards being ever more realistic, I'm waiting for that race to be over and the filmmakers fascination with it to mature into realizing that "hey, it's just code and pixels, we can do ANYTHING" and then turn out some really amazing stories, similar to how painters eventually realized "hey it's just paint, and since photography can mimici reality, we can go hog wild!"
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:50 AM on April 13, 2008


What's the point of art at all then?

Individual pieces and movements usually have a reason.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:04 AM on April 13, 2008


Just came across this.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:34 PM on May 5, 2008


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