And the Oscar for Best Synthesized Performance Goes to ...
February 9, 2016 10:20 AM   Subscribe

New Software Can Actually Edit Actors' Facial Expressions A new software, from Disney Research in conjunction with the University of Surrey, may help cut down on the number of takes necessary, thereby saving time and money. FaceDirector blends images from several takes, making it possible to edit precise emotions onto actors’ faces.

In related news relative to Disney's desire to save money:
from January 26, 2016 Ars Technica Ex-Disney IT workers sue after being asked to train their own H-1B replacements
posted by pjsky (57 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
It starts with an emotionless baseline facial template, called the Keanu.
posted by delfin at 10:26 AM on February 9, 2016 [30 favorites]


> The FaceDirector team isn’t sure how or when the software might become commercially available.

Horror movies. Right away.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:27 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


In the future AIs will assemble films procedurally from coverage shot by robots of humans with random electrical impulses shot into their faces. Strangely the films will be about as good as ever.
posted by selfnoise at 10:28 AM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Lucas experimented with this years ago in the prequels. Once somebody shows you where people's faces morph as elements from one take or another are used it's impossible to unsee.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:30 AM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]


All well and fine until the software glitches and runs for president.
posted by ian1977 at 10:30 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


How long before this is used for PsyOps? A video of Kim Jong-un broadcast to his underground nuclear facility stating that they must blow up the compound, etc.
posted by gwint at 10:37 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Once somebody shows you where people's faces morph as elements from one take or another are used it's impossible to unsee.

.... I need a detailed guide/timeline like right now. the cgi in that film has also aged incredibly poorly which is frankly demanding a rewatch
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 10:37 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


A new software, from Disney Research in conjunction with the University of Surrey, may help cut down on the number of takes necessary, thereby saving time and money.

It's sort of striking, isn't it, how the most dehumanizing things are always couched in this sort of terribly banal language?
posted by clockzero at 10:38 AM on February 9, 2016 [21 favorites]


I wonder what a director like Kubrick would have thought or done with something like this.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:41 AM on February 9, 2016


fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit: "Lucas experimented with this years ago in the prequels."

...must have been some bugs in that version, because Hayden Christiansen was stuck on "petulant child" the whole time
posted by caution live frogs at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2016 [7 favorites]




.... I need a detailed guide/timeline like right now.

From the Independent: Star Wars: Lazy editing spotted in Revenge of the Sith
posted by cjelli at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2016 [4 favorites]


Like, is it an atrocity or a way to finally get control over the actors' performances.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wonder how long it is before actors try to put in their contracts that there can be no use of this software to alter their performance?
posted by pjsky at 10:43 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


(heh, i missed 15SIML's comment)
posted by entropicamericana at 10:43 AM on February 9, 2016


Wasn't this a plot element in the last season of Bojack Horseman?
posted by trunk muffins at 10:44 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


A new software, from Disney Research...

What kind of idiot thinks it's OK to call a new program, or piece of software, "a new software"? Was this article machine-translated from French or something?
posted by w0mbat at 10:44 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Wasn't this a plot element in the last season of Bojack Horseman?

"Well, they're animals so it's not really the same thing" is something my brain thought for long enough that I feel I must admit it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:46 AM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


The idea that emotions are composited from several different emotions, or artificially created because it is required by arbitrary, scripted circumstance?

That's how we Minnesotans live, man. We actually have a few presets. "That's different." "Oh hey now." And, of course, "I hear dem crappies are biting pretty good."
posted by maxsparber at 10:48 AM on February 9, 2016 [8 favorites]


Lazy editing spotted in Revenge of the Sith

And a year before that, in Blade: Trinity...
"Now the other thing that happened in this scene is that we needed Blade to open his eyes, and on the day, Wesley did not open his eyes. So through the miracle of modern technology, we took his eyes from another shot, and-"

"Why didn't he open them?"

"He just didn't."
posted by Iridic at 10:53 AM on February 9, 2016 [11 favorites]


CGI-Brows™
posted by Rhaomi at 10:58 AM on February 9, 2016 [10 favorites]


What kind of idiot thinks it's OK to call a new program, or piece of software, "a new software"? Was this article machine-translated from French or something?

The first place I really ran into this form was the world of suit-wearing corporate IT consultant types, of the flavor who believe that knowing the properties of actual technology is properly kept at least 3 abstraction layers beneath their PowerPoint-drenched station in life. Since then I think it's spread to neighboring (but equally fuckery-driven) domains like SaaS business and sales applications.

While so far a pretty good indicator that one should be on the alert for scam artists, I think it's pretty well destined to enter the mainstream vernacular the same way "do you have internet" has. It'll be interesting to see how long it retains that special whiff of invincible businessy cluelessness.
posted by brennen at 10:59 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


In some movies, you're not watching anything "real" other than the actors' faces anyway. You could view this as the crossing of a line, or just one more quotidian step in an inevitable series.

Besides, isn't the entire nation of Japan pretty much computer-generated holograms by now?
posted by clawsoon at 11:04 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Auto-Tune for acting? Ugh.
posted by grumpybear69 at 11:09 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am now convinced the entire history of film artistry will be defined by the development of The Close Up, Talkies and CGI-Brows.
posted by pjsky at 11:09 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, how are young people ever going to learn how actual adults behave, and feel, and read each others' emotions, and respond to each other? From looking at other kids? From looking at live adult humans? How much time do people actually spend doing that anymore?
posted by amtho at 11:10 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ah, I first encountered 'a software' and 'softwares' among young continental European online open source/hacker types, probably about five or so years ago. Perhaps earlier than that. My pedantic editor demons don't like it, but it's one of those category errors around software/program that's almost idiom so I'm content to see that petty annoyance as part of the price to pay for English's promiscuous, fickle and generous ways. (Unlike, say, 'legos', which is JUST WRONG.)

I've never noticed it among suits, and I'm fairly sensitive and unforgiving towards their Frankenstein linguistics.

Oh, the actual subject of the fpp? Meh, If it makes better movies, then why not? Everything on-screen is synthetic and a few more layers back from reality than real life.Set the dial where you like.
posted by Devonian at 11:16 AM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


...must have been some bugs in that version, because Hayden Christiansen was stuck on "petulant child" the whole time

You know, now that you mention it, the consistently vacant expressions of all the actors in every shot in every scene in every Star Wars prequel might have been for the purpose of making those morphs more seamless. Which would be a pretty strong argument against ever considering it.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:22 AM on February 9, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm imagining actors expressions starting to look like stock Disney animated character "takes". And if the software is deliberately overapplied, like Autotune for singing, does it look like the actor's imitating William Shatner?
posted by King Sky Prawn at 11:33 AM on February 9, 2016


They talk about how this can be used like a moving picture airbrush, but the fun thing will be when they use it to make things weirder, like eyes looking in different directions, and half a face sneezing.
posted by cardboard at 11:34 AM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


The existence of this software suggests intensely entertaining future possibilities. I can think of some movies I'd like to rewatch with an "acting tone" filter, or alternately the ability to use it on select scenes to create a fan edit of the movie.

If it was really really good, there could be a Robert Downey Jr. performance tweaking tool to cycle through different possible Downey performances of a script.

"Hmm ... he doesn't seem loose enough in this. Take the scene from the top, and knock it up from two martinis to three."
posted by Oso Mocoso at 11:34 AM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've seen still 3D renderings of faces that are right at the boundary of "the uncanny valley". There are real issues once they animate but the dream of the perfect actress that never has contract problems and is forever young is soon upon us.
posted by sammyo at 11:38 AM on February 9, 2016


It's sort of striking, isn't it, how the most dehumanizing things are always couched in this sort of terribly banal language?

Specifically in terms of efficiency and cost savings, usually.
posted by ryanshepard at 11:50 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Cool; now Hollywood can get down to the real business of hiring people based on looks and not talent.
posted by GospelofWesleyWillis at 11:52 AM on February 9, 2016 [6 favorites]


There are real issues once they animate but the dream of the perfect actress that never has contract problems and is forever young is soon upon us.

I think we're headed that way since FF: Spirits Within, where Aki Ross was supposed to be an "artificial actress", and would be used in other Square Pictures productions.
posted by lmfsilva at 11:56 AM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think we're headed that way since FF: Spirits Within, where Aki Ross was supposed to be an "artificial actress", and would be used in other Square Pictures productions.

I know the guy that created her head, as well as other heads for that movie. He also did the heads for "Final Flight of the Osiris." Fantastically-talented and artful dude. He didn't do the animation though.
posted by hellphish at 12:05 PM on February 9, 2016


I wonder how long it is before actors try to put in their contracts that there can be no use of this software to alter their performance?

I think a lot of actors love this stuff. A good, stubborn film editor dedicated to getting the most out of a performance is an actor's best friend. If an editor finds a way to salvage one glorious moment out of an otherwise bum take and bring that into the final cut — whether it's by using artful edits to isolate that moment and drop it in as an insert or by digitally Franken-shopping the whole scene — there's no way an actor is going to be displeased by that.

I have a suspicion this kind of editing technique can be overused (see the Prequel Trilogy as well as some Judd Apatow-style comedies) but employed in moderation it's not that much more drastic than a lot of tools contemporary film editors have at their disposal.
posted by Mothlight at 12:08 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


First order of business?
posted by aeshnid at 12:10 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Another thing to keep in mind is that only bad CGI is bad. Good CGI you don't even notice is there.
posted by hellphish at 12:11 PM on February 9, 2016 [3 favorites]


First order of business?

Whoever can CG the RBF out of a Vader mask should be a shoo-in for the Special Effects Oscar nom.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:29 PM on February 9, 2016


Yet another thing to keep in mind is that expressive CGI is expensive. It takes a lot of CGI artists to tediously move faces and bodies around in the subtle ways that make emotion seem real. It's worth it if you're comparing it to, say, building actual giant robots, or directing an actual tiger, or sending actors out into an actual hurricane, or building Mordor, or deciding whether to actually knock down the CN tower or just scrub it out.

But when you're building characters - even humanoid animals which cheat their way around the uncanny valley - you're talking about paying dozens of talented digital artists for many months of work. That gets expensive fast.
posted by clawsoon at 12:30 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's a bit about the making of Rocket in the Guardians of the Galaxy extras, and how his performance was the result of MANY people contributing. There were the vocal bits, plus the on-set actors, the movements of the raccoon they used as a model, the animators, the directors... That was not a money-saving notion.

I will also note that being able to order a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger digitally inserted into every role is a minor plot point in the great Mark Leyner novel, Et Tu, Babe which came out in 1992 or so.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:40 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Related, already on the market: Premiere's Morph Cut feature, a "video transition tool that uses interpolation and face tracking to make jumps cuts more seamless."
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:42 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Related, already on the market: Premiere's Morph Cut feature, a "video transition tool that uses interpolation and face tracking to make jumps cuts more seamless."

Just for the record, these editorial tools aren't new. Avid Media Composer, the de facto standard editing system for TV and feature film work, has had a very similar feature called Fluid Morph for more than 10 years.
posted by Mothlight at 1:03 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fuckin' Disney, cutting into my OT again.
posted by nevercalm at 1:06 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Clone High had a joke where they said no actors have eyebrows, they are always added in post so they are able to guarantee the right expressions are being performed.
posted by OwlBoy at 2:26 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


That would explain Matt Smith.
posted by lmfsilva at 3:12 PM on February 9, 2016


All well and fine until the software glitches and runs for president.

An the new president of the United States , I present you........ Donald Dddd.. sorry, T.....
posted by Burn_IT at 3:38 PM on February 9, 2016


Auto-toon
posted by zippy at 3:49 PM on February 9, 2016


This silly movie predicted this scenario--well, beyond it, even--almost forty years ago.
posted by zardoz at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Listen to Me Marlon (2015)
posted by lazycomputerkids at 4:38 PM on February 9, 2016


This silly movie predicted this scenario--well, beyond it, even--almost forty years ago.

What I didn't find odd about Looker at the time (hey, I was only like twelve when they started showing it on HBO), but now seems deeply weird, is that they've got flawless computer-generated humans moving around and talking in a completely lifelike fashion, which is the really, really hard part...and then they've got actual physical sets and props (which would be much easier to do in CGI) that they composite the CGI actors into in real time using actual video cameras.

It just seems like an amazingly Byzantine way to go about the whole thing.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 6:03 PM on February 9, 2016


Another thing to keep in mind is that only bad CGI is bad. Good CGI you don't even notice is there.

Even the best CGI is good for about two or three years before it starts to suck. And, unlike practical special effects, they're not even bad in interesting ways -- they're just artificial and boring.

There's an entire genre of big-budget films these days that have lifespans shorter than newsprint.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 6:55 PM on February 9, 2016 [2 favorites]


Even the best CGI is good for about two or three years before it starts to suck.

I really love practical effects, and I hate a lot of the overt CGI you see in film these days, but c'mon. Jurassic Park, Terminator II, and The Abyss are all still interesting visually. So is, frex, Toy Story. Do you really think Fury Road will look like shit to all of us in a decade? Somehow I am kind of doubting it.
posted by brennen at 8:36 PM on February 9, 2016 [1 favorite]


Terminator 2 is getting a little long in the tooth, and so is The Abyss in spots. Jurassic Park still looks good. And those are all around the time CGI really got good. A lot of blockbuster-level CGI after that, say, from about 1998 and onwards, will still look good forever, I think. At least the stuff that aims for photorealism and simulating actual things that might happen. When you go off into the fantastic, things can get old faster.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:53 PM on February 9, 2016


Jeff: We at Miramount, want to... want to scan you. All of you - your body, your face, your emotion, your laughter, your tears, your climaxing, your happiness, your depressions, your... fears, longings. We want to sample you, we want to preserve you, we want... all this, this... this thing, this thing called... "Robin Wright".

Robin Wright: What will you do with this... thing ? That you call Robin Wright?

Jeff: We'll do all the things that your Robin Wright wouldn't do.

(The Congress, 2013)
posted by sapagan at 10:53 PM on February 9, 2016


What kind of idiot thinks it's OK to call a new program, or piece of software, "a new software"? Was this article machine-translated from French or something?

It only sounds awkward because of the indefinite article. That usually makes my brain think "not a native English speaker or perhaps they're trying to sound twee, but I don't care because I decided to stop judging people as idiots for silly shit like that at some point in my twenties."
posted by aydeejones at 8:45 AM on February 10, 2016


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