Image Metrics And The USC Institute For Creative Technologies Put A New Face On Photo-Realism With Animated CG Character


Leading Facial Animation Solution Provider to Unveil "Emily" at Siggraph Tradeshow in Los Angeles August 12 - 14, 2008

Last Updated: August 8, 2008 7:01 pm GMT
(Los Angeles, California--August 8, 2008) Image Metrics, the leading provider of facial animation solutions to the entertainment industry, partnered with Paul Debevec of the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies to create a completely photo-realistic computer-generated (CG) animated face.

ICT's facial scanning system was used to create a computer-generated replica of actress Emily O'Brien's face at high-definition (HD) resolution, while Image Metrics brought the CG character to life by capturing, tracking and animating the actress' exact performance. "Emily" will make her worldwide debut in Image Metrics' booth #1229 at Siggraph 2008 in Los Angeles, August 12 - 14. A behind-the-scenes Tech Talk on Emily's creation will be given on August 13, from 1-2:30pm, in Room 2, Hall G.

"Our goal was to create a completely convincing, animated computer-generated face," explained David Barton, Image Metrics' producer. "Given the caliber of creative work and talent in our industry, it was a challenging goal, but one we were confident we could accomplish by pairing our technology with the facial scanning system developed by Paul Debevec and his team at ICT. The unmatched level of detail delivered by ICT's facial scans perfectly complemented the power and accuracy of Image Metrics' technology to achieve a new level of believability in facial animation."

Pore-Level Facial Scanning
ICT employed its high-resolution face scanning process to capture O'Brien in 35 facial poses directed by Image Metrics. This newest process from the ICT Graphics Lab places the actor inside a sphere of LED lights, illuminating the talent with a set of polarized spherical gradient illumination patterns while a pair of high-resolution digital cameras takes around 15 photographs in under three seconds.

These patterns allow the shine of the skin to be photographed independently from the main skin tone so that precise colors and characteristics can be calculated at hundreds of measurements per square millimeter. The resulting CG models provide unprecedented detail of natural facial expressions - down to skin pores and fine wrinkles - with perfectly aligned shading information that allows photo-real faces to be rendered under any illumination and viewpoint with standard rendering packages.

"It's exciting to see the results of combining our high-resolution face scanning with the animation pipeline Image Metrics has created," said Debevec, associate director for graphics research at ICT. "This collaborative research project means that, for the first time, we're seeing the realism of our face models truly come alive on screen, with a pipeline that would be straightforward to apply to future projects."

Image Metrics' Animation Pipeline
Image Metrics' proprietary facial animation solutions are used in the entertainment industry to translate actors' exact performances onto digital characters in games, film and television. Using no markers or makeup, Image Metrics captures facial performances using standard or high-definition video. Its computer vision technology then analyzes that captured performance pixel-by-pixel, including subtle eye and mouth movements, and applies that information to a 3D model. The entire process is faster and more cost-effective than more traditional methods.

Image Metrics began planning the Emily project in March 2008. After Image Metrics developed a script for the animation, the ICT Graphics Lab scanned O'Brien to develop the template for her CG double. A team of eight artists working part-time on the internal project then built a custom rig for the Emily character, captured O'Brien's performance with video and applied it to the CG character with its proprietary facial animation solution. Once the capture and rigging processes were finalized, the 90-second animation took just one week to complete.

"While we often work with character models developed internally or by our clients, ICT's scanning method is currently the only method capable of acquiring high-resolution, pore-level detail directly from a live subject," explained Barton. "By coupling their system with our own easy-to-use animation solutions for translating the actor's exact performance onto the CG model, we're proud to have set a new standard for realistic facial animation."

About Image Metrics
Image Metrics provides superior facial animation solutions to the interactive entertainment, film and television industries. Developed by a team of computer vision Ph.D.s, Image Metrics rapidly re-creates facial performances without markers or makeup, achieving levels of realism and fidelity that are unparalleled in computer graphics. Image Metrics' solutions enjoy widespread adoption by some of the best-known production studios in the entertainment world, including Digital Domain, Rockstar Games and Sony Computer Entertainment. Image Metrics has offices in Santa Monica, California and Manchester, U.K. Company investors include Saffron Hill Ventures.

About the USC Institute for Creative Technologies
The University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies is a research institute where high-tech tools and classic story telling come together to pioneer new ways to teach and to train. From virtual humans to games and simulations, ICT is revolutionizing learning with interactive digital media. As one of several ICT research groups, the Graphics Lab develops techniques for creating and displaying photorealistic computer graphics of people, objects and environments. ICT Graphics Lab technologies have been used in feature films including Spider Man 2, King Kong and Superman Returns. Their 360 Degree Light Field Display won the Best Emerging Technology award at SIGGRAPH in 2007.

Please visit the page below to view the video:

The face in this video is entirely CG, while the rest of the shot is live-action. If you'd like more information on the project, just let us know. You can also learn more about Image Metrics at


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