Animating Facial Features & Expressions

B. Fleming

Published by Charles River Media, 1998
ISBN 10: 1886801819 / ISBN 13: 9781886801813
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Synopsis: Creating realistic animated characters and creutures is a major challenge for computer artists, but getting the facial features and expressions right is probably the most difficult aspect. In this book, readers will find an in-depth resource to guide them through the entire process from the history of facial animation and anatomical structures, to expressing motions and speech visually. The text features comprehensive character studies showing detailed examples of 38 human and cartoon facial expressions through to timing charts and side-by-side comparisons. It also includes detailed instruction on how to recreate these expressions using weighted morph targets, providing the actual target percentages to achieve the expressions. A reference guide shows you how the weighted morph targets should appear so you can create perfect facial expression morphs. On the CD are front and side templates of each expression so you can recreate them with your characters. The book also covers comprehensive instruction on lip-synch technology and the products available. It explains how to create visual expressions for speech and sound under various conditions (for example, excited, sad, stuttering). The author covers his own techniques for determining proper facial expressions to use in your scene in order to to guarantee that the viewers are absorbed in your animation. He also reveals the truth behind the relationship between the eyes and mouth in facial expression. The book goes on to look at the human head, illustrating precise techniques for ensuring the proper proportions and placement of details. In addition, it reveals little know facts about the proper movement of the jaw and facial tissue during expression. Bill covers many elements of proper skeletal and tissue movement so your character's skin appears to be moving over the skeletal structure beneath, rather than the actual bones mo moving, which is a common problem with 3D facial animation.

Review: The challenges of modeling and animating realistic faces and emotions with computer software are confronted and easily worked through in Animating Facial Features & Expressions. If you have any interest in computer-based character animation, this book will be a valuable addition to your reference shelf. The book starts with an exploration of the anatomy of the head, including underlying facial muscles and proportions; continues with examples of displaying different emotions; and ends with a series of appendices that list different expressions and emotions for human faces, cartoon faces, and nonhuman (monster) faces.

Of all the material, the most important section discusses speech/lip sync animation. Imagine the difficulties not only in creating a realistic sculpture but animating it as well. While you will encounter the normal problems of modeling everything within proper proportions, you must also constantly alter the facial features and mouth shapes with very specific timing to achieve realistic-looking movement. If either the timing or proportions stray from the given norm, the illusion is shattered.

The author starts with an explanation of phonemes (defined as "the sounds we hear in speech patterns"), how they sound, and how they look (in terms of mouth/lips/tongue shapes). A timing chart is then created, also known as reading a sound track, where the specific frame numbers are noted for each phoneme. With this in hand, it then becomes a simple matter of producing the proper shapes at the proper times to create a talking character.

Good facial expression and lip-sync animation remain anything but "a simple matter." A practiced ear is required for reading a soundtrack, and a trained eye for creating the facial features that match those shapes. However, this book is an excellent way to start tackling the problems involved.

One more note: the book is completely nonsoftware-specific, to the point where not one software package is mentioned. This may keep the book generic and focused on important issues, but it also places the burden of properly modeling and manipulating any faces or heads (not to mention software) in the hands of the reader. If you are new to 3D character animation, you might want to better learn the features of the software application you will be using before tackling the complexities of facial animation. --Mike Caputo

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Animating Facial Features & Expressions
Publisher: Charles River Media
Publication Date: 1998
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Good
Edition: 1.

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