Develop continues its profiles of emerging and leading technology
What is it?: A marker-less facial animation package that leverages video capture technology
Company: Image Metrics
Price: See website
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Image Metrics’ marker-less facial capture tool Faceware has now been in development for over a decade, but that doesn’t mean it’s anywhere near an evolutionary dead end.
In fact, the new 3.0 update is the most significant to the animation solution yet, which takes Image Metrics’ popular technology from service to software, giving far more creative control to its users.
The fundamental workings of Faceware 3.0 are simple. It utilises a marker-less video analysis technology and an artist driven performance transfer toolset that lets actors work without restriction, and developers capture using ordinary camera equipment.
Allowing the application of captured data to any rig, it promises to deliver high quality results quickly, and with minimum disruption to any studio embracing Faceware for the first time.
For the Image Metrics team, making Faceware 3.0 available as ‘software as a service’ was a no brainer.
“Offering Faceware as a product is so much more attractive to so many more people, because all creative decisions are made by the studio,” says the company’s technical account director Peter Busch.
“We’ve been doing this so long, it’s also got to the point where we know this is proven. It’s absolutely battletested to the point that we know it works, which is why we’re confident to put it on the web for free.”
Developers working with Faceware need only part with cash at the processing stage, either per-job or through a subscription.
Processing sees captured performances uploaded as digital video files through Image Metrics own secure cloud-based portal. The performances are then delivered as an Image Metrics Performance Data (IMPD) file, which artists can import into Faceware to drive poses they set on their rigs, before defining the relationship of actor to character.
Image Metrics, which also still operates as a straight up facial animation service provider using Faceware technology, has also introduced a number of new features to the 3.0 update, the most substantial of which are its automatic pose suggestion functionality and its shared pose database.
The new ‘auto pose’ feature lets animators reduce production readiness by highlighting the most extreme video performance frames which need to be added as relationship poses. With the poses set in place, re-target results are delivered fast, while rapid iterations of the poses produce additional results in near real-time.
Meanwhile, the shared pose database lets lead animators establish a character prior to animation beginning, in a move designed to increase efficiency and consistency.
Poses can be committed to a network pool which artists working on all subsequent performances of a given character will be able to access. At that point Faceware 3.0 is able to deliver an initial animated result onto the rig before any artistic iteration.
Other updates include a new character set-up feature within the re-targeting toolset, a pose-based retargeting interface that lets artists set the relationship between the actor’s performance and the desired animated result on the character, and curve refinement that allows animators to take results output from the re-targeting algorithm and adjust them to suit the intended usage.
For those looking for a facial animation solution that negates the need for investing in the expense and time drain typically associated with marker-based motion capture, Faceware’s unobtrusive offering may deliver just the solution they are after.