Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Achmed & IPOD

*sidenote* Do you think these IPOD commercials were influenced by Prince Achmed?

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

No Need for Faces...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The pictures pretty much speak for themselves. These are stills taken from the animation feature entitled 'Prince Achmed' by Lotte Reiniger. This amazing animation uses only cutout silhouettes and yet effectively portrays complex emotions through the movement and interactions of the characters.

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Face Robot

Face Robot is a CGI/Motion Capture software used for animating faces.
Face Robot simplifies the complex process of preparing the face for animation by creating organic skin movement as you animate. As a result, artists have extremely precise control over their characters and are able to realize lifelike face animation more quickly and efficiently.

Thomas Kang, the chief architect of the program, will be presenting the software and his research during our seminar panel on October 10th (he also happens to be my 3D/Softimage professor this semester).

Check out these demos:

As motion capture technology becomes increasingly efficient and affordable, we're seeing more and more directors abandon big-budget live-action films in favor of animation, most notably, Robert Zemeckis.

Will CGI eventually replace fussy actors in Hollywood?

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Monday, September 24, 2007

A comment on Elective Physiognomies

It is evident in the media that there is a certain appearance and behavior associated with certain types of characters. In a medium that does not have the luxury of time (anywhere from a 10 second commercial spot to a 2 hour feature film), the contributors of our media do not have time for character building. They have a message or story they want to portray and they need to make it as easy on their audience s possible.- to create a 'comfortable fiction'. Using a stereotype for characters can be an easy way to get an idea across, however, can lead to negative results. In line with mass media theories, Media Influence discusses the ways in which the media effects our perception of the world around us and eachother. To attribute certain physical characteristics to specific types of characters can, and evidently already does, cause a prejudice of people in our minds and alters how we perceive others and ourselves.

Even though I feel I am a little off topic here (sorry guys) just wanted to comment on it.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Communication and Evolution

I believe that facial expression is primordially about communication. Even though there is strong correlation between facial expression and emotion, some people suppress the facial expressions from their emotions, maybe because they don't want others to know how they feel or because they are unable of externalizing their emotions, so could say that facial expression is the tool to communicate those emotions.

When we are born we are received by our mother's smile, and after that we go through constant reinforcement of those facial expressions and emotions.

We create neural connections that hardwire the relationship between an emotion and its correspondent facial expression. We learn what it is to smile and what it means, and to frown, and every other expression.

I believe facial expression is an advanced tool of communication developed through evolution, only possessed by the more evolved organisms, or some might argue that only by humans.

You be the judge of whether animals are capable of emotions and of communicating them through facial expression:

It is also interesting that facial expression is so primordial that we only need very few cues to recognize something as a face. It makes sense then that we see "faces in the clouds" or that we might see a rock and think that it resembles George Washington or somebody that is very characteristic. We can see this principle applied to character design for example:

It is also interesting to note that even though we can recognize such simple things as faces, facial expressions can be extremely complex. The Mona Lisa is a prime example of how facial expression can be used to convey emotions that are much more complex than anger or happiness.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Elective Physiognomies

Kathy sent me the link to this artist named, John Tonkin.
On his interactive website, he explores Elective Physiognomies:

Physiognomy is the reading of a person's character from the physical features of their face. Historically physiognomical studies consisted of drawings of faces accompanied by a written analysis.

Tonkin's research explores the question of cultural, psychological, and genetic identity. On Tonkin's website, you can take a survey, which allows you to pick from a line-up of 5 digitally manipulated versions of the artist's face and assign them character attributes based on their physical features. It's a fun survey.

Perhaps animators should study facial structure and physiognomy in order to create believable characters. For example, if our character is shy, will they look a certain way? Does a shy person have petite features? Artists should be aware of how an audience will perceive their characters in order to effectively communicate their ideas.

Based on Tonkin's survey, I decided to compile a physiognomical (?) analysis of my own, only I picked from a cartoon line-up:


Least Intelligent:


Least Introverted:


Least Trustworthy:

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Emotional Rejects

Emotions are something film makers have tried to control in their viewers for years. Using the powers of emotional resonance and emotional contagions they can make you feel a certain way about a certain character or experience an emotional reaction to an on screen event.

One of the directors that i relate most to being able to totally mess with their audiences emotions is Rob Zombie. The scene that best shows his exceptional skill is the final scene in 'The Devil's Rejects'. Throughout the whole movie you're witnessing the outrageously violent acts of the main characters building up emotional hatred towards them, but the final scene is shot in such a way that most viewers end up being tricked in to feeling sorry and rooting for the murderers.

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Less is more

The human face is very nuanced indeed. Can you recognize which smiles are genuine and which are fake?

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Regarding Facial Expressions of Emotion

Was just thinking about how emotion is expressed through one's face and whether or not it is a universally understood action. The following evidence is based on Facial Expressions of Emotion: An Old Controversy and New Findings (Elkman, P. et al). I summarized it:

One debate among scholars, mainly in the social sciences, is whether facial gestures are emotion specific and inherent in our physiology, or whether they are socially learned and culturally variable. From about 1920 to the 1960s, the later was the popular notion and it was theorized that there was no fixed relation between making an expression and what it stood to signify. However, in the 70s, as a result of further exploration into study of the topic, it became more evident that, cross-culturally, the expressions made with the face can be interpreted as expressing certain types of emotion. Most studies analyzed gestures expressing enjoyment, anger, fear, sadness, disgust and surprise.

There was also concern with the difference between emotion-induced expression and a management of expressions in social context. Some studies between Americans and Japanese participants showed the same basic expressions induced by emotion, but that the expressions that were induced in a social context seemed to be more culturally influenced. For example, according to the study cited by Ekman, Japanese participants masked negative expressions with a smile more often than Americans when in the company of others.

The article also touches on the muscles in the face used to create each expression and the physiologically reactions measured from each facial gesture. It is promoted in this argument that there is a central connection between the facial muscles used and other areas in the brain directing the physiological changes that occur during emotion. It was noted that when emotion was 'faked' that certain muscles in the face that worked during emotion-induced gesture, did not move.

So just wondering your thoughts on this. I am thinking that more research and understanding must be done in this area of human expression and muscular/physiological reaction before a computer can come close to simulating it. Maybe, maybe not?

Dr. William McClure discusses the emotional development of the brain during our seminar panel:

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Kuleshov Effect

Concerning emotional resonance in cinema the Kuleshov Effect is an important concept. It rests on the theory of montage and the effect that film editing has on evoking emotions from a viewer. It is not simply the content of a scene or the expression on the character's face, but the way in which images are cut together that can induce a feeling from the audience.

His original experiment used shots of the face of actor Ivan Mozzhukhin, in which the actor's expression did not change. Edited next to shots of different items he appeared to be 'looking at', (a bowl of soup, a girl and a coffin) the emotion
the character was feeling was interpreted in terms of hunger, desire or grief. Although I was not able to find any original photos from the Kuleshov experiment, here is an example of this effect found on You Tube:

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Sunday, September 9, 2007

It's All in the Eyes

Although digital technology is growing more sophisticated, 3D artists still struggle to create believable depth within their characters. As 3d becomes more realistic and complex, do the characters lose their general/universal appeal? Can the problem be fixed by increasing technology and motion capture abilities?

Charlie Brown only has two dots for eyes.

Polar Express and the Uncanny Valley

Adam Baroody , a character animator and technical director, addresses these issues on his webpage. He believes that the eyes are the window to the soul; therefore they need more attention in order to convey life. In the past animators have spent most of their time on gesture and movement but haven't devoted as much time to studying the eyeball and how it moves (when they're sad, how tears form, etc...). Any thoughts?

Thomas Kang answers these questions during our panel:

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From Fine Art to Cinema

Face Gestures:





The Passion of Joan of Arc


The Godfather

The Incredibles

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Welcome to our USC Animation seminar website and blog!

Dave Damant
Steven Day
Deborah Allison
Diana Reichenbach
Gabriel Soto Campa

Facial Gesture, Emotional Resonance through animation and cinema

The purpose of this blog is to provide an academic, professional, and artistic forum for research in the field of animation. We've used this space to discuss our ideas and post our work.

Guest Speakers:
On October 10th, we moderated a panel featuring:

Dr. William McClure
Professor Marsha Kinder
Thomas Kang

*Please Note: We've updated many of these blog posts to include relevant clips from our panel discussion*


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