Ellipsanime uses Voice-O-Matic (XSI Edition) to create The Garfield Show series

Ellipsanime uses Voice-O-Matic (XSI Edition) to create The Garfield Show series

Ellipsanime uses Voice-O-Matic (XSI Edition) to create The Garfield Show series

Ellipsanime uses Voice-O-Matic (XSI Edition) to create The Garfield Show series

Ellipsanime uses Voice-O-Matic (XSI Edition) to create The Garfield Show series

 Di-O-Matic.com > Press > Reviews > Facial Studio v1.5


Facial Studio v1.5

Metin Seven Website - November 2003

CATEGORY: 3ds Max plug-in
TITLE: Facial Studio
AUTHORS: Di-O-Matic, Inc
Di-O-Matic, Inc

A realistic human head is one of the toughest things to realize in a 3D environment. If you have to create a realistic head from scratch it often already takes a while to set up a good basis and then it can take hours to carefully add and tweak the details until you're satisfied. When the deadline monster is breathing in your neck you often simply don't have the time to perform all that's necessary to model a realistic head. Next to this it takes another heap of time to prepare the face for animation purposes. The muscular setup of the model must have a suitable flow in order to properly animate the jaw, mouth, cheeks, eyes, eyebrows, etcetera. On top of this, if the character has to speak, then you'll have to spend another round of time preparing morph targets for the different vowels and their corresponding facial expressions. All in all it can become quite a nightmare, especially if the head is only a part of a complete body you have to animate as well. The cold sweat almost appears on my forehead while I write this.

The relatively young 3ds Max plug-in development company Di-O-Matic has created a very interesting plug-in to ease and automate creation and animation of a human head. The plug-in seamlessly blends into your 3ds Max arsenal and adds a "Facial Studio" category to the dropdown menu of the Max Create panel. Once you have selected the category and pressed the corresponding Facial Studio button you're ready to create a default head in a desired viewport. Just drag the Facial Studio object until it's got the size you want and there's your head! Well, at least it gives you a very good head-start.

The standard head is not exactly your average handsome human being, but it's up to you to turn it into any babe, hunk, geek or creep you like. To realize this, Facial Studio offers a very impressive array of parametric controls to adjust just about anything you'll ever want to change in the appearance of the head. You can now become a plastic surgeon and adjust that nose, inflate those lips, remove that double chin and turn that head into your favorite movie star or music idol. The parameters are accessible from a list of sub-object modes in the Modify panel. The sub-object modes include all the available elements of the head, like ears, teeth, nose, tongue, chin and more. Each of the sub-object modes offers its own list of parametrically adjustable values. For example, the mouth sub-object offers separate values for the shape, angle and size of the upper and lower lip. The various adjustable properties of each head detail are very extensive. On top of the detail adjustments there are also presets for things like ethnicity and age. For example, create an Asian man or woman with the touch of a spinner. Other essential elements of the head -such as teeth and tongue- as well as the right Material ID assignments are part of the deal, so you're ready to roll. If you're not satisfied with the default head's amount of detail, then you can choose from three different resolutions for the head. For close-ups a Meshsmooth modifier on top of the head object can be advisable though.

Facial Studio's head mesh was carefully modeled by a team of 3D artists and is a useful general purpose basis for your own facial creations. There are only a few weak spots in the mesh that could use a little improvement in a future update, in order to completely get rid of the few Facial Studio characteristics that can be a bit difficult to conceal. The contour and internal shapes of the ear could be a bit more detailed and pronounced and the sides of the mouth could use a bit more relaxed, natural flow. Apart from these few minor structural details just about any facial characteristic can be adjusted to your liking by experimenting with Facial Studio's many different deformation values.

Facial Studio offers a lot of value. For instance it also allows you to animate a talking head by simply animating values for each type of phoneme and its corresponding mouth shape. I managed to animate the head saying my name in a matter of minutes! The animation controls for making the head talk can in the new version 1.5 easily be linked to Di-O-Matic's powerful speech animation automation plug-in Voice-O-Matic, making it a snap to animate the head pronouncing your recorded speech. The list of features goes on and on. Even the major facial muscles like the Levator Labii Superioris and the Orbicularis Oris have their own values and can be animated separately. Facial Studio's virtual playground is impressively extensive. The facial laboratory also extends into the Max material editor. Facial Studio comes with a dedicated diffuse light scattering skin shader developed by Pat Hanrahan and Wolfgang Krueger. The difference between using a simple Blinn shader and utilizing the multi-layered Hanrahan-Krueger shader can prove the difference between an artificially looking surface and the appearance of realistic skin tissue with subtle, delicate highlights. Next to the skin shader Facial Studio comes with a powerful Multi Mix Map that enables advanced map compositing with blend modes like lighten, darken and multiply. The Multi Mix Map can be used to blend together one of the many prepared facial texture maps that also come with the package.

A render using the shipping texture maps and utilizing the Hanrahan-Krueger shader for advanced skin surface characteristics.

But what if you'd like the Facial Studio head to be a seamless part of a human body, without losing all the parametric functionality? Well, in that case you simply add an Edit Mesh modifier on top of the Facial Studio head object, use that to attach your body mesh to the head and weld the necessary vertices to make it one seamless result. As long as you don't change the topology below the Edit Mesh modifier -for example the polygonal detail level of the Facial Studio head-, you can keep using all parametric values of the head object while it's attached to the body mesh. If Di-O-Matic could one day offer a complete parametric human body with all its parts, adjustable shapes and animatable poses, the need for a complicated custom bones rig and a tweaked mesh deformation setup in order to animate a human character could become history. Like Facial Studio and Voice-O-Matic have been brought closer together, 'Body Studio' and Di-O-Matic's Hercules muscular deformation system plug-in could be blended together as well, to form a very powerful plug-in to parametrically create and animate humanoid characters.

But back to the here and now. So what's new in Facial Studio version 1.5? Well, a new low resolution head is added and set as the default head. The low resolution is very convenient for realtime applications and can always be refined if necessary by adding a Meshsmooth modifier or choosing a more detailed head structure from the Facial Studio object itself -if there's no topology-dependent modifier in the stack-. A new track has been added to the phonemes that allows the mouth to be forced to a closed position. A new option has been added to always key all tracks, so pose to pose animation has become easier. As mentioned before, there's a better integration of Voice-O-Matic, the UVW coordinates of the medium and high resolution head have been improved, and there are some more enhancements. Reviewing all facets of Facial Studio goes beyond the scope of this review, but the plug-in offers a very comprehensive amount of ingredients to experiment with and can save you a considerable amount of time when it comes to creating and animating 3D heads within good ol' 3ds Max. It will be no waste of time to download the Facial Studio trial version from the Di-O-Matic website and have a go at it.

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