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labbejason
09-28-2007, 03:48 AM
Hey everyone,

I'm conducting a survey on facial setups. The questions for this survey are meant to figure out the best possible work-flow for animators.

The standard facial set-up is based on morphs, bones, or a hybrid between the two. I would like to see see if I can come up with a better solution for animators, and to test the limits within a 3D package without the help of plug-ins. Of course, the best solution depends on the project it's needed for, but I'm going to ignore that for all intents and purposes.

Your answers will mean a great deal to this RnD process. I appreciate those of you who take the time out of your schedule to contribute.

Facial System Survey

1. Name

2. Position title/area of focus (modeling, animation, rigging)

3. Generally, what type of facial system do you prefer to animate with? (Bone or Morph based)

4. Name something you like and dislike animating with a bone based facial system.

5. Name something you like and dislike animating with a morph based facial system.

6. What would be the best way to access custom attributes for a facial setup? (GUI, quad menu, etc)

7. What type of options would be accessible in these custom attributes?

8. What facial setup has been the most memorable for you, if any?

9. Ideally, what would be the ultimate work flow with animating facial features? (Working with spinners, control objects, a GUI, a hybrid system, etc)

10. Any statements/comments?

scroll-lock
09-28-2007, 10:08 AM
Cup of coffee early in the morning... Browsing the feeds... A little time for doing a survey before starting to work :)
Ok.

1.Marin(scroll-lock)Petrov
2.charTD /animator. Consider myself more oriented towards animating.
3. Generally - morphs /if they have proper GUI/
4. ARCS!! Yes Yes!!
5.No arcs :( Have to add inbetween targets for the morphs to make it look real. And mmm...Additive shapes. When some morph targets /blendshapes/ add to each other it can be messy sometimes. But...If they are setupped correctly that can be less /not/ of a problem and fun to animate with.
6. hmm.. got me thinking. I prefered GUIs before /worked on 2 monitors yey!/... But on small screens it`s a headache sometimes because of the constant minimize/maximize of the GUI.
7. All the morphs , some visibility toggles of controls... smooth /lores toggle... etc.
8. Maybe the Osipa controls...
9. Some hybrid - a GUI that`s on screen directly.

LucentDreams
09-28-2007, 10:50 AM
1)Kai Pedersen

2)CharTD, consultant, intrstuctor

3)Layers, always in layers of level of control, first joints, then morphs, then clusters. Clusters are always surfaced based, which means they move with the surface they are attached to so that they are always in the right location foran animator to grab and tweak.

4)Weighting, alignment etc ugh I hate having to weight the face, Make it too easy for a face to be animated Off model

5)No arcs is a common problem in some apps, Cinema and mirai both have rotational morphs, no additional targets needed :p That said, Sometimes morphs cause weird creases folds etc if not done well, thats really the only disadvantage I can think of at all.

6)They should appear when head controller is selected and offer some option to always have them displayed as well. Overall though how you access them depends most on whatever is needed to make the most usable controls.

7)toggles for different layers of controls, the morph controls, toggle between Eye vector slider (box slider) and eye target resolution control if head is separate from body, Presets for most common facial poses for specific character to help keep on model, and finally some sort of means to wuickly access the model guide for that character.

8)I guess Osipa's has greatly influenced me, but not in how I control the rig really, just in how to think about shapes to build up faces rather than building specific poses and individual morphs.

9)On screen Heads up display controls, NO need to select the handles to then move them, it should be instant just click handle and drag all in one motion rather than two. No ugly spline guies that gloat around the head it has to stay aligned to the screen even if my camera isn't looking straight at the face. For clusters and such, a tweak mode for them as well so one can click and adjust in one move instead of selecting, and then moving in two steps.

Chinwagon
09-29-2007, 01:40 AM
1. Brad Noble

2. Animation supervisor/animator/character rigger.

3. Doesn't matter as long as it's done right.

4. Like: Sliding arcs and volume preservation. Doesn't have the pose to pose feel of morphs. Dislike: Weight painting and difficulty in getting fine details - like wrinkles - without resorting to morph augmentation.

5. Like: It's easy to build the exact shapes you want. Dislike: How many you have to build and making sure they all work in conjunction with each other.

6. On-face controls with their keyframes instanced to a facial control holder for easy access to all facial keys.

7. Using the PEN attribute holder on the facial control holder to create and blend preset value poses.

8. Jason Osipa's and my own.

9. I've set up a facial system that incorporates all that I've mentioned above and it's a joy to use. In my opinion there's nothing better than being able to just grab and move portions of the face to pose it how you want.

10. Here's the thread detailing its features (http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=54&t=260019).

:)

Frumsylgu
09-29-2007, 07:49 PM
1. James Direen

2. Technical Animator/Character Rigger

3/4/5. Pretty much just a ditto to what everybody else already said. Though in response to the wording of your question "Generally, what type of facial system do you prefer to animate with?" As an animator I hope to be unaware of how it's made, and not see any trademarks of one system or another. Just super flexible :)

6. To access it, it seems to be ideal to have a second monitor. But if you are restricted to one, I like an interface that pops up and hides under a hotkey.

7. what LucentDreams said... and it is nice to have a way to save a pose on the fly for later use.

8. LucentDreams took the words out of my mouth again.

9. A Hybred system! As an animator, it is nice to have a library of face poses that you can use to get you started, then move on to Osipa's joystic style controls for some more broad tweaking, followed by a layer of individual controlls on the face for further refinement.

Lockan
10-01-2007, 06:38 AM
1. Name
A. Lockhart

2. Position title/area of focus (modeling, animation, rigging)
Modelling, texture, animating for games (I dabble in a bit of everything)

3. Generally, what type of facial system do you prefer to animate with? (Bone or Morph based)
This is a loaded question for me. If I had the option, I'd probably prefer using a morph system for facial animation. But since my focus is games, I haven't really had that option. Bones are the only set-up I've used, and the only system that work in most game engines (to my knowledge).

4. Name something you like and dislike animating with a bone based facial system.
Like: They're game-engine friendly (aside for bone counts and performance issues.)
Dislike: The incredible hassle to set up the facial rig. First I have to place the bones and weight the face properly. Then I've got to add control objects to move the bones. Then, because I hate manually moving and keying the control objects, I have to set up some custom controls to manipulate my control objects. Once it's done it works okay, but it feels like a round about way of setting up what morph targets would do in a jiffy (if they were games-friendly).

5. Name something you like and dislike animating with a morph based facial system.
Like: To me, the mostly uneducated in this area, they seem pretty straight-forward for facial animation work
Dislike: It's hard to make criticisms about something you haven't actually worked much with.

6. What would be the best way to access custom attributes for a facial setup? (GUI, quad menu, etc)
I would prefer a menu/slider system for practical reasons. Although in a perfect world I would just click and drag on the facial model to manipulate it like "muscles", instead of requiring complicated control schemes.

7. What type of options would be accessible in these custom attributes?
Common facial expressions or facial positions based on body part. i.e. "eyes closed", "eyes opened", "mouth smile", "mouth angry" etc. Basically, a stock set of expression parts that I could mix and match and blend to suit my needs.

8. What facial setup has been the most memorable for you, if any?
The only bone set-up that I know is the most memorable, because it's the only one I know.

9. Ideally, what would be the ultimate work flow with animating facial features? (Working with spinners, control objects, a GUI, a hybrid system, etc)
Like I said above, if I could just drag around bits and pieces of the face like a lump of clay, and have that work for me in a practical sense, that's what I'd do.

10. Any statements/comments?
Happy to fill out your survey J, but i'm probably not the best source for opinions on this sort of matter.

eek
10-01-2007, 02:03 PM
1. Name

Charles 'eek' Looker

2. Position title/area of focus (modeling, animation, rigging)

Lead Technical Animator, Bioware Corp. Pipeline setup, Animation Systems and R&D

3. Generally, what type of facial system do you prefer to animate with? (Bone or Morph based)

It depends on the job, situation and production. With feature work I used a pseudo morph/bone system. Most commonly pipelines use blendshapes for face and brow area with corrective targets and bones for lower jaw/mandible. But also other use proxie based systems such as Narnia and R&H - they use a morph based system that would drive muscles into the same position and then on top had skin. This way animators could get a feel of the key animation with blendshapes, but it would also look 'technically' correct with muscle/skin deformation. So it depends on the project. Game engines dont all rely on bones. both the source engine and cryteks use morphs based on Elkmans research.


4. Name something you like and dislike animating with a bone based facial system.

Hitting key shapes is tricky as your skinning has to be top notch, adding in extra bones on an already rigged and pipeline processed asset is a pain. For more deformation you need extra bones - and detail is essentially exponential i.e you need more and more virtually doubling the bones for each iteration. (this feature rigs)

5. Name something you like and dislike animating with a morph based facial system.

Making new targets that have to work with the system and there respective correctives.

6. What would be the best way to access custom attributes for a facial setup? (GUI, quad menu, etc)

pseudo on-face, and gui -slider panel with easy access. Check out Kongs facial rig - layered controls with a base finite layer and abstracted general 'muscle groups'

7. What type of options would be accessible in these custom attributes?

Finite, generalized and whole poses.

8. What facial setup has been the most memorable for you, if any?

Gollum, King Kong, Alyx - HL2, Heavenly sword.

9. Ideally, what would be the ultimate work flow with animating facial features? (Working with spinners, control objects, a GUI, a hybrid system, etc)

Hybrid system - ask your animators!

10. Any statements/comments?

Say 'Hi' to Kees from me :)

Harvey
10-02-2007, 06:17 AM
Facial System Survey

1. Name

Chris Harvey


2. Position title/area of focus (modeling, animation, rigging)

VFX Supervisor at Frantic Films / creature effects (among other things)


3. Generally, what type of facial system do you prefer to animate with? (Bone or Morph based)

To be honest it doesn't matter what the system is made of, the important thing is that is fast, flexible, easy to use and gets the results you need. How you make a system like this really makes little difference to the animator. However there are lots of important considerations with regards to the rest of the pipeline....but again, in the end its what gets the job done, and I have seen both do that in different circumstances


4. Name something you like and dislike animating with a bone based facial system.
Like:
I like the flexibility it gives you. You are not constrained to specifcally modeled poses...it gives the animators freedom to "sculpt" thier own facial poses.

Dislike:
The exact opposite of its benefits....sometimes it gives the animators too much freedom and with a large group can lead to inconsistency in performance and facial poses as they can do "anything" they want. Also if set-up strickly as a bone system certain details can be difficult to achieve.

5. Name something you like and dislike animating with a morph based facial system.

Like:
you have the ability to sculpt very precise facial detail and targets. The ability to maintain consitency becuase you build that into the targets.

Dislike:
If you need a performance not originally sculpted for you have to go back to modeling in order to get it done....they are less flexible in that sense. The shear volume of targets that are sometimes needed. The reusiblity factor...


6. What would be the best way to access custom attributes for a facial setup? (GUI, quad menu, etc)

Good question but I don't think it has a clear answer. Various things are going to be useful for different options. For instance a load and save feature might most easily be built into a quad menu, where as access to animatible facial controls would not be desirable to have some place like that. Ultimately it comes down to workflow...I will use the analogy of a kitchen. A well thought out kitchen you hardly have to think about where the forks are or where the glasses are kept...they just seem to be where you would expect them to be. Where that is depends on your animators and the features you need in the rig. It might also depend on the overall approach a company takes with its pipelines in general.


7. What type of options would be accessible in these custom attributes?

damn, there are a lot of things you could store...guess I will name a few: Set, copy, delete keys, mirror pose, save/load pose and or animation, facial targeting (eyes, head), break point toggles, squash/stretch or other special toggles, level of detail togggles, gui access, curve access, randomization controls, animation rig/style switching (for intance the ability to switch from regular keyframe to motion capture...will explain later), transfer/repurpose rig, animation parameters (targets etc..), baking (point cache), prep for other areas in the pipeline (LnR, softbodies, cloth, etc...) Well thats a short list.


8. What facial setup has been the most memorable for you, if any?

For lots of people Jason Osipia is one that will be mentioned...and his stuff is great. However its not with him where I first saw that method of UI...in fact I was already using it before I ever saw his...where I first saw it was with a program called LipSync (now re-incarnated as Lbrush) by Joe Alter (also known for Shave and a HairCut). If you haven't seen it you really should. Other than that all the obvious, Gollum, Dragon Heart (at the time it really pushed facial performance, you could really see Sean Connery's performance in the dragon)...and though not a facial set-up or even related to the world of CG, Paul Ekmans FACs. Oh ya, I should not fail to mention our own faces...the level of distortion the human face is capable of constantly amazes me...best reference you could hope for.


9. Ideally, what would be the ultimate work flow with animating facial features? (Working with spinners, control objects, a GUI, a hybrid system, etc)

I would say a hybrid system. There are times you want a ui with spinners/sliders etc... But I love animating with a fast interacive GUI. And finally its also great to be able to dive into sub-controls right on the face itself for really fine-tuning the performance.


10. Any statements/comments?

One thing that is often over looked when talking about facial animation is "poor-mans-motion-capture". Or in other words the mouse. Seriously I originally got the idea again from Joe Alter and his tool, but have created the same system in max many times...and its really really cool how fast you can lay down good animation. Aside from being crazy fast (realtime) you get the subtlies of motion capture as well, twitches jitters, etc... I have found it best to lay them down in layers, and then you always have the ability to clean the curves and or layer hand animation on top of that. Again, not the ultimates solution but definately something to put in your bag of tricks for when the need arrises...and like so many tricks once you know them you suddenly need them all the time.

Its also worth mentioning something I call "morph-displacement"...and its pretty common these days. But basically its the method of automatically driving displacement via surface information in the mesh (or via bone and or target values). You can get fantastic animated detail via just using tension and compression in a mesh surface to animate fine wrinkles for instance...but you can take it a lot further than that.

Man I could go on forever about this topic but i better stop becuase my laptop battery is about to die...hope this provides some interesting thoughts.

Ulven
10-03-2007, 01:51 PM
1. Vegard Myklebust

2. Character modelling, rigging and animation (that's a focus right?).

3. Bones/Splines

4. Like: Nice rotations. Versatile variation. Dislike: Can take longer to set up high detail level of control without using morphs in conjunction with the bones.

5. Like: Quick, point level control of shapes. Dislike: Linear pose to pose feel.

6. GUI, but make it small and easily hidable so the screens don't get clogged up.

7. Enough to enable the animator to feel in control of what everything is doing, without having a bunch of switches, gadgets and whatnots clogging up his animation screenspace.
If the animator ever needs to use something once in a hypothetical scene sometime in the potential future, or you're just throwing stuff in because it's cool and there's no actual need for it, it may not need to be there.

8. Marek Schneider's hybrid facial rig.

9. I personally like a mix of GUI controls and on face controls but on a recent production, most of the animators just wanted sliders. Fair'nuff.

10. Bottom line is really, put in what the animators want and need. Don't overcomplicate things, that's usually not the way to go. Lip synching is easy enough and there's no reason to complicate it with too many controls. Make sure what you need for the production is there, leave the other stuff out. The more time the animator has to work on his animation, the more control you can start allowing to put in, but if time is short and sweet, an overcomplicated facial rig will steal his time more than help it.
__________________

arctor
10-03-2007, 03:45 PM
1. Name

Michael Goldfarb

2. Position title/area of focus (modeling, animation, rigging)

Character TD, C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures

3. Generally, what type of facial system do you prefer to animate with? (Bone or Morph based)

Hybrid

4. Name something you like and dislike animating with a bone based facial system.

bones provide a huge amount of non-linear, weighted, control, they are easy to adjust, add to, remove from etc.

weighting can take time to do.

5. Name something you like and dislike animating with a morph based facial system.

blendshapes require a modeler and depending on the project, can require lots of design input etc. the linear nature of blendshapes requires lots of trickery to compensate for.


6. What would be the best way to access custom attributes for a facial setup? (GUI, quad menu, etc)

different levels of viewport controls with corresponding parameter controls (channel box, parameter pane etc - depending on the app)

7. What type of options would be accessible in these custom attributes?

ideally everything, but this isn't always possible
best case would be to allow the animator the ability to control what he/she sees and has access to.

8. What facial setup has been the most memorable for you, if any?

9. Ideally, what would be the ultimate work flow with animating facial features? (Working with spinners, control objects, a GUI, a hybrid system, etc)

this really depends on the project and the animator...the more flexible the system the better.

10. Any statements/comments?

most of the systems I've seen put too much in front of the animator that they don't need to see/deal with...the closer we can get the animators to simply creating poses/shapes/expressions etc the better.

labbejason
11-02-2007, 09:19 PM
Hey guys,
Thank you for taking time out of your schedual to reply to this. I'm doing this as a personal project during my spare time. Between work, and life, this is going to be a long-term project to work on, so expect more on this in the future!

For those of you who haven't commented yet, you're still more than welcome to do so.

scroll-lock:
That's a good point to consider the number of monitors that the user is using. Normally, I've always had one monitor to work with, so I only had the most absolute necessary stuff open. With two monitors, seems like your workflow is a little more flexible, which is something to keep in consideration!

LucentDreams:
I've been reading Jason Osipa's book, and am really finding it interesting how he has his mindset towards thinking in layers. That instant dragging motion is a neat idea to play around with.

Chinwagon:
Thanks for dropping by, Brad! Your facial setup is great reference to check out. Seems like the solution was working fast in the viewport as well. You mentioned at the end of the thread that you may have some updates soon, looking foward for it!

Frumsylgu:
'As an animator I hope to be unaware of how it's made, and not see any trademarks of one system or another. Just super flexible'

Clever point!

Lockan:
I'm glad you brought up the idea of facial setups in game engines. However just for now, I won't be focusing on making a facial rig suitable for game engines.

eek:
Thanks eek! I've read your facial thread, and it was a great inspiration. I'll check out those characters when I have a chance.
Oh, and message sent. ;)

Harvey:
I like the fact that you mentioned how an animator can have TOO much control, it's something to think about. Thanks for all the references, I've got alot of reading ahead of me.

Ulven:
I agree, simplicity is key. One thing I'd like to try to incorporate a traditional animator's mindset into it, and head back to the basics.

Thanks again!

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