Why do some CG people look dead?

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  05 May 2013
Question Why do some CG people look dead?

I have noticed that making realistic people seems to be very difficult, because either they don't look real, or, when they do they look dead (no ones home).

Has anyone studied this and know what it is exactly? What are some pointers to overcome this?
 
  05 May 2013
Originally Posted by alex101a: What are some pointers to overcome this?


That's easy. Don't do it!

Seriously though, some call this the uncanny valley, where a realistic human figure is so close that you can't tell what it is that's off, you just know something is off. There may never come a point when the art gets past this because people are use to seeing and interacting with real people everyday. It's like an exponential curve trying to approach perfection. The closer you get, the harder it is to get there.
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  05 May 2013
Skin. Eyes. Mouth. Proportioning. Symmetry. Rendering. Quality. Delivery.

When looking to make a character less obviously CG, those are my top 8 things to look out for.

1. Skin. Real skin is complex and layered. Unless somebody has abnormally oily skin or sweats a lot, real people aren't that glossy either. Too much or too little can make a character seem plastic or wooden. Skin also isn't 100% opaque. Skin has this slightly translucent quality that can be mimicked through careful and measured use of subsurface scattering. Skin that's too CG often looks like that of an actor who's wearing too much makeup or foundation. Real skin is also flawed. Little nicks, bruises, burns, or blemishes give our skin character.

2. Eyes. Those can be a dead giveaway. If a character appears too alert, that can look fake. If the eye material looks too glassy , that can look fake. If the character blinks too much or in an identifiable pattern... fake.

3. Mouth. Facial posing/animation is tricky. The lips don't just move up & down or side to side. There's forward & back movement too. There's also some tongue action, which lots of animators ignore. Real people aren't cartoons so don't over exaggerate. Real people tend to be more subtle. Also, when posing the mouth, break that symmetry a bit.

4. Proportioning. Sadly, most people aren't the heroic 8 heads tall our art teachers taught us to draw. Unless you're built like a supermodel, athlete, or movie star, there's a good chance that you're probably just a mere 6-6.5 heads tall. Nothing wrong with that. It's just that real world proportions are kinda boring. Real people, even generally attractive ones, are less than ideal.

5. Symmetry. We're used to modeling with it. However, nobody is 100% symmetrical. It's like the old saying, "If something looks too good to be true then it probably is." Real people are kinda asymmetrical and imperfect.

6. Rendering. This encompasses a lot including: Lighting. Camera settings/setup. Staging. Shadowing. ETC. Those things aren't easy to balance, even with real world photography. I've seen a number of real world scenes look like CG because somebody went crazy and overproduced a shoot. Don't rush the results. A good render takes time and patience. Not just at render time, but also at post.

7. Quality. Similar to the issue of symmetry, you have to keep in mind how imperfect the real world is. It's dirty. It's all scratched up. Colors fade. Materials wear down. Things dent, bend, or break. All of this stuff kinda applies to humans. We're imperfect. Understand the difference between believable and realistic. Something that is realistic is also believable. However, something that is believable isn't necessarily realistic. If you're going to make something realistic, you have to sit down and embrace all of those flaws and complexities. The more you do, the more people will buy into it.

8. Delivery. Ever watch WWE wrestling before? Notice how the guys never get hit hard, yet always seem to scream in agony? That's what you have to do sometimes when it comes to CG. Sell the scene. Even the best character will look fake and boring if you have him on a plain backdrop and doing nothing at all. Even in stills, a character can appear to be animated. I'm not necessarily talking about big actions. Sometimes, pose and nuanced expressions can sell the character. A slight raising of an eyebrow. A slight shift in weight. How the character "communicates" with the chair he's on. We all live in context. We interact with our world. Our expressions reflect our thoughts. Those "dead" characters sometimes seem dead because they're not thinking about much of anything. Get your character to act, even if it's subtle. Get him to think.

Lots of things can go into making a character more alive VS wooden. Photograph and video yourself or others. Try to break the scene or still down. Observation is a very powerful tool. Use it.
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Last edited by cookepuss : 05 May 2013 at 07:31 AM.
 
  05 May 2013
@teruchan: I don't think uncanny valley has anything to do with it. I think UV is more to do with how realistic they look. But sometimes the person may actually look real, but simply doesn't look 'alive'.

@cookepuss: Thanks for those points. I will take those into consideration
 
  05 May 2013
Originally Posted by alex101a: @teruchan: I don't think uncanny valley has anything to do with it. I think UV is more to do with how realistic they look. But sometimes the person may actually look real, but simply doesn't look 'alive'.

@cookepuss: Thanks for those points. I will take those into consideration


The Uncanny Valley is precisely what you are asking about. Why we can achieve realism but still come up short when trying to infuse these characters with real life.

It's a subconscious effect of our mind. Where what we see doesn't match up with what we know.

Though, as cookepuss points out, that is only part of the problem. There are so many random variables that go into reality, that creating it by hand is almost an effort in frivolity.

Some suggest that we may never achieve realism to the point of it being indecipherable.
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  05 May 2013
There are subtle things that many people don't even know that they notice, that many productions may not have the time or capability for. Things like a pulse; the way some areas (fingers) can change color when pressure is applied; Convincing eye darts & pupil contractions; or the occasional involuntary muscle twitch.
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  05 May 2013
from a shading perspective, we're not even close

Everything we do is with bitmap textures stuck to the paper thin skin surface that is directly animated.

Real skin has thickness and things under it that all react to light and movement in different ways. Even the pigment of freckles and scar tissue refracts light different than the other colored parts of skin.

there's also peach fuzz, microbumps, and wrinkles that physically stretch and bulge


Skin in real life glides across the fat and is driven by specific muscles and bones.


Even with good facial capture, something is going to have account for the physics behind the shading or the shot is going to have to be stylized in some way to hide those details - crushed blacks, color grading, film grain, low output resolution, etc
 
  05 May 2013
Originally Posted by cookepuss: Skin. Eyes. Mouth. Proportioning. Symmetry. Rendering. Quality. Delivery.

When looking to make a character less obviously CG, those are my top 8 things to look out for.

1. Skin. Real skin is complex and layered. Unless somebody has abnormally oily skin or sweats a lot, real people aren't that glossy either. Too much or too little can make a character seem plastic or wooden. Skin also isn't 100% opaque. Skin has this slightly translucent quality that can be mimicked through careful and measured use of subsurface scattering. Skin that's too CG often looks like that of an actor who's wearing too much makeup or foundation. Real skin is also flawed. Little nicks, bruises, burns, or blemishes give our skin character.

2. Eyes. Those can be a dead giveaway. If a character appears too alert, that can look fake. If the eye material looks too glassy , that can look fake. If the character blinks too much or in an identifiable pattern... fake.

3. Mouth. Facial posing/animation is tricky. The lips don't just move up & down or side to side. There's forward & back movement too. There's also some tongue action, which lots of animators ignore. Real people aren't cartoons so don't over exaggerate. Real people tend to be more subtle. Also, when posing the mouth, break that symmetry a bit.

4. Proportioning. Sadly, most people aren't the heroic 8 heads tall our art teachers taught us to draw. Unless you're built like a supermodel, athlete, or movie star, there's a good chance that you're probably just a mere 6-6.5 heads tall. Nothing wrong with that. It's just that real world proportions are kinda boring. Real people, even generally attractive ones, are less than ideal.

5. Symmetry. We're used to modeling with it. However, nobody is 100% symmetrical. It's like the old saying, "If something looks too good to be true then it probably is." Real people are kinda asymmetrical and imperfect.

6. Rendering. This encompasses a lot including: Lighting. Camera settings/setup. Staging. Shadowing. ETC. Those things aren't easy to balance, even with real world photography. I've seen a number of real world scenes look like CG because somebody went crazy and overproduced a shoot. Don't rush the results. A good render takes time and patience. Not just at render time, but also at post.

7. Quality. Similar to the issue of symmetry, you have to keep in mind how imperfect the real world is. It's dirty. It's all scratched up. Colors fade. Materials wear down. Things dent, bend, or break. All of this stuff kinda applies to humans. We're imperfect. Understand the difference between believable and realistic. Something that is realistic is also believable. However, something that is believable isn't necessarily realistic. If you're going to make something realistic, you have to sit down and embrace all of those flaws and complexities. The more you do, the more people will buy into it.

8. Delivery. Ever watch WWE wrestling before? Notice how the guys never get hit hard, yet always seem to scream in agony? That's what you have to do sometimes when it comes to CG. Sell the scene. Even the best character will look fake and boring if you have him on a plain backdrop and doing nothing at all. Even in stills, a character can appear to be animated. I'm not necessarily talking about big actions. Sometimes, pose and nuanced expressions can sell the character. A slight raising of an eyebrow. A slight shift in weight. How the character "communicates" with the chair he's on. We all live in context. We interact with our world. Our expressions reflect our thoughts. Those "dead" characters sometimes seem dead because they're not thinking about much of anything. Get your character to act, even if it's subtle. Get him to think.

Lots of things can go into making a character more alive VS wooden. Photograph and video yourself or others. Try to break the scene or still down. Observation is a very powerful tool. Use it.


I agree 100% with all of this. Good expanation cookepuss.
 
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