Face close-ups


Hi, last summer I was working on a concept for a PSA about bullying. The idea was a live action shoot with a child. As we heard someone off screen shouting nasty things at him, bruises and scars would appear on his face. I went as far as producing a test, which I’ve posted here if anyone wants to take a look.


Ultimately I was disappointed with the result.

Recently I’ve been toying with a slight twist on the original idea. Instead of a real child, I’ll use a cgi one. This will give me much more control over camera angles and the severity of wounds I put on the boy’s face (poor chap.) Instead of bruises, I’d use real words cut into the skin like knife wounds. Yes, I know that sounds sinister, but it’s closer to the original point that just because bullying isn’t physical doesn’t mean it’s not damaging.

So I embarked on the quest to produce a believable cgi face for closeups. I’ve traveled to the world of Zbrush and back again, and got to know the hair module a bit. I also had a wonderful introduction to the beauty of ChanLum.

So here’s what I’ve done so far.

In the near future I hope to use ZBrush to produce morph targets for my low-res mesh and then animate that in C4D. I’ll be using SPD to create knife wounds and RealFlow for some gentle blood effects.

I’d really appreciate any comments on any aspect. In particular I want to keep the realism high. My biggest worry is that the final shot should probably be a full face, and that’s going to be hard to pull off.

Thanks for looking,



I think the texturing looks really nice, though (if it fits the aesthetics of the spot) it might be nice to see some subtle GI-like fill lighting in the deeply shadowed areas.

What makes me think “CG” with it right now is the modelling of the mouth, which looks fairly idealized and generic; I think finding a suitable “pose” for the face will be essential… Also some sub-poly displacement may help break up the unnaturally smooth profile.



Thanks Nick.

I completely agree on the mouth. I do intend to make morph targets for the face which I hope will add realism - or they could look very bad!

I think I’ll post a render of the ZBrush model because I think I’m not getting all the detail out of it. I’m only just getting started with it, though. It seems to be great for adding small detail like pores and wrinkles - which in this case I’ve just applied as a bump map. But the bigger details, which I’ve baked into a displacement map, don’t seem to shift the mesh enough. For instance the nose should have a much more pronounced crease behind the nostrils and the upper lip shouldn’t meet the lower lip in such a clean way.

Anyway, thanks for your pointers. I’ll post some updates soon.




Honestly, I didn’t think your YouTube clip was so bad. Tracking looked OK. I think the effects could have been more pronounced. Maybe as new wounds develop you could use that “flash of light quick close up” effect. As you do the closeup, the face rotates slightly to show the extent of the wound.

Oh…and I HATE bullies…:scream:


Hi, I agree with Bobzilla, you could stick with your original movie, just make the effects much more dramatic. Here is a great AE tutorial for it: http://www.videocopilot.net/tutorials.html?id=97


Thanks Bob and Zoz, I wasn’t completely disappointed with the You Tube video, but it brought up some interesting problems - neither of which really have to do with C4D. First, You Tube is so low-rez! The effects just disappear. And that leads me to the second problem. I’m trying to create something that doesn’t just look cool, but is actually thought provoking. I would love to create some wound effects like those in the After Effects tut, Zoz, but I worry that people will watch that and think it’s macabre. And I think that will always be an issue as long as I have a real person in the shot. Finally, that’s my son in the video, and I can only spend so much time in the office digitally disfiguring him before one of my colleagues calls social services.

So I think that the video section needs to be put on hold for now. And I’m going to see how far I can get with the cgi. I think if I can keep things arty and keep the frame focused on small areas of the face, I can solve all the problems above.

Thanks for looking in. I’ll try to post some more images soon.



Thanks for all your suggestions. For now I think I’m going to try to cut between the live action and the CGI shots. So for this I’ve been working on exterior lighting. I made these using one of the HDRIs that came with the 10.5 install. It’s attached to a VRAY area light. The skin texture is just a fusion shader with skin surface and sub-dermal images (painted in ZBrush) with a fresnel shader in the blend channel.

As you can see I’ve still got a long way to go. My UVs have ben pushed and pulled in ZBrush so much that the bump map is getting distorted quite badly. I need to resolve this soon.

Also, I can’t render the brow, lashes and peach fuzz in Vray. So I need to come up with a system for comping the hair.

I’ll post more as I progress. (If I progress!)




Hi Will,

I remember the video spot you posted before. It will be interesting to see how the CG face develops!

A thought I have is effects based on a real face will ground the situation in the realness, and immediacy of the issue. Seeing a real face, somewhat somber, people are drawn in or at least curious. Off all things, people respond to faces (and eyes) and when it the face of a child, even more innate concern on the part of the audience.

Once the viewer watches, a seemingly, ordinary, sad, child, then it’s reaveled these frightening damaged areas… is it from an accident? No… abuse and/or bullying…

Like in FX movies, the setup is the real actor, to get buy in from the audience, then the switch is made. Or in stage magic, there is the real object, or magician’s assistant, who gets cut in half, and the magic comes from not noticing the switch or transition…

Aside from the lack of subtlety in the youtube rez video, I think there are some benefits from a real child. That would be a serious tone PSA, but, maybe you’ve weighed this and want to get the point across without being shocking. Maybe that is a more stylised approach you are thinking of?

The real face would certainly be quite bold, and hard to ignore. The CG one might lose a bit of the impetus of the serious tone. Just the difference in tone that occured to me since I saw your original.

Very interesing either way, please post updates!



Thanks Joe, as usual you’re one step ahead of me. I think you’re absolutely right about the way a real face sets the pitch for the piece. My opinion of using cgi any film is that it should only be used if it helps the scene. Otherwise what’s wrong with reality?

My hope (and at this stage it’s just a hope) is that cutting between live action and cgi will take the viewer somewhere between real and imagined.

And that’s enough for Artsworld tonight.

I’ll post some more stills soon.



Hi Will,

In terms of audiences, if there are potentially different audiences, perhaps if there were a version for younger school kids. There, a real face might be too serious. Highschool age, a real face (Is highschool the name for schooling around 14-18 for your area?) would be for the teen, quite sophisticated now, but maybe for a school system, the more cartoony/stylised look.

There might be another potential market, with some school awareness of bullying, where the cg look might be more appropriate…

The adults and parents, and older teens, probably the real face would connect, but maybe there is a communication need for a younger audience.




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