Facial Motion Capture (Mocap) has become an essential part of many industries such as film, gaming, virtual reality, and advertising. The technology allows animators to capture the natural movements of an actor's face and translate them into digital models. This process saves a lot of time for 3D animators and makes the animation more realistic than ever before. However, regardless of how great your facial motion capture solution is, if not used properly, the end result can suffer. The proper preparation to get your performer ready for your session is critical to achieve the absolute best results. In this first part of our blog series on best practices for Facial Motion Capture, we will discuss what’s necessary to get your performer ready.
Before your performer puts on their Mark IV or other facial motion camera systems, you need to ensure that they are well prepared for their performance capture session:
Keep Your Face Naked: Performers should avoid wearing anything that obstructs facial features, such as eyeglasses, dark eye shadow, false lashes, or certain facial tattoos. Beards should be trimmed or pulled away from the mouth and jaw, and hair should be kept away from the face or threaded through the ponytail hole in the helmet.
Common mistakes for performers:
• Facial Hair
○ Tracking may mistake mustache for upper lip.
○ Tracking may grab the nose instead of the mouth.
○ Calibration may fail entirely.
○ Tracking may mistake the top of eyeglasses for eyebrows.
○ Tracking may show incorrect eye position if the lens is especially reflective.
• Long Hair or Bangs
○ Tracking may fail to find brows or Track brows incorrectly if hair hangs in front of brows.
○ Calibration may fail if hair frames the face in such a way that it no longer resembles a face.
○ Tracking can mistake brim for eyebrows.
○ Hat can cast shadows on the face, making it hard for the tracking to recognize features.
Makeup May Be Necessary: In order for our software to track, it must recognize the different face groups. For example, very light and thin eyebrows on light-skinned performers may not track, so makeup can be used to add needed contrast to facial features.
Monochromatic Coloring: People with fair skin and light hair (especially eyebrows) or dark skin and dark hair, can have a harder time tracking because of a lack of contrast. In these instances, you can use makeup to accentuate lips, eyes, and brows. In some cases, you might be able to modify lighting to get better tracking results. But in any scenario where there is a lack of contrast, tracking can have a hard time producing accurate animation results.
Keep the Dots Small: Facial dots can be applied if preferred, although Faceware's tracking software does not require them to track. When applying markers, keep them as small as possible for the best results. Refer to this for more information on how to apply facial dots.
The key idea here is that you want to ensure nothing interferes with the camera and facial tracking software will be able to clearly identify the performer’s eyes, nose, mouth and jaw. Now that your performer is ready to go, make sure that the camera is well fitted for your performer. Here are two things that are essential for you to prioritize:
Comfort: To ensure your performer's comfort, use the foam pads provided in your kit to create a snug fit. Have your performer adjust the tightening mechanism at the back of the helmet, making sure it's not too tight.
Stable Headcam: It's important to test their stability to ensure that the helmet is properly secured and won't move during their performance.
One way to test this is to have the performer perform rapid head movements in place, such as shaking their head from side to side or nodding their head up and down. This will help to confirm whether the helmet is snug, and whether the foam pads are in the correct place to prevent the helmet from shifting.
In summary, performers should avoid wearing anything that obstructs their facial features, and makeup can be used to add needed contrast to facial features. When applying facial markers, keeping them as small as possible is recommended. It's also important to ensure the camera is well-fitted for the performer and that they're comfortable and stable during the performance. Testing rapid head movements can confirm stability. By following these best practices, you can achieve optimal results in facial motion capture.
Be sure to read our next blog post HERE where we cover how to capture a Neutral Frame (a.k.a Calibration File).
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