NVIDIA unveils FaceWorks, the most realistic facial animation engine so far
With the advent of next-gen consoles and faster GPUs, computer generated visual effects are bound to take a leap forward. In the past years, we have seen video games showcasing some truly life-like game worlds, with realistic lighting and shadows with new technologies like ambient occlusion.
Another aspect of visual effects that's getting increased focus is face modeling and animation. Games like Mass Effect 3, Crysis 3, and Heavy Rain are some of the advanced examples of how facial expressions have gone from stocky, robotic movements to achieving human-like expressiveness.
At its GPU Technology conference this week, NVIDIA unveiled the most advanced facial animation engine yet, called FaceWorks. To explain it in words would do it injustice, so have a gander at the video:
This human head is called Ira and is developed in partnership with Dr. Paul Debevec of the Institute for Creative Technology at the University of Southern California. Unlike normal facial capturing engine, FaceWorks does not use "special makeup, awkward markers or specialized cameras", instead relies on "photographic techniques to derive not only the 3D shape of an actor's face but the critical elements needed to properly represent human skin. These include light reflection and transmission through the skin, reflectivity from oils in the skin, and the nearly microscopic lines and bumps in the skin surface."
Ira uses 8,000 instructions per pixel, and at full HD that's 82 billion floating point operations per second (FLOPSs) per frame. This amounts to 32GB of data, which will choke and strangle any GPU. However, FaceWorks compresses that to an affordable 300MB without compromising on quality.
NVIDIA claims that Ira can run in real-time using commercially available GPUs in the market (we are assuming on the most high-end ones).