One of the tech papers at SIGGRAPH Asia this week showcases tech developed for ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’

Meet Animatomy.

befores & afters is currently in Daegu, South Korea at SIGGRAPH Asia 2022. Previewed today was a Technical Paper being presented later in the week called ‘Animatomy: an Animator-centric, Anatomically Inspired System for 3D Facial Modeling, Animation and Transfer’.

This happens to be a paper on the research behind a production-friendly facial system used by Wētā FX for Avatar: The Way of Water.

Researchers and artists and employees at Wētā Digital, Wētā FX and University of Toronto were involved. You can see a project page for the research here, which also includes the actual paper in PDF form and two videos showcasing the work.

Here’s the official description below, and the paper authors, too.

Image from ‘Animatomy: an Animator-centric, Anatomically Inspired System for 3D Facial Modeling, Animation and Transfer’

We present Animatomy, a novel anatomic+animator centric representation of the human face. Present FACS-based systems are plagued with problems of face muscle separation, coverage, opposition, and redundancy. We, therefore, propose a collection of muscle fiber curves as an anatomic basis, whose contraction and relaxation provide us with a fine-grained parameterization of human facial expression.

We build an end-to-end modular deformation architecture using this representation that enables: automatic optimization of the parameters of a specific face from high-quality dynamic facial scans; face animation driven by performance capture, keyframes, or dynamic simulation; interactive and direct manipulation of facial expression; and animation transfer from an actor to a character. We validate our facial system by showing compelling animated results, applications, and a quantitative comparison of our facial reconstruction to ground truth performance capture. Our system is being intensively used by a large creative team on an upcoming blockbuster film. We report feedback from these users as qualitative evaluation of our system.

Byungkuk Choi – Wētā Digital
Haekwang Eom – Wētā Digital
Benjamin Mouscadet – Wētā Digital
Stephen Cullingford – Wētā FX
Kurt Ma – Wētā Digital
Stefanie Gassel – Wētā Digital
Suzi Kim – Wētā Digital
Andrew Moffat – Wētā Digital
Millicent Maier – Wētā Digital
Marco Revelant – Wētā FX
Joe Letteri – Wētā FX
Karan Singh – Wētā Digital, University of Toronto

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