This blog was written to summarize the ongoing studies that I have found regarding facial animation. My passion arose from various inspirations that I have seen over the course of many years. The first notable example I can remember was the facial rig they added to the “League of legends” character. “Poppy”. Poppy is a Yordal which is a race of small humanoids with slightly enlarged heads. Like many other subjects of animation when a character’s body is smaller than average proportions the viewers eye is drawn to the exaggerated head.
The new rig really brought Poppy to life, making her a lot more believable and interesting compared to her previous character model. This example leads me to believe that being able to reproduce facial expressions is an important trait in the animation industry.
Poppy is just an example from the games industry. In film expression is more of a prominent feature. Like many of the other principles of animation staging helps play a very big part in captivating an audiences attention. With action shots often an animator will show a point of interest unfolding in the middle of the screen. This usually shows the whole of an action and leaves very little out. However in a shot involving a very emotional scene often the camera will pan in to a close up of its target. What this means is that the animator is creating the expression to make sure everything runs smoothly. Sometimes these shots require a change from one emotion to another.
Often as the subject is about to express a different emotion they will go through a sequence of transitions and rarely convert straight to the end emotion. Most of the time the character will close their eyes during transition.This is another means to incorporating one of the 12 principles of animation. You can use the squash and stretch technique which allows you to squash the muscles towards the center of the face before popping them back out to reveal a multitude of expressions. A lot of the time you can exaggerate the expression. For example when you are surprised your eyebrows may overshoot the resting expression before coming back down to the ending keyframe. Another principle is slow in slow out. Often an expression will start out slow and end very quickly.
A habit that I myself have a hard time escaping is not making an expression cater to multiple emotions and limiting myself to one. However by using a mixture of expressions you can create an entirely new outcome. This larger palette gives the viewer more information to interpret.
Although you are animating a face the body of the character should always be moving. Stiff characters often appear dull and unappealing to the viewer. A study has shown that people interpret the effects of the animation differently when a head is attached to a body rather than a head on its own. In the example below using the free body rig “Bonnie”, you can see the message the model gives the viewer changes with just a simple tweak of the body while the expression remains the same.
Another thing to consider is the use of eyes and eyebrows. The viewer should be able to make the connection based on the eyes alone. Often the innermost aspect of the brow is the strongest emotion.
Over the course of the next 6 weeks I plan on accomplishing a showreel featuring a finely tuned facial animation. This will show some of the examples listed in this current blog and I will strive to deliver this with the free character rig seen online known as “Bonnie”. This will be animated using the new “Maya 2017”
Clavel, C., Plessie, J., Martin, J.-C., Ach, L., & More, B. Combining Facial and Postural Expressions of Emotions in a Virtual Character. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.353.2798&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Jarvis, P. (2015). Dev Blog: The animation of poppy. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from League of Legends, http://na.leagueoflegends.com/en/news/champions-skins/champion-update/dev-blog-animation-poppy
Navone, V. Tutorial: Facial take. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from VNOG Blog, http://www.navone.org/HTML/Tutorial_DashTake.htm
Tetrault, V. (2014, March 30). Drawing facial emotions. Retrieved October 28, 2016, from visualgemsstudio, http://visualgemsstudio.com/blog/general/drawing-facial-emotions/