Digital Emily: Achieving a Photoreal Digital Actor

21 Oct
10/21/2009 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Distinguished Lecturer Series

Paul Debevec
USC Institute for Creative Technologies
Graphics Lab

Computer Science Building, Room 151

Faculty Host: Rui Wang

Somewhere on the way from 2001's Final Fantasy to 2008's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, digital actors progressed from looking strangely synthetic to believably real. I will overview some of this history and then focus on how high-resolution face scanning, advanced character rigging, and performance-driven facial animation were combined to create "Digital Emily", a believably photorealistic digital actor. Actress Emily O'Brien was scanned in the USC ICT light stage in 35 different facial poses using a new high-resolution face-scanning process capable of capturing geometry and textures down to the level of skin pores and fine wrinkles. These scans were assembled into a rigged facial model, which could then be driven by Image Metrics' video-based animation technology. The real Emily was captured speaking on a small set, and her movements were used to drive a complete digital face replacement of her character, including its diffuse, specular, and animated displacement maps. HDRI lighting reconstruction techniques were used to reproduce the lighting on her original performance. The talk will also present our laboratory's latest 3D Teleconferencing system which uses real-time face scanning and a three-dimensional display to transmit a life-sized facial performance in real time and 3D with accurate eye contact and occlusion.


Paul Debevec leads the graphics laboratory at the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies. His 1996 Ph.D. thesis from UC Berkeley presented Facade, an image-based modeling and rendering system for creating photoreal architectural models from photographs. Using Facade he led the creation of virtual cinematography of the Berkeley campus for his 1997 film The Campanile Movie which premiered at the SIGGRAPH 97 Electronic Theater. Subsequently, Debevec pioneered high dynamic range image-based lighting techniques in his films Rendering with Natural Light (1998), Fiat Lux (1999), and The Parthenon (2004); he also led the design of HDR Shop, the first high dynamic range image editing program. At USC ICT, Debevec has developed of a series of Light Stage devices for recording the appearance and reflectance properties of human faces, used in creating photoreal digital actors in movies such as Spider Man 2 (2004), Superman Returns (2006), and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) as well as 2008's "Digital Emily" project. He co-authored the 2005 book High Dynamic Range Imaging, chaired the SIGGRAPH 2007 Computer Animation Festival, and is a member of the Visual Effects Society and the ACM SIGGRAPH Executive Committee.

Refreshments will be served in the Atrium of the Computer Science Building, at 3:30 p.m.