Walt Disney was always looking for new ways to make animated films. First, he just wanted to make them talk and sing. Then, he really wanted to bring them to life with visually stunning characters that seemed to leap right off the screen. Next came animation in color, rather than black and white. He even tried to create surround sound for his animated films, but technology wasn’t where it should be in 1940. Now, though, technology has advanced so much that researchers at Disney have actually come up with a way to make instantaneous real-life animation.
Known as “,” the team behind his venture has come up with a way to record facial features and movements, and immediately turn them into 3D captured animation. This is the first time every tiny wrinkle on someone’s face is captured, and translated into a graphic that can grow up and become a 90-minute animated feature.
“Mastering facial animation is a long-standing challenge in computer graphics. The face can describe the emotions of a character, convey their state of mind, and hint at their future actions,” the team writes in their research paper. “Through decades of research, we have learned that capturing the shape and motion of real human faces can lead to realistic virtual characters.”
The team developed a high-resolution performance capture system that is so smart at reading faces, it can anticipate where wrinkles will go, with “person specific wrinkle details.” Hey, everyone’s got different wrinkles on their face, and Disney knows that. They’re also doing all of this in “high fidelity,” which means translating it with “little distortion, giving a result very similar to the original.” The end product looks incredibly lifelike, because it is lifelike.
Disney is also hoping that this new technology can be applied elsewhere, other than just studio animation, like for video games where you create your own avatar. With this kind of technology, the new possibilities are endless. And you know what this means? Maybe one day we won’t have Disney princesses with huge eyes to reimagine, because they’ll already be the spitting image of the actor portraying them.
Disney’s entire research paper that . They also made a jaw-dropping video that visualizes exactly what their high-tech innovation means in practice.
(Image via Disney/YouTube)