DI4D PRO delivers flawless digital double realism for award-winning CG short ‘Home’.
DI4D’s PRO pipeline brings animation to life in HOME, a CG animated short film that tells the story of an elderly man (played by Ian Hanmore) and his recollections of his lost home on Earth. The collaboration with Braw Productions and Hydra Studios is a film that predominantly focuses on the protagonist’s face to elicit a powerful emotional response from the viewer.
In HOME, it was essential for the actor’s facial performance to be faithfully reproduced to convey the intense level of emotion that was required for the story. The nuanced weathered detail of the actor’s face also needed to be intricately captured to convey his old age. For this type of animated film – which featured an intimate, pensive performance – the best option was to use a digital double in order to deliver stunningly realistic results and really connect with the viewer.
As industry leaders in 4D facial capture and animation, DI4D captured Hanmore’s emotionally intense and thoughtful delivery in a single day – digitally replicating his facial expressions, skin details, and textures that powered the narrative.
“We were asked to do one of the hardest things; convey a lot of emotion from a 3D character to deliver a poignant message,” said DI4D’s co-founder Douglas Green. “This project really pushed us pretty hard in the level of detail we were trying to produce.”
DI4D captured Hanmore’s performance and applied it to his digital double, which fully delivered the emotional intensity through facial performance capture. DI4DPRO’s unobtrusive capture process enabled Hanmore to perform without being restricted or inhibited by technology.
While there are other routes to creating a realistic human character for animation, a digital-double approach is able to capture an acting performance most faithfully. Providing convincing facial animation for a digital double is not in itself a straightforward task but with DI4D’s world-leading technology the process is efficient, simple and delivers unrivaled results.
“Everything is directly from the performance,” explained Colin Urquhart, co-founder and CEO of DI4D. “The captures that they [the director] chose had to be perfect, they couldn’t go back to animate a rig, to clean things up afterwards, so they took quite a lot of care and attention to really make sure that the performance captured was the one they wanted.”
The facial pipeline for HOME started with the creation of a single, static high-resolution 3D scan of the actor captured by a multi-camera photogrammetry rig. A single static, retopologized 3D scan mesh of the actor was then created along with various detail maps as well as the eyes and teeth to complete the final asset. The challenge for DI4D was to create facial animation with a level of detail and realism that would match that of the static digital double asset.
The DI4D PRO system used in HOME is composed of nine machine-vision cameras that capture the actor’s facial performance, along with their micro-expressions, using incredibly high-quality raw 3D images per frame. The actor’s performance is captured without the need for special markers or illumination in a natural and unobtrusive set-up.
The PRO system is fully mobile and the shoot for HOME was completed on location at the same time that the audio performance was captured. This is always the best approach to performance capture as it ensures super accurate lip sync that is required to deliver convincing facial animation for a digital double.
The actor’s performance was processed using DI4D’s proprietary stereo photogrammetry pipeline. DI4D’s solution eliminates the need for an animation rig – this point-cache animation process streamlines the post-production, and does not suffer from the deficiencies of using FACS rigs that often face complications in achieving human likeness. The result of this is the delivery of an unfalteringly lifelike digital double of Hanmore, exactly recreating his performance for the animated film.
HOME is a great example of the power of 4D capture and the simplicity of being able to capture facial animation directly and then bring a single static asset convincingly to life. The DI4D PRO pipeline accurately reproduced an amazing level of detail and realism by capturing all of the subtleties and emotional range of Hanmore’s performance, to deliver the most convincing facial animation possible. Each and every detail was then tracked and animated precisely onto his digital double.
“To put together two minutes of animation like this, with realistic performance and animation, would usually take a lot of time and money,” Colin explained. “Traditionally, to get this level of realistic animation, you’d need to have a fully rigged character, that you’d have to clean and animate. What took us two weeks from shoot to final delivery would traditionally take about six months to produce.”
HOME has garnered several awards at various VFX, animation, and film festivals around the world, including Best Animation at The Independent Film Awards 2021 in London, Best Sci-fi award at New York Shorts International Film Festival, and the Best Design award at the Animation Studio Festival, Paris.
Watch Colin Urquhart talk about the facial pipeline used on ‘HOME’: