The Face

 

I’ve mentioned I do a Writer Buddies status report to help motivate me writing. I also sometimes use 3D for that purpose. This is a high definition rendering of me talking. I don’t look like that, it’s just a model. And it’s only 1080p. I can go up to full 4K resolution, but it balloons the file size to enormous proportions. This is already 380 megs and at full quality it’s about 1.7 gigabytes!

You can hear the trash trucks in the alley behind me about midway through. I recorded this on my bed and my wall is right next to that alley, which captures sound. That’s another practical concern. You see my eyes wandering all over the place, not only because that’s something I tend to do, but because otherwise I’m looking at my knees/camera about 8 inches away. And I’m not used to speaking directly to my knees. That’s another practical issue. All this stuff are things I have to nail down if I want to do this more consistently.

On a technical side, one interesting (to me) factoid about visual effects, is that there are no actual curves anywhere in this scene. No Pixar movie or Disney movie or any animation or computer game uses actual curves. Almost never. This has been the case since computer graphics began. If you look at the old video for Dire Straights Money For Nothing video, which had been a true staple on MTV and I must have watched it 100 times in the 1980s, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAD6Obi7Cag) all the computer animation has lots of squares and rigid surfaces. All the old computer games from Lara Croft to Asteroids to Super Mario is blocky and straight. The reason for this has to do with mathematics.

When I was measuring my home, trying to determine where I could place cameras so I could capture the most space the most efficiently, I was solving Pythagorean’s Theorem. People can do that in their heads. I used a web page… But it’s simple stuff. Computers can solve the areas of triangles and rectangles and other polygons a million times a second without busting a circuit. That’s “simple” geometry or trigonometry based on fixed rules and laws. However, as soon as you curve a line, solving that becomes calculus. And it’s vastly, vastly more difficult. And the decimal places go on forever. So your precision, which had been damn near perfect using polygons, gets less and less and you end up with empty space unless you carry the calculations extremely far.

So what computers do, what games and every animated film does, is it uses polygons. It uses lots and lots of triangles. And when it’s done with that, it fakes it. It makes a pass, or multiple passes, and smoothes out the hard edges by curving and connecting the vertices. The face in the video below has exactly zero curved surfaces. It is made up of over 4000 triangles. Because operating with 4000 triangles is easier than operating with even a few curved lines. And a few curved lines can’t build an entire face that’s morphing and contorting every second. That’s a fundamental of modern computer graphics. Every curved surface you see is actually a fake by your display. The more polygons you start with and more powerful your graphics card, the more realistic their fake curves become.

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