Posted by: Nar Williams | August 13, 2008

3D Facial Animation: Still Kinda Creepy

Although 3D facial animation software has come a long way since Polar Express, the technology is still a few years away from convincibly replacing real actors (the final middle finger to SAG?), due mainly to the lack of “life” in the eyes. As the video demo from Pendulum Studio’s Alter Ego division shows, the skin and expressions look great, but there is something zombie creepy about those dead-to-the-world eyes.

Watch carefully and you’ll see the eyes never move or show any expression themselves. This was my biggest beef with Beowulf, which would have been such a better movie if it had starred the real Anthony Hopkins and Robin Wright instead of their CG avatars.

The demo below is still quite impressive. At this rate, we may see a day when 3D actors dominate the cineplex.


  1. Welcome to the “Uncanny Valley”.

    Where the artificial form is very realistic, but just a bit off to make the needle jump to level 10+ on the creepy meter.

    It’s not confied to 3D imagery, but those Japanese “Actroids” that came out little while back. Very impressive technologically, but will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up if you were standing next to one face to face.

  2. Looks like Wikipedia already has a page on it.

  3. Very cool link, eksith — looks like I am indeed in the Uncanny Valley… Maybe WETA knows the way out?

  4. Wow… It’s interesting that they went to Keanu Reeves for acting coaching. Look at the subtle nuances in the dead eyes… The slight bob between moments… It’s very lifelike… almost TOO lifelike…

    In the future, robots will kick our asses while saying things like, “Whoah!” and “I know kungfu…”

  5. […] 3D Facial Animation: Still Kinda Creepy […]

  6. […] Last week I wrote about the latest in 3D facial animation and how I thought it still had a long way to go to eliminate the creep factor. Well, apparently, “long way” = “one week” these days. As commentor eksith pointed out, I was experiencing the uncanny valley, a hypothesis that when robots, CGI animation, and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. […]

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