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Disney aims to make animated characters' eyes more lifelike


Researchers in Zurich are helping Disney make its animated characters more realistic by zeroing in on the uniqueness of the eye.

Zurich, Switzerland-Researchers in Zurich are helping Disney make its animated characters more realistic by zeroing in on the uniqueness of the eye.

According to Disney Research, “the eyes are arguably the most important features of an individual’s face, if not a window to the soul, so the use of generic eye models when creating digital faces can have disappointing results. Scientists at Disney Research Zurich, noting the significant variation in eyes between individuals, have devised methods for faithfully capturing those features.”

Despite advances in digital animation, animated characters can look uniform and lifeless, as they lack the asymmetrical features and tiny imperfections of real eyes, reported Optometry Today.

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“Even though the human eye is one of the central features of individual appearance, its shape has so far been mostly approximated in our community with gross simplifications,” Disney Research said.

With the release of their findings, Disney’s researchers reported that they have developed a technique, using multiple cameras and various lighting, to more accurately capture the shape and texture of the white sclera, the shape and refraction of the transparent cornea, and the shape and coloring of the iris, including how it deforms as the pupil narrows and widens.

“This unprecedented level of detail enables the creation of an eye model that both captures the look of the person’s eye and can duplicate how it responds to changes in lighting,” Disney Research said.




“Creating a photo-realistic digital human is one of the grand challenges of computer graphics, but despite intense research on capturing actors’ faces-especially for reconstruction of the skin surface and features such as hair-little attention to date has been given to the eye, particularly its shape,” said Pascal Bérard, a PhD student in computer graphics at Disney Research Zurich and ETH Zurich.

“Generically modeled eyes may be sufficient for background characters, but it now takes significant effort to manually create realistic eyes for heroes and other leading characters,” he continued. “Our reconstruction technique can greatly reduce the time spent and help increase the realism of the eye.”

Disney is not the only company pursing more realistic features for their characters.

Video games such as The last of Us and Get Even have begun raising the bar on the realism of their characters, The Atlantic reported.

“Most of the time, that's done without image-capturing an actor's eyes, but rather using production techniques after the fact. In Sony's documentary on the making of The Last of Us, the game's animators talk about creating realistic eye motions by watching the human performances recorded for game production,” The Atlantic wrote.

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