Facial animation Research


Just like a blueprint for a building, it is a lot quicker and simpler to start from topology reference.


The hardest part of the modelling process was the ear, since I created the ear on a separate mesh, when it came to merging the two meshes they produced a lot of errors. The ear has more detail so merging created lots of Nsided shapes. Which may have caused faces around the ear to flip their normals. To correct this I deleted the flipped faces and added them back with ‘quad draw’ & ‘fill hole’.


The joints system begins the thought process of what should move on the face. I wanted to have as many options as possible to follow the animation principles such as squash & stretch/ follow through.


Next job is to attach the joints to the mesh. The ‘bind skin’ options I used are close to default, apart from I used ‘Selected Joints’ because I wanted to skin the teeth and tongue separately. The bind method I used was ‘Geodesic Voxel’ because the weights are calculated based on the distance between the skeleton and the mesh. I also increased the Falloff because there is more than enough room on the mesh.

Controlling the mouth

The teeth and tongue are separate mesh therefore are skinned to their correct joint and parented to the head. The bottom teeth and tongue are parented to the jaw, so when the jaw opens the bottom teeth and tongue follow. The top set of teeth are parented to the head joint, so when the head moves the teeth stay in place.

Blendshape emotions

The first thing I did was play around with emotions, some of them I might not need, but I noticed when you activate 2 or more at the same time you get some interesting results.

By using the soft selection tool I was able to create more interesting shapes than just with the rig. I was able to create a squash and stretch rig, when the mouth opens and closes; by using soft selection and two separate meshes. I had one blendshape with the jaw open with either side of the mouth stretched, on other blendshape the mouth was closed and the mouth was squashed, top to bottom. Then using set driven keys, I created a rig where once the jaw opens, the stretch activates and once its closed and overlapped the squash activates.

Blendshape- extra controls

Eyebrows are one of the most important facial areas in animation. The process begin shaping the inner and outer parts of the eyebrow using the joint system, then applied the blendshape targets back to the mesh, but so far its only effecting the left side of the face. Mirroring blendshapes is not as simple as geometry. Involves duplicating the base mesh flipping its x scale (-1) apply the blendshape, then using the wrap deformer from the base mesh to the new mesh, activate the blendshape then delete its history. Instead of doing repeating for each blend shape, I used a python script from Creativecrash.com.

For my animation I’d like to control the up and down movement and separately control the inner and outer parts. I achieved this using set driven keys. There are two controls (Inner, outer), the controllers have limited information on their Y axis (0.5, -0.5). Then used the controllers for the driver and the blendshapes for the driven. For example I set 0.5 Y as the inner/outer eyebrow up and then vice versa at -0.5 y.


Phonemes are the shapes our mouth makes when producing certain sounds. This where the mirror is introduced in the animation process, using ourselves is great reference for dialogue.

My rig in its current state can already shape a lot of phonemes such as A, I, E because I have good cheek and jaw controls. However my rig is missing the controls to shape sounds for U, O & F, M, V. The shapes for F & M are quite similar they involve the top and bottom lip, F requires the front teeth to roll over the bottom lip whereas M requires the top lip to roll over the bottom lip. U & O use the side of the lips and protrude out, the difference between the two are U stretches the face to appear long whereas O is more squashed. It’s always good practice to over exaggerate to show the character emotions crystal clear.

Link to the facial animation: https://vimeo.com/176163932


Whilst studying animation. I was given the task of creating a facial animation from scratch. Here is my process.


Modeller, Rigger, Animator


University Project