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Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Facial Animation

Back in December, I posted a piece about the automatic colourisation of black and white photographs. One of the web sites I mentioned, MyHeritage, has now added a new feature called Deep Nostalgia which animates faces. “Animate the faces in your family photographs”, it says. “Experience your family history like never before”.

It gives me an excuse to re-post this wonderful picture, taken before a boat trip from the Yorkshire seaside resort of Bridlington in 1929.

First, let’s look at what face animation does to our Prime Minister’s official photograph. The result may not be suitable for those of a nervous disposition. 

Where photographs have multiple faces, the tool crops out and animates one at a time.

I animated five of the faces from the automatically colourised version of the 1929 photograph, and put them together in the following video. They are (1) my grandad on the right, (2) my dad standing behind him, (3) the Somerset Maugham lookalike in the hat on the left (there is a crease in the original photograph), (4) the woman behind him, and (5) the wiry-haired man behind her:

I don’t know why some video segments are longer than others. I think the woman comes out best but it doesn’t really endear them to you. I certainly didn’t “spend the evening balled up in tears” as the following news report implies. It also touches upon the dangers of these tools.

The MyHeritage site only allows you to animate five faces before asking for money. However, my experiments were carried out in collaboration with my very good friends Mickey Mouse, Billy Liar and Seán ÓEigeartaigh. Between us, we were able to do it without paying. Their assistance was greatly appreciated. 

 Video links if you can’t see them:

42 comments:

  1. What a marvel technology is. But is it good? In this case no, scary and rather pointless.

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    1. Pointless is the word. The phrase on the last video "I spent the evening balled up in tears" is completely OTT. I wouldn't pay for it. It's not all that leading edge - I was involved in a project that used similar software twenty years ago.

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  2. That's pretty amazing. I expect it is capable of changing expressions too - happy to angry, for instance. That would be creepy.

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    1. Probably, yes, although if a picture had a closed mouth it would have to invent teeth to make it smile - the girl in the example on the MyHeritage web site was already smiling in the still picture. To avoid that it just quirks the lips a bit, which is creepy enough.

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    2. I suppose you have seen this:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_H71aiz290
      It hinges on the eyes.

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    3. Leo McKern would have played a great Rembrandt.

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    4. Hadn't seen it. It's awful.

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  3. Why would anyone want to do that anyway? Watching a face move up and down and side to side for a while is fairly boring after all.

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    1. My face is moving up and down in agreement.

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  4. Which all goes to support the argument that some technological 'advances' are just because we can, not because they serve any useful or practical purpose, or improve the state of humanity.

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    1. It will be based on the same computer vision techniques used in gaming and face recognition, but not all applications of it are enhancements to our lives.

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  5. Fascinating! I had not heard of this yet!

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    1. It has only come out recently, although it would easily have been possible a decade ago.

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  6. I've seen a few of these on social media, people animating treasured pictures of long dead relatives. They're the stuff of nightmares. Like horror movies about demonic dolls!

    I can see how people get intrigued with the process, though.

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    1. Some are more creepy than others. I couldn't resist playing with it, but don't find it as interesting as colourisation.

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  7. Amazing what they can do these days! I don't think it is something I would need to do, tho! :)

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  8. These technological advancements are amazing but I'm not sure if there is a real need for them. I suppose it can be fun playing around with photos particularly the old ones. Thanks for showing this. I have not heard of it and it is quite interesting.

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    1. As mentioned in previous comment, I believe that the computer vision techniques it is based on can be useful, but like most others above, it's not something I would want to use regularly.

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  9. It leaves me totally devoid of reaction.

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  10. Co-incidentally, my daughter showed me this wizardry this very morning. It's pretty amazing. Though you admitted fraudulent use of Deep Nostalgia, I for one refuse to inform on a fellow Yorkshireman.

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    1. I'm not particularly impressed, having a little understanding of how it works. It's a rip-off asking people to subscribe to MyHeritage if that's the only reason they want it.

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  11. fascinating, but the movements seem unnatural and a bit creepy, really. I think the idea of animation is that you see a person's personality in their facial expressions, eye contact, etc. This is just an head moving, and give no new information on the person him- or herself. Interesting though.

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    1. It also blinks and it bends the mouth a bit. As in previous comment, it can't make people smile if there are no teeth showing. I'm now wondering what it does to a picture of someone with eyes closed - it's much more difficult to invent eyes to make them blink.

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  12. Not sure what to think of this. Like many of the others here have said, it is a bit creepy, and rather pointless. But I understand the fascination with it, too, and can imagine it is fun to play around with for a while.

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    1. Only for a short time. I can't even be bothered to investigate what it does with closed-eye pictures as mentioned in previous commment.

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  13. I'm with the "creepy" verdict on this technology. I think dead people have a right to be dead without us playing around with their images. I feel the same way about digitally re-animating dead celebrities.

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    1. That's a good point, an angle I hadn't thought about.

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  14. I did not like it, the young boy in the 1929 photo had chocolate round his mouth, did his mother wipe his mouth for him? It sort of brought home reincarnating the dead. Does the technology relate to cartoon imaging?

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    1. It does make him look like he has a dirty mouth, although it's probably due to the shadows from the black and white picture being rendered like that during colourisation. It is indeed similar technology - for example (if interested) see Eyematic Facestation: https://youtu.be/FXUJ6KC5lno

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  15. We've done this with several family photos. The only one it did a good job on was my husband, aged about 9 months!

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    1. I was wondering whether it is more successful with children and women who tend to show more facial expressions.

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  16. How long before we will see 3-D holograms of the illustrious deceased? Or the un-illustrious?
    I shudder at film footage of Stalin, Beria, Hitler, Goebbels. Imagine if we could see these monsters walking across the room, like living ghosts? I am grateful that they are in Hell for all eternity.
    Haggerty

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    1. I believe they could do that now with 3D glasses, but it would need professional production teams, not a simple internet program.

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    2. Have you seen "They Shall Not Grow Old"? That was amazing, watching all those young faces pop to life before your eyes.

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    3. I did see that. It was surprising how effective it was in making everyone more lifelike. That was colourisation of already moving images, though, whereas this deep nostalgia tool animates still images.

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    4. I realize that this was film colorized and restored. I thought it was a remarkable thing, reading about the restoration. However, sitting in a theater with my 3d specs was an astounding experience. I had never seen anything quite like it. It was actually a bit uncomfortable.

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    5. Have only seen it on TV, not in 3D. It does sound astounding but I'm not sure whether I would want to experience WW1 so realistically.

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  17. Its very clever. I've seen it done on historical figures like Richard the Third and others. That was fascinating if a little creepy.

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    1. It's more than a month, now, since I was playing with these tools, and I've had no wish to revisit them. Once I'd tried it I lost interest.

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