Our facial expressions usually convey more about our emotions than words. A slight movement of a muscle can completely transform how we interpret one emotion from the next. There are thousands of possible expressions, which make the face one of the hardest parts of the body to animate.

NaturalFront specializes in improving the facial animation process for animators and hobbyists. Animating facial expressions can be difficult to master. However, these essential tips and techniques can help you create more lifelike and expressive animations.

1. Start with a solid foundation.

Each facial expression is the combination of several facial muscles and structures working together. If the construction of your 3D model is flawed, your facial animations will be too. The key is to start with an anatomically accurate foundation. In fact, most animation schools will require animators to study human anatomy. Creating a facial model manually is extremely time-consuming and tedious for animators though.

Technology like NaturalFront can help automate the process. NaturalFront uses real-life photos of human faces to instantly generate 3D facial models. Each facial model is assembled with thousands of vertices and is modelled after the actual human facial construction, so you can create accurate, lifelike expressions.

 

2. Create a gallery of facial expressions to inspire you.

Most artists and animators use real-life references to guide their own creations. If you are struggling to capture a certain emotion in your 3D models, then do a study of people expressing a range of emotions. You can model the facial expressions yourself and photograph them.

3. Let technology help you.

Although it may improve your animations if you know what muscles and parts of the face are anatomically used in creating them, technology can be used to accelerate and improve the process. Thanks to advanced computing and improved algorithms, it is easier for animation technology to generate facial animations as well as 3D models. For instance, NaturalFront’s 1-Click Animation feature can help animators sync audio files with lip movements.

4. Avoid the uncanny valley.

Creating emotional facial animations may take some practice. If your facial animations are too real, they risk falling into the uncanny valley, a state in which characters have a zombie-like dead look. However, if they are too exaggerated, they won’t be believable. To avoid the uncanny valley, animators focus on eliminating inconsistencies, incorporating eye movement into facial expressions and basing their animations on real-life. Read more on the Uncanny Valley and how to avoid it here.

The face is the main window into a person’s inner emotions, so it is critical for facial animations to be accurate and lifelike. NaturalFront’s technology focuses on improving the traditional 3D facial animation process, so that animators can create more realistic and emotional animations without spending thousands of dollars or hours on it. Learn more about NaturalFront’s Facial Animation Software and Unity Plugins here.