Character Emotion

Hi Everyone

My names Gemma Pullinger, and I’m currently half way through my final year honours project at Abertay, Dundee, Scotland. The aim of my project is to look at processes which assist on translating humen emotions into non humen virtual characters within an anti bullying campaign… I would love any feedback on a number of questions I have which relate to my dissertation research… you would of course have a mention in my dissertation references… I’m going to start off general, and see if I recieve any interest.

1: Do you think character emotion is more achievable depending on the visual style? eg cell paint animation vs 3D animation?

2: What do you think blender can achieve in terms of preparing character expression than other 3D packages?

3: Can you think of any films, animation, and games that do or do not achieve believable character emotion, and why do you think this is?

There was a study a while back where they judged people’s emotional reaction to three different things all emulating the same thing. First, a photograph of a person. Second, a cartoony version of that character. The third was a hyper-realistic rendering of a human, ala the Robert Zemeckis films. They were shocked to find the cartoony version appealed the most, but even more shocked to find the realistic rendering was disliked in comparison to the photograph.

So yes, visual style has a tremendous impact. The worst thing you can do for a film’s emotional impact is go full realism poser characters. This one point is why Pixar, Dreamworks, etc, have all made lots of money on their films while at the same time Disney has fired Zemeckis after multiple “realistic 3D” movies flopped.

Good: Pixar, Dreamworks, Blue Sky’s stuff.
Bad: Midnight Express, Beowulf, Final Fantasy Advent Children, the Jim Carey Christmas Carol.

Friends don’t let friends use Poser :ba:

I would say that there is an underlying element that this brings to light. A great parallel would be bad acting. Another would be attempting to make a war epic on a meager budget at your local park with a video camera. Emotional impact relies solely on your ability to bring a convincing believability to your presentation. If done with enough technical expertise - in line with what an audience expects - it will have an impact. If it is clear that one failed to achieve a certain effect, it falls flat.

In a nut shell, if you want to have emotional impact, do something that is going to be an effect you know you can achieve without pulling the audience out of the story or message by the distraction of something not looking quite right.

That may mean doing it as a character animated rather than realistic effect. If for no other reason than the fact that it is so hard to achieve the realistic that it can be distracting of not done right.

That goes from the top down. From the story to the art direction and the choice of what genera and style, casting and on down the line.

Don’t write for characters types you will not be able to cast. Don’t cast an actor unless they nail it. And god forbid don’t cast young people to pretend they are old. If you need an old man, find one.

And if you don’t think you can find an older actor, don’t write a part for one. Same goes for accents and the rest of it. A great actor can do a convincing accent. Done poorly it is just distracting.

thanks very much for replying, I’m going to post up some more questions soon, and will eventually post up screenshots from my intended animation. At the moment I have the story, the pre production finished, and I’m refining my animatic. The part I’m going to be focusing on in the next month or so, is modeling the characters faces. I’m looking at stop staring to allow me to create facial controls. I agree with what you mean about bad realism, which is why I am going for a cartoony style, and will have my main character progressing from child to old man… I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of any resources that help with facial modeling in this style?

Thanks very much for the feedback, I will post up some more questions, and post some screenshots of developments, and final renders asap :smiley: wow… you have a lot of great work, and really love the music! :smiley:

how do you think animators portray emapthetic performance within characters for animation and games?

One of the greats for learning is the recently completed Sintel project by our own Blender Foundation. The characters have a nice style that is not aiming to be realistic, but not childishly cartoony either. Check out the Sintel character and the Shaman character to get what I mean. Note that this project took a team of professionals 18 months to complete.

There are many tutorials released (my favourite of which are the facial topology for animation ones from Angela) and the entire production (all production models, textures, etc!) all released under the Creative Commons free license.

Imo, the most important characteristics for emotion are body language and facial animation (just like in real life). The Sintel production pretty much nails it. A slight slump in the shoulders coupled with wide downcast eyes and furrowed eyebrows with the corners of the mouth slightly downturned and the head tilted forward with arms hanging limply at the sides paints a more emotional picture than almost any vocabulary could.

That’s a great question.

I think the eyes say a lot. But generally I would say you have to be able to jump into the skin of your character. And to do that it is a lot like acting. Basically animators are actors and have the same challenges as actors would. If you can get passed the technical stuff and become fluent, you can portray emotion. If you can’t it will seem stiff and forced. You have to get to the point that the mechanics of it are second nature and you are working on a level where emotion is being conveyed.

To do that would require lots of practice just to get past the mechanics. Could take months or years.

Then I would say asking yourself questions like, “What do I feel as this character right here?” What are my inclinations here?" “What am I thinking?” (As this character). And act these things out in a mirror or on video tape and study it. Try to work back from this what you have to do mechanically to pull if off.

If you are a convincing actor and can pull that off in animation with all the techniques and tricks as second nature then I think you are well on your way to conveying empathy.

@Richard Culver: Very well put. I’m nowhere near fluent with animation, but one thing that wasn’t obvious when I was starting out is that modelers are artists and animators are actors. They just use non-traditional mediums. The link between animation and acting cannot be overstated.

Imo, the most important characteristics for emotion are body language and facial animation (just like in real life). The Sintel production pretty much nails it. A slight slump in the shoulders coupled with wide downcast eyes and furrowed eyebrows with the corners of the mouth slightly downturned and the head tilted forward with arms hanging limply at the sides paints a more emotional picture than almost any vocabulary could.[/QUOTE]

Thanks for the link, this stuff is all helpful, and again, thanks for the feedback, I’m going to start posting up some test blendshape videos, so you can see the progression.


@ Richard Culver - I will take this advise on board. I’m quite happy with the current progress of modelling, but I did underestimate how long it was going to take me to get the look I wanted from my initial sketches… but now I feel I’m ready to start blendshape testing, and bring the characters into the environments for further testing. I will post these up at some point soon, and perhaps more questions for my project research :D.

Nor am I… yet. :slight_smile:


Very thought provoking. This a beautiful piece.

Congratulations on your results. :slight_smile:

Do Not : Pretty much anything with Keanu Reeves in it.

@Blenderer: I agree. Keanu Reeves’ lead animator is really bad at his job. :wink:

Thanks very much for the comment. I’ll be posting the link to the final version once it’s complete.

So this is my final animation for my honours project… It would be great if you could give it a watch, and base any feedback you can give me on the following questions:

Do you feel empathy for Jaime? and why?
Do you feel sympathy for Jaime? and why?
Do you think this animation would make a successful campaign to raise awareness within the specific anti - bullying message? and why? Do you think the audio and (or) narration enhances the emotional response? and why? Do you feel any emotional response?