René Morel: 3D Faces Exhibition at the SAT
Look into my eyes: René Morel's ultrarealistic visages may not be convincing enough
Jessica Fernandes · April 4, 2004 | Walking outside against the spine-tingling cold wind of a Montreal night in January, I had to remind myself why I ventured out in the first place. A showing of 3D Faces by René Morel at the Society for Arts and Technology (SAT) was reason enough to keep my body gravitating in that direction. A master of 3D photorealism, René Morel is most well known for his work on The Boxer and Final Fantasy. His showing at the SAT consisted of two animated loops, projected side-by-side on large hanging canvases, of a man and a woman's 3D-rendered and animated faces. Using subtle eye, mouth, and facial movements in his beautifully crafted and textured models, he did not disappoint in bringing the inanimate to life. You could not help but marvel at how well these faces mimicked reality.

Personally, I found the man's face to be more convincing than the woman's. They say the eyes are one of the most expressive parts of our bodies, and her eyes were hidden behind large reflective sunglasses. To top it off, and complete her sleek skier-like look, she wore a dark fitted sweater and a black toque. Together, this ensemble made her very difficult to read as a person. She was mysterious, I grant you that. And judging from the full pouty lips and facial features, she was what most would describe as beautiful, too. But without eyes visible for me to read, and details like a hairstyle to provide insight into her personality, it felt like I was losing half the picture. In the case of the man, I had more information to draw from.

However, the modeling, texturing and lighting of both models had me floored. But in terms of the animation of the models, no matter how good it was (and granted, these were well done) you inevitably found yourself trying to pinpoint just what it was that kept you from accepting these as real people. Among the reasons I came up with for questioning the man's animation: I don't remember him ever fully blinking; it seemed odd for a person to be standing around making those kind of facial movements (the only likeness I could draw was to a hesitant person who wanted to say something but reconsidered and never spoke); I found myself drawing parallels between the figure and inanimate objects like a bobble-head doll; and finally, the projections were not accompanied by any kind of sound. Perhaps others came up with more convincing answers. I came away unsatisfied with my own.

Although I was rather disappointed to see only two 3D Faces (the animated loops of which were too short for my taste, leaving me wanting more) it was still a worthwhile viewing if you were in the area. However, the fact that this exhibit was to be seen from the sidewalk, in the cold, through the great glass windows of the SAT, would inspire most people to stay home and hope to catch the animations posted elsewhere at some point. The passionate aspiring character modeler or animator would probably have made the trek, regardless. Hmm, I was out there in the cold. I wonder if that grants me de facto credibility.
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