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Product Review: Singular Inversions' FaceGen Modeller 2.2

May 15, 2003

FaceGen Modeller 2.2 is the newest version of the face and head creation software from Singular Inversions. It has been designed to allow a user to create custom, unique faces faster than traditional 3D modeling packages typically allow.

Getting started is easy and fun. Upon launch, a default head loads into the shaded viewport, and I was immediately able to create random faces with just a push of a button. There is also the option to load faces that have been previously custom-created in the software.

To customize the premade and randomly generated heads, FaceGen comes complete with a simple yet powerful modeling toolkit. It differs from a traditional 3D modeling package in that geometry is not directly manipulated on the vertex/face level but through a series of sliders that control all aspects of your model. For example, if I create the face of a young woman and then want to change the model to reflect an older age, rather than push and pull vertices I use two sliders that control age, one for the geometry and one for the texture. Move them forward, and cheeks lose their fullness, the nose grows, and the skin weathers, all based upon the face's natural aging process. It works remarkably well, and this is how everything in FaceGen functions. There are also sliders that control masculinity and femininity, race, symmetry, and realism.

A custom head created in FaceGen Modeller from a few simple snapshots of a subject. No additional editing was needed, and the default result was amazingly accurate.

Taking this to a deeper level, there are sliders that make up, and append, subsets of these more general categories. The user can go into a much more detailed slider group and fine-tune features like the character of a nose. Users can also adjust for a heavier brow or make a longer face, for example. The ability to easily create faces that differ greatly from one another doesn't disappoint. Morph targets can be generated using combinations of emotion sliders, as well as phoneme sliders.

FaceGen's built-in faces are customizable, and there's plenty to do with the templates and modification tools provided. However, many artists will want the ability to create heads from unique material, which is where the PhotoFit service comes into play. With PhotoFit, simple snapshots of people can be made into full models, all fully modifiable, as they are with the template faces. After the images are acquired, the wizard interface brings them into the software and the images are sent via Internet to Singular Inversions, who converts the photographs (one or two photos are supported) into a FaceGen file, which can be loaded into Modeller, edited, applied to a mesh, and exported as a model with UVs and texture. The results are amazing and look as if they came from a 3D scanner. This additional feature is fast, it took me about 20 minutes to receive custom-generated FaceGen files. PhotoFit also requires an additional investment, starting at $9.50 per face, after an initial 10-face credit.

FaceGen exports to the native formats of most popular 3D packages. The models are a bit heavy on geometry, but upon import into your favorite 3D package, detail is easily reduced. I converted a 6,000-polygon FaceGen head into a very nice 550-polygon 3DS Max head by using only Max's built-in MultiRes and then flipping a few edges. The entire process of creating this head took 10 minutes, and the results were excellent.

Even if the software cannot create exactly the head you have envisioned (for example, getting the bulbous nose I envisioned for a character proved impossible just using FaceGen), rest assured that FaceGen will give you a very solid starting point. At $495, FaceGen is a robust package with a lot going for it, and an artist could easily expect to save hundreds of hours of time in the creation of unique faces for any given project.

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