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Monday, April 27, 2009


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Arcadia Codesmith

There are a few factors I can think of, in no particular order:

Symmetry - Second Life faces are perfectly symmetrical; real faces are not. It's a subtle difference, but to see the impact, split a full-face "mug shot" vertically and hold each half up to a mirror. In some cases, the result will look like two entirely different individuals.

Skin - Look at the techniques employed by "mixed reality" artists, and they often layer in a high-resolution skin texture in PhotoShop over the SL skin. There are some brilliant skin designers out there, but they're limited by the system in terms of the amount of detail they can produce.

Hair - We underestimate how much a hairstyle is a signature aspect of many people's individual look. Give David Spade a crew cut or Jennifer Aniston a pony tail, and they go instantly from looking like themselves to looking like someone who bears some resemblence to them. While some hairstyles can be replicated in SL with good results, others (especially shorter styles) are decidedly difficult. And a realistic color match can be hard to find as well.

Lighting - celebrity pictures are most often the result of a cadre of expert lighting technicians working in conjunction with makeup artists who know how to optimize that specific lighting situation. The effect is so controlled that non-professional photos of the same person often bear little resemblence to the polished image in our minds. SL tools are decidedly more limited (no matter how big your personal constellation of facelights becomes), and dependant on the viewer's settings.

There are other factors at work, but I think these are some of the more major obstacles to producing a recognizable celebrity.

Of course, since the rights of celebrities to protect their likenesses is far from settled in the courts, it may be for the best.

Doubledown Tandino

I'm going to have to throw it out there and say that if the avatar face doesn't match the RL celebrity, then the artist creating the avatar wasn't finished.

When an artist paints a real life portrait that doesn't look like the original subject, he doesn't blame the paint and the easel and the viewers for not seeing it the way it was intended.

Nothing against the avatar artists; they are phenominally talented, however, when the avatar doesn't match the RL person enough, then it's the artist's job to make it better, not LL's.


I think the Zac Effron avatar reminded me more of British model Melinda Messengers ex Wayne Roberts... Pic here... http://www.life.com/image/72936120

Ravyn Rozensztok

I'm pleased to know that so many people guessed correctly. I'm thinking of opening a shapes shop so this indicates I might be on-track with my avatar-fiddling skills.

A couple of things:

1) I think one of the best ways to accurately represent a real-life person in SL is to do more than one sitting. I find that as I spend time with an avatar I'm working on I eventually sort of fall-in-luv with the figure just because it's an attractive shape - regardless of whether it actually looks like the inspiration or not. So then its time to step away from the computer.

It actually took a few sessions to get this look, and I'm still not completely happy with it. I've already made more adjustments to the shape.

I've even found that it's taken more than a few sessions to get an avatar that looks like myself, and I like to think I'm pretty familiar with my own face! :)

2) Use a many photo-references as your google-fu can muster. Your perception of a person's features can change dramatically depending on their facial expression. I recommend using photos where the person is not smiling at all, as that blank stare is the default state that you'll be working with on your avatar. You definitely need full profile pictures as your avatar won't truly resemble your subject if you just focus on the front-view.

3) Hair and skin and eye choices are very important. This hair is too dark for the subject and I've already found a style from another designer which works much better - and even that I had to edit to get it more accurate.

If I do open a shop it will be shapes only with styling note-cards included. Part of the reason I started trying to make recognizable avatars was because it gave me a reason to go searching through the shops of all of Second Life's uber-talented designers hunting for just the right skin/hair/clothes for the figure. That's half the fun!

I'd like to expand the variety of body-shapes available for men in Second Life so this avatar with his tall, slim frame is a step in that direction. I'm thinking if I do offer shapes for sale that I might just focus on shapes inspired by famous figures who have shuffled into the afterlife and not name them directly just to avoid any rights conflicts.

Ravyn Rozensztok

Wow YP, you're right! I does look like Mr Roberts!

Mostly due to eye-shape/colour and the hair - which are all the things I've changed in the latest version of this avatar. (Maybe I'll do a separate avatar inspired by Mr. Roberts! lol!)

Ravyn Rozensztok

Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention: noses and ears suck in Second Life.

It's almost impossible to get the sliders to replicate some variations of real-life noses - and I really hate the way ears are stuck so low on the head.

We should be able to move ears up and down vertically on the shapes but they are stuck in an unrealistic position which can drastically effect the way a face can look. They should be either higher-than or at least level with the eyes on the skull but on these avatars they are stuck much lower than they should be.

Luckily they can be covered with hair on the ladies but that's not as possible for the guys. Until the nose and ear options get changed - if ever - it will be impossible to completely replicate a real-life face in Second Life.

Chenin Anabuki

When we do custom avatars based on a real life person, prerequisite are high res images of the person's face taken at the same point in time for each of these angles:

1. Straight frontal picture of the person’s face
2. Quarter left side picture of the person’s face
3. Quarter right side picture of the person’s face
4. Left profile of the person’s head
5. Right profile of the person’s head
6. Straight back picture of the person’s head
7. Frontal picture of the person’s face from an above angle

This provides us with enough raw material to work with for producing a close resemblance of the RL individual as an avatar.

I think the previous celebrity avatar examples are not that close to the RL celebrities they were based on because the creators have to draw on what images are available already. But if a celebrity (or regular person) willingly wants his image re-created as close as possible in SL and, is willing to provide the hi-res shots, it will come out well.

A few before and after examples here...

Archie Lukas


Who is this 'Ravyn Rozensztok,'
chappie anyhow -there's not a Virgins chance in a Gorean Sim that I could recognise him.

Arcadia Codesmith

"I've even found that it's taken more than a few sessions to get an avatar that looks like myself, and I like to think I'm pretty familiar with my own face! :)"

A good self-portrait is difficult for most artists in any medium. It takes an unusual degree of self-discipline and objectivity to set aside the our own self-image (whether it's idealized or overly critical) and see ourselves as the world sees us.

On the other hand, if we're too objective we risk presenting a work that's technically flawless but emotionally flat. Whether that applies to avatar sculpting, I'm not certain.

It occurs to me (on just a crazy thought tangent) that if you really wanted to evoke a particular person, you'd want to do a mocap session, try to capture their little idiosyncracies, and plop that into a custom AO. If our options for facial animation ever become more nuanced, that's another area that could help a great deal.

Ravyn Rozesztok

@Archie - I don't understand your question; am I not allowed to discuss this topic simply because you don't know me personally?

I apologize to all if I'm rambling too much here but this I'm new at this avatar creation thing and this is the first time I've had a chance to discuss it with anyone. Thanks muchly to Hamlet for starting the discussion!

@Chenin - those are beautiful. Do you require photos of their full bodies as well? (clothed of course.) I found with the Zac shape that getting his slim frame correct was just as important as getting his facial features accurate in order to make him reasonably recognizable in-world.

@Arcadia - That's a fascinating insight about the difficulties of creating self-portraits. I know I tend to think of myself as being shorter/wider than I really am, so the most accurate way for me to represent myself in an avatar may be to open a photo on-screen beside an open SL viewer with an avatar of similar size, and actually hold a ruler up to the screen to make measurements to get the basic proportions correct.

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