Plug-in software programs are usually created in one of two variations for most CG applications. The first method is to provide advanced functionality for the larger program. Think of the AniMate plug-in for Daz Studio 3; it provides a much improved animation mode for Daz. The second method is to make a complex task easier by unifying several functions into one. And even for the casual CG artist, it's worth it to take the busy work out of creating images and scenes in applications like Poser and Daz Studio 3.
FaceAge 1.0 is both a plug-in for Daz Studio 3 and a stand-alone program primarily for Poser. What this neat little program does is to allow you to easily create aging, weight and ethnicity for 3D face models. The program works much like the second category of plug-in: it makes it easier to create character faces on your models. And for the most part it does this job well.
Part of the “Face” series of programs created by the Hungarian company, Pantomat, and distributed by Abalone, FaceAge 1.0 works to create various facial morphs using a slider based GUI which is then saved as separate morphs. You then adjust these morphs by using the percentage sliders in Daz or Poser, depending upon how you are using the program.
Loading the model into FaceAge
I'm going to concentrate on using FaceAge 1.0 as a Daz Studio 3 plug-in since it works easily that way. With Poser (and other 3D applications) you have to export the head as an .obj and save the texture file. The process of importing the resultant .obj and manipulating it inside of FaceAge 1.0 is identical at this point, so I'll concentrate on the Daz Studio 3 side of the program.
Firstly, FaceAge 1.0 does not work with anything earlier than Daz Studio 3, so if you have an earlier version of Daz (like I did), you'll have to update your program. But this is pretty painless as Daz makes it easy to transfer any content to the updated version.
Exporting .obj of the head inside of Poser 8
Once inside of Daz, you choose the model you are going to create the facial morphs for and load it into your scene. Zooming to a close-up, you then call up FaceAge from the Edit menu. The main GUI is a simple window with your chosen model's face with a number of green dots positioned around the face. In the upper left-hand corner there is a smaller generic face which shows the correct placement of the green dots. The dots correspond to areas on the model mesh which FaceAge will manipulate.
The key to creating a good facial morph is getting these green dots in just the right positions. My problem was that not all of the green dots would appear at the same time. Plus, some of them were hidden behind the mesh itself. Now, it's easy to rotate the mesh using mouse movement, but even so it's somewhat tedious business getting everything in the right place. One helpful aspect of this process is that when you select a dot, it's corresponding position blinks on the window where the correctly positioned dots are. Really, once you get the hang of it, it's not too bad. This area does need work though as it's a bit primitive.
Once you've positioned the dots, you click OK and a new window appears which has 4 sliders for age, weight, Asian and African. By moving the sliders to the right, you increase the facial morphs for each of these facial categories. Fortunately, the adjustment is in real-time so you can see the result of your adjustment. Each of these categories affect separate parts of the face, but in a fairly blunt way without a lot of subtle control of the mesh deformation. Still, the results are pretty good and I was able to come up with a decent approximation of age, weight and ethnic looks. Actually, using smaller amounts of the ethnic morphs in combination with the age/weight sliders can produce interesting character faces as well as simple aging.
Morph sliders in Daz for adjusting the FaceAge morphs
At this point, you save a morph for weight, then come back and save another morph for age, and so on. This allows you to use the sliders in Daz (or Poser) to adjust the amounts of the morph. FaceAge cleverly lets the parent program take care of the subtle shading of the facial morphs. Results are good inside of Daz, and I suspect inside of Poser as well, although I didn't get to test it completely there.
The newest version of FaceAge is 1.1, which adds bump maps for wrinkles. A nice addition that works in the same way the morphs do, except you don't have as much control since the bump map is generated for you inside of FaceAge. Sure would like the ability to adjust the amounts like you can the facial morphs.
I like FaceAge 1.0. It's a simple, inexpensive plug-in that does what it claims to do. Since the program is really in it's early stages of development, it's pretty bare. Improving the GUI so that you have more control over the morph, plus making the “dot positioning” an easier task should be high priorities for upcoming versions. And I'd really recommend making FaceAge a Poser plug-in since the process of exporting .obj from Poser is somewhat tedious and a bit hard to follow in the tutorials.
Pantomat is also the maker of the interesting FaceShop 4, a program which allows you to create a 3D facial mesh from a 2D photo. Integrating these two programs into one would be a great idea and a good value, too. Dee Marie's review of FaceShop Pro for Renderosity is a good place to start learning about that program as well.
There are decent video tutorials available and the manual is well written. Although, the new version (1.1) of FaceAge that was released too late for this review, I think it will most likely work as well as version 1.0. Probably would be a good idea to get the updated version, as adding wrinkles to your model is essential to the aging process.
It will be interesting to see how this program develops in the future.
At present, the 1.0 version (I'm sure Renderosity will be offering the updated version very soon) is for sale here at Renderosity for $27.96. The main Abalone site has the 1.1 version for $29.95. Unfortunately, it's a windows-only program and will install to 2K, XP and Vista systems (and presumably Windows 7).
FaceAge 1.1 Minimum System Requirements:
My System Set-Up for Review:
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Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
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