Somewhere between “Final Fantasy” in 2001 and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 2008, digital actors crossed the “Uncanny Valley” from looking strangely synthetic to believably real. This talk describes how the Light Stage scanning systems and HDRI lighting techniques developed at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies have helped create digital actors in in films such as Spider-Man 2, Superman Returns, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Avatar, Tron: Legacy, and Avengers. For in-depth examples, the talk describes how high-resolution face scanning, advanced character rigging, and performance-driven facial animation were combined to create “Digital Emily”, a collaboration with Image Metrics (now Faceware) yielding one of the first photoreal digital actors, and “Digital Ira”, a collaboration with Activision Inc., yielding the most realistic real-time digital actor to date. The talk includes recent developments in HDRI lighting, polarization difference imaging, and skin reflectance measurement, and concludes with advances in autostereoscopic 3D displays which are enabling 3D teleconferencing techniques which can transmit person’s face in 3D to make eye contact with remote collaborators.


Paul Debevec is a Research Professor at the University of Southern California and the Associate Director of Graphics Research at USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies where he leads the ICT Graphics Laboratory. His work has focused on image-based modeling and rendering techniques beginning with his 1996 Ph.D. thesis at UC Berkeley, with specializations in high dynamic range imaging, reflectance measurement, facial animation, and image-based lighting. He serves as the Vice President of ACM SIGGRAPH and received a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award® in 2010 for his work on the Light Stage facial capture systems.