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Weeks 8 to 10, and into December 2013

December 30, 2013

Wow, long time, no post! Research has been very interesting – just lots of schoolwork and outside influences have me forget to actually upload my pre-written posts. I have edited them here to make them more concise.

Expression work has gone well. For some reason, one of the markers on the lips – well, two, one for the middle of the top and bottom lips – sticks in place whenever the lips move up and down. This was noticeable in older versions of expressions. Manual tweaking has fixed these issues, but hopefully cracking into the code can alleviate needing to manually tweak these spots.

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The teeth are also a very bright shade of white. For now, photoshop will have to do the work to hide that. Pearly whites are on the bottom of my to-do list, as…

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While it is fun to mess with the eyebrows and push them to extremes, this creates a huge stress on the texture map, revealing large blotches that do not move smoothly or look pretty when in actual use. I had to go back to some of my older expressions and loosen up the brows a bit – make them less theatrical – to eliminate a large amount of the glitchy map. I am learning where exactly the limits are on the bones to see when these maps falter. This affects both up/down motion and “scrunching” motion. If the brow is too close to the bridge of Paula’s nose, the red pops through the skin again. Small tweaks help avoid this.

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The focus has shifted from pure expression work to working on visemes. Visemes are the speech sounds that look the same when spoken, such as “pet”, “bell”, and “men”. These lip motions are difficult for lip readers to distinguish. There are subtleties with how the tongue may move in the mouth or how the teeth are utilized to make the actual sounds, but since the lips are in the way, there is no way to distinguish these mouth movements without being hearing capable.

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(“UH” Original / “UH” tweaked)

From what I understand, visemes play a peculiar part in ASL: revealing sub-Sign units of activity. This means that these visemes can punctuate certain signs, perhaps inflect further types of stress or emotion, and add to the overall spirit of what is being signed.

Currently, our avatar has a hard time working with visemes that involve puckering the lips especially. This is because of how the joints are set up and how the texture map works on the lips. In real life, wrinkles appear on our skin as we pucker and purse our lips outward to make visemes like “oo”. Paula currently has a hard time with this, so my job right now is to attempt to tackle the dreaded “oo” to make it more naturalistic. So far, with our current set-up, this is quite a challenge. Hopefully in the future, I can work off of the crude creations I have made so far after (possibly) working on a new texture map for the lips to create better wrinkles.

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(“OO” Original / “OO” Tweaking – note the poor wrinkling!)

I hope I can work on these visemes, create better maps, and try to fix these glitches to make Paula more naturalistic. 2014 will hopefully be very productive!

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