Express Yourself

March 1999
By Paula Parisi 

Smile, smirk, sulk, scowl. The human face is capable of infinite expressions - expressions that virtually all of Hollywood's much hyped synthespians sadly lack. Which makes Jester (pictured) and Suit, the characters in Tightrope, a CG short by f/x house Digital Domain, all the more impressive. "There is no dialogue - everything is told through the faces," says director Daniel Robichaud.

The old approach of prebuilding the facial movements requires hours of work up front and never covers all the possibilities. Digital Domain's proprietary system, on the other hand, lets animators play muscle groups like a musical instrument. "The creative challenge," says Robichaud, "comes down to the acting ability of the animator."