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Chris Landreth

Chris Landreth was originally trained as a mechanical engineer and eventually decided that making mind-bending animated films would be much more fun. He subsequently joined Alias Inc. (now Autodesk) as the chief development artist of a 3D animation software tool that would eventually be called Maya. During this time, he created two animated short films to develop and test Alias's new software: the end (1995) and Bingo (1998). Later, he worked with the National Film Board of Canada to direct three additional short films. One of these, Ryan, received the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2005. Chris is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship (2011) for his body of animated film work, and is a distinguished artist in residence with the Dynamic Graphics Project (DGP) at the University of Toronto. He is an expert on observing and animating human faces, and teaches "Making Faces," a master class for CG artists wishing to master facial animation. Chris is now co-founder and chief creative officer of JALI Research Inc., a software company specializing in solutions for animating 3D character faces.


Fake Faces

In the last two decades, CG character animation has become a victim of its own success. Twenty years ago, recreating human beings in virtual 3D space was a fantasy, the Holy Grail of computer animation. Today, that fantasy is a reality that surrounds us in films, games, and TV commercials. A consequence of this success has been a sense of alienation and distrust we feel when we see realistic synthetic humans. This experience is often called the "Uncanny Valley." Today this distrust is justifiably even more pronounced, as realistic but not-actually-real humans populate video footage we now call "deepfake"

Chris has had more than 25 years of animating realistic human characters and has learned some surprising things about these synthetic humans, particularly about their faces. If these CG characters are well made, they can lie like humans - and we can see it in those faces. If they are not well made, they can only lie like machines - and we see it in their code.

In this presentation, Chris will show you the anatomy of a CG character's face and how it can lie to you - but also how it can convey, in unlikely ways, beauty and truth.