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..::blinking eye::..

Nine out of ten times, when you being to model a realistic head, this is where you start, then progress outwards. Preferably, you would want to model it closed; this way, later on you can open the lid and fold the skin back.

The face moves almost all of the time in some way, albeit slight motion. The eye very rarely stays static, which therefore affects the deformation of the eyelid due to the curved shape of the iris passing underneath the skin. Observe the motion of your, or another person’s, eye (use a mirror if you can’t find a willing subject!) to determine which elements move or deform and which muscles pull the eyelid into shape.

Another method, and this may sound odd, is to touch your eye as you blink to feel which part of the eyelid deforms when the eye passes under the skin or when you blink, frown, have a twitch (etc). By doing this, you will discover that only the top eyelid actually rotates over the eyeball itself; the bottom lid is pulled up over the eye by a small muscle at the corner of the eye which stretches the lid over the bottom of the eyeball.

To animate all these elements may sound slightly daunting, but it is not the case. The thing to remember when modelling a face is that you have to be able to animate and deform it to perform various facial expressions such as anger or happiness. To animate one facial expression to the next, you would ideally use a Morpher modifier. This consists of various “Channels” to insert the final expressions you wish your character to perform, such as sneering, and one of these expressions can be a blink. Animating this blink motion is a simple case of animating the value of the Blink channel slot to close and re-open the eyes, or can be set up to a Manipulator slider to be animated directly in the viewport.

Additionally, if you really fancy being clever, you could set up this Blink channel value to a Motion Capture controller, linked to keyboard key, so when you play the animation back in real time, if you act out the scene / dialogue you want your character to perform, every time you blink, press the assigned key, and your character will blink also. You could even set up the eyeball motion to a mouse or joystick Motion Capture controller to completely animate the eye in real time!

The rest of the eyelid motion would be set up separately, and be linked to the motion of the eyeball, such as the lids stretching and moving when the eyeball rotates up or down, but not when rotating side to side. This could be performed by inherited limited directional hierarchy from the eyeball to a null object, linked to a soft selection or FFD cage on the eyelid to deform it slightly.

Finally, the eyelid shape is deformed somewhat when the iris passes underneath the eyelid, which could be deformed using Volume Select with the Iris as the selection area, with an X-Form modifier applied after to scale and deform the lid slightly.

Enlarge ScreenshotTo easily animate any facial movement in Max, a Morpher modifier should be used. Manipulators can be set up to animate directly in the Viewport.
Enlarge ScreenshotThe Morpher Blink spinner setting can be linked to a Motion Capture controller and set up to a keyboard key to animate in real time.

Initially published: 3D World magazine, Issue 17, October 2001.

Copyright © Pete Draper, October 2001. Reproduction without permission prohibited.