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Making Waves
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Digital Hair Day

Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

Digital Hair Day


Getting your hair to behave on a bad hair day is easy … compared to the challenge of making realistic hair for 3D video games and movies.

Now, researchers at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering, in collaboration with Adobe Systems and MIT, have developed a way to generate photo-realistic hair for on-screen animated characters. And soon you may see your favorite actors wandering through 3D virtual worlds with hair blowing in the wind and looking almost exactly like it does in real life.

To achieve this digital feat, the researchers first captured the shape and appearance of hairstyles of real people. They gathered a wealth of data using 16 cameras, 150 light sources and three projectors arranged in a dome setup. They then created
software capable of “filling in the blanks” (from angles they did not have images for), and generated realistic images of the same hairstyles.

The computer scientists also found a way to calculate what the unseen hair close to the scalp is doing. They use this “hidden geometry of hair” to give characters realistic windblown digital hairstyles.

Contributors to Making Waves: Jesse Alm '11, Tiffany Fox, Raymond Hardie, Daniel Kane, Andrea Siedsma


Hollywood Hair is Captured at Last    

Sylvain Paris    

Computer Graphics at UCSD