Face replacement in After Effects

Rich Young
By Rich Young 06.30.11

Mamoworld has a new After Effects video tutorial, Monster Face, which applies advanced tracking techniques from Mocha to modify a mouth and face in After Effects. We also add some other resources to help round off the picture.

This work was done before AE's 3D tracker appeared. It also could be aided by the Stabilized Precomps feature of MochaImport+ or MaskTracker+, newer AE scripts from Mamoworld.

See also Todd Kopriva's Face replacement with mocha from David Torno about PVC tutorials by Torno on how he did tracking, compositing, and other post-production work for a music video (on Vimeo for mobile users). The cmiVFX training Nuke Facial Replacement Techniques looks interesting too.

At AEtuts, Alexander Dohr showed simple "face replacement" done quickly, while How To Blow The Face Off A Zombie Pirate by James Whiffin goes faceless. Also light-hearted is Annoying Orange: face replacement in After Effects.

Matthias also recommends background in the popular Demon Face Warp tutorial by Andrew Kramer and his own Creating a Tracked Head Wound. The Mamoworld project files are available for free; here's the tutorial:


But wait, there's more...

Awhile back, Mechanism Digital posted a press release about their use of face replacement in fictionalized "reenactments" for an MSNBC documentary on Timothy McVeigh:

"On the set, Peacock shot thousands of high resolution photographs of recreated scenes, visual elements and a stand-in actor depicting McVeigh in action. Mechanism then built a CG 3D model of Timothy McVeigh’s face and replaced every frame of the actor’s face with it.

Mechanism’s unique approach to facial replacement had never been used in documentary filmmaking before which gave the compositor every possible frame of final rendered CGI in advance. In developing and refining this technique, multiple 3D models of McVeigh’s head were pre-rendered every two degrees of rotation on two axes. Two sequences of frames were a combination of 11 expressions and 11 eye positions. The number of images was then doubled by rendering two camera focal lengths to match the lenses used on set; totaling over half a million images and layers. These images were brought into After Effects with Mechanism’s custom expressions allowing the compositing artists to rotate McVeigh’s photo realistic head in real time within the program."

Here's a little "making of" for the McVeigh piece (the embed code is buggy, but there's a fullscreen option, and another version):


For an example of more serious work, check out this Spanish man, “Oscar,”the recipient of the first 100 percent face transplant. Previous transplants in France and the United States were only partial, but on the increase due to war wounds.

Please note that Fxguide has featured a variety of info on face replacement, for example in The Art of Digital Faces at ICT – Digital Emily to Digital IraA new wave of brilliant invisible effectsTwice The Social Network,
"Lola [VFX] are arguably the world's leaders in human face and body manipulation. In The Social Network Lola completed a hundred or so shots, but a key 20 of those involved delicate face replacement to allow one actor to play two roles - the Winklevoss twins. We spoke in-depth with Lola's VFX supervisor Edson Williams about the technical process."
For some quick inspiration, check out the Head Replacement and Talking Animals Reel from Digital Dimension.