What you’re looking at above is a CG render that simulates every single pore on a real face. USC researchers photographed samples of skin from people’s chins, cheeks and foreheads at a resolution of about 10 micrometres, so that each skin cell was spread across roughly three pixels, using a specially developed lighting system and camera. Continue reading for a video and more information.
They then used the images to create a 3D model of skin and applied their light reflection technique to it. The result was CGI skin complete with minute structures like pores and microscopic wrinkles. Finally, they fed the CGI images to an algorithm that extended them to fill in an entire CGI face.
Typically, CGI uses a standard set of values for skin structure, says Ghosh. But for big-budget films, digital effects companies like Weta Digital – which used some of Ghosh and Debevec’s techniques in the movie Avatar, for example – prefer to tailor skin textures to individuals.