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Maya to MPEG-4 facial animation exporter

The plug-in works on a user-defined animated polygon surface of a face in a Maya scene. The Face Definition Points (FDPs), as defined in the MPEG-4 standard, are specified in an external file that simply marks a subset of model vertices as FDPs. The selection of FPDs has been done manually in this version. The plug-in follows the motion of the FDPs and, after having rotated the surface back to a standard position, calculates the FAPs (Facial Animation Points) corresponding to the displacements of the FDPs.

The face-model is extracted to an “.msh” file, the FDPs’ positions are stored in an “.fdp” file, while the FAP-encoded animation is extracted to an “.fap” file. The animation is performed on the time interval between the frames defined by the user when the plug-in is invoked. The standard MOMUSYS player developed at the Instituto Superior Tecnico, in the context of the European project ACTS MOMUSYS has been used. An application has been developed, which renders and animates a face model. Its static parameters, the model’s mesh and the FDPs, are loaded from external files and the animation parameters are also loaded from “.fap” files. The FDPs of the loaded face model follow the animation, as defined from the FAP parameters, which are read in the “.fap” file.

The files extracted by the plug-in, can be used to animate a face in any MPEG-4 player, which supports the standard face definition. The “.fap” file can animate a predefined face model as seen in Figure 1. Moreover, if “.msh” and “.fdp” files are loaded in the player, the player is able to work on the specified face model. The player can faithfully follow the movements of FDPs as they are prescribed by the FAP definitions. Another variant that can faithfully reproduce the movements of all model vertices has been developed. A second version of the Maya plug-in is under development, which allows to extract Facial Animation Tables in “.fat” files from the animated face in the scene. Such files contain the MPEG-4 defined Facial Animation Tables, which give the appropriate information to an MPEG-4 player to animate all vertices of a specific model in an exact manner. The modification requires a further development of the facial animation player so as to interpret correctly the deformation of each vertex, which is triggered by a corresponding FAP parameter.

The string format of FacialAnimationTable follows strictly the bitstream syntax of FacialAnimationTable. The name extension of the file containing the FacialAnimationTable is “.fat”.

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