Software lets you turn a frown upside down

FaceFilter: Digital photographers now have a tool that will put a happy face - or a silly one - on even the most dour subject.

March 18, 2004|By Craig Crossman | Craig Crossman,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

We've all taken bad snapshots at one time or another, especially when it comes to pictures of people. There are the ones taken with someone's eyes closed or with a bad facial expression.

Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to say "cheese" when you press the button. And while there are all sorts of photo-retouching products available to remove red eye and manipulate the images, none of them are actually designed to retouch facial expressions. Until now.

FaceFilter ($30) from Reallusion is a unique photo editor specifically designed to make faces more attractive. When I say attractive, I am referring to those facial expressions that tend to make an otherwise pretty face appear to be less appealing such as frowns, scowls and other similar grimaces. FaceFilter accomplishes the transformation from unattractive to beautiful by allowing you to manipulate the subject's facial expression.

According to the company, they have developed a revolutionary muscle-based facial enhancement formula that was derived from the analysis of literally thousands of faces. Using the supplied library of facial templates, you can make subtle facial changes by simply raising the corners of the mouth or opening the eyes wider, for example. By playing with all of these variables, you can turn a frown into a smile, make a face look younger, slimmer or even more friendly. Turn your scowling mother-in-law's face into one of a kinder, gentler person. Or manipulate images of yourself so that you appear to be more intellectual, sexier and even more confident. All of those appearance-altering features are available within the FaceFilter template library.

To begin the conversion, you first bring the digital image into the FaceFilter editor. An easy-to-use four-step process lets you manipulate the facial image to your specifications, beginning with the library of templates. Initially, the template attempts to normalize the facial image to provide what they call a balanced face. From there, you can apply a variety of features.

Once the template has placed you on the right track, the editor lets you apply a variety of manual facial feature adjustments. This is done by selecting from 10 different facial points. You can also modify the width and proportions of the head. Once the points are selected, you can change the position of those points. The facial image literally stretches or contracts depending on the direction of your movements. You can, for example, make a nose smaller, eyes bigger or enhance eyebrows.

Obviously all of this requires a gentle touch - otherwise you will wind up with a caricature of the original image. But that isn't necessarily all that bad since creating a distorted image from a normal face turns out to be a touted feature of FaceFilter. Some of the examples I saw were hysterical. But the real value of FaceFilter is the ability to literally repair the damage a scowl makes upon what would otherwise be a really nice photograph.

Information: www.reallusion. com/facefilter

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