Bunderschaft, are you going daft?
Better seal off the castle grounds
"This is Moribund the Burgermeister,
I'm going to keep this monster down ..."
["Moribund the Burgermeister", Peter Gabriel]


This was an experiment, to see just how much 'character' I could produce using the standard Poser 4 facial controls. The problem with Poser is that the figures have a tendency to come out looking too 'beautiful', unless you distort them drastically, at which point they no longer look believable.

I wanted to model Peter Gabriel's "Moribund the Burgermeister", who I imagined as a deeply sinister figure, with a beetling brow and sunken eyes. Using Poser's controls, I lengthened the face, made the lips thinner and the jaw stronger, narrowed the eyes and gave him hollow cheeks. For clothing, the sweater and overcoat seemed suitably 'neutral'.

The figure was exported to Bryce, where I tend to do all my rendering. I set up a small cluster of lights on one side of his face (using multiple lights to try to get softer shadows) and added one light on the other side of the model to even out the contrast slightly. I originally intended to put in some background, perhaps a carved throne for him to sit in or some half-glimpsed background detail, but having done an initial render of the face I immediately set to work on painting in more facial detail using Photoshop.

The figure actually used a modified texture map on which I'd painted in stubble and given him bloodshot eyes, but this didn't come through very clearly on the render. I therefore used the airbrush tool to 'improve' the face.

While Poser figures 'as rendered' tend to have a somewhat plastic look, no matter how good your input texture map, you can turn out quite realistic faces with relatively little post-editing. Moribund's stubble was brushed in using the airbrush set to a large brush size but very low opacity (1-2%). A similar technique was used for the shadows under and beneath his eyes, with just a touch of blue. The airbrush was used to soften lines throughout, and decrease the abrupt contrast between the edges of the face and the black background.

Poser faces are unlined. I used a thinner setting of the airbrush with slightly higher opacity to sketch in the lines around the mouth and the nose, and a still thinner brush to make crowsfeet at the edges of the eyes. The smudge tool was used on a fine setting to serrate the eyelashes slightly (I also airbrushed the rims of his eyes with red on low opacity to suggest fatigue or infection). The eyebrows were painted over with a fine brush, making short curving strokes and following the line of the brows as rendered. Finally, I used the airbrush with alternating dark and light colors to suggest a mole or pimple just above his lip.

The result? It's not Moribund as I imagined him - not menacing enough. And it's by no means perfect in terms of realism. But it does illustrate how easy it is to post-edit Poser figures to produce more 'realistic' faces. There's no way I could do this 'from scratch', but with the basic outlines of the face already rendered, turning the image into a 'portrait' of sorts is really quite simple.

Later note: Poser texture maps and figures have now improved to the point where getting very realistic results without post-editing becomes much possible. Proper use of transparency maps would also have reduced the amount of work I needed to do on the lashes and eyebrows, while Bryce 5 would allow soft shadows.


25 Sep 1999


Photoshop 5.0.2
Poser 4
Curious Labs
Bryce 4