Michelle Obama’s Spanish Vacation

American first lady Michelle Obama has caught a lot of heat for taking a luxury vacation to Spain while the American economy languishes.

Michelle traveled with her daughter Sasha, leaving President Obama to celebrate his 49th birthday shooting hoops with his friends. Malia is away at camp.

JetBlue drama: flight attendant quits via escape chute

Steven Slater, 39, a flight attendant for US airline JetBlue, dramatically quit his job on Monday after arguing with a passenger and fleeing via the plane’s emergency exit slide. Slater had argued with a passenger who struck him in the face with a bag. After launching an expletive filled tirade over the public address system, Slater grabbed a beer from the beverage cart and fled. He drove home, where he was consoled by his boyfriend.

Snooki in the news

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi shot to fame as a cast member of the hit reality show “Jersey Shore”. The self-described “Guidette” has got a big personality in a petite package and her antics are always in the news. Between criticizing Obama’s tanning tax, proclaiming her love of pickles and getting arrested for disorderly conduct, Snooki has been keeping her profile high. But what will she be up to next and when will her 15 minutes of fame finally be up?

snooki Snooki in the news

King of Swaziland’s 12th wife in Adultery scandal

While on a state visit to Taiwan, Swaziland’s King Mswati heard news one of his wives allegedly cheated on him. Nothando Dube, his 12th wife has been linked with justice minister Ndumiso Mamba. Under Swaziland Law, Mamba could face a death penalty.

swaziland King of Swazilands 12th wife in Adultery scandal

Lindsay Lohan out of jail, heads to rehab

LiLo was once a promising Hollywood starlet, but a series of drunk-driving arrests, drug charges and court troubles have wrecked her career. A judge sentenced her to 90 days in jail for probation violations. Her father, Michael Lohan, immediately sought help from other celebrities who had also done time in prison. Michael attempted to cheer Lindsay up with a song. He’s also facing potential prison time because ex-fiancee Kate Major is accusing him of assault. Lohan’s sentence was cut short to just 13 days. She will now spend 90 days in rehabilitation. This animation tells it all.

lindsay Lindsay Lohan out of jail, heads to rehab

Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo-cap

We like to experiment here at NMA. The Obama clip you’ve just watched above was produced using a technology known as facial motion capture (or mo-cap for short.) Motion capture involves using a computer to track the movements of a series of reflective dots attached to the body, or in this case, the face.

The model, for this video President Obama, is then driven using the recorded movement of the nodes.
The following series of photos shows how the nodes are attached before the motion capture takes place.

Photo 1 shows our mo-cap model (we used an English-speaking model for this job) having the locations of the nodes drawn on his face by our mo-cap experts.

obamamocap1 Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo cap

Photo 2 shows the model’s face with half the reflective nodes in position.

obamamocap2 Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo cap

Photo 3 shows the model with all nodes in position. He is practicing the poses needed to record a full set of facial expressions.

obamamocap3 Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo cap

Photo 4 shows the model’s face as seen by the mo-cap cameras. As the voice model reads the dialogue, the computer records the movement of the modes using in this case 10 mo-cap cameras.

obamamocap4 Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo cap

The Obama model is then integrated with the recording of the node positions. The finished product is what you watched at the top of this post.

Hope you enjoyed this introduction to motion capture technology. If you are still curious, you can read about another cool gadget we have in Taipei. Keep your eyes peeled for the next episode of Inside NMA.

Thanks for your support,
The NMA team.

mocap4 Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo cap

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Asian pop star gets a facial (scan) at NMA

Singapore-born pop star JJ Lin (林俊傑) stopped by Next Media Animation’s studio in Taipei last week to get a full facial scan using the newest Light Stage X system. Lin, who speaks Mandarin, English, Hokkien and Cantonese, has fans in all regions of the Chinese-speaking world, including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. Based in Taipei, he was here to prepare videos for his upcoming world tour.

Light Stage X at the NMA studio is one of a kind. Developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) at University of Southern California (USC), the system is the newest model designed to capture facial scans and render them for characterization in animations. Previous models, which vary in size and capabilities, have been used to film the movies Spiderman, King Kong, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Avatar and more.

The system includes a computer set connected to a sphere that measures 2.5-meter wide and tall. There are 331 light units connected to the computer, each composed of 12 LED light sources. That’s 3,972 LED lights. 4 sets of scans are recorded during each session. Each set of scan consists of 4 seconds of sitting very still, while 2 cameras take 15 consecutive scans of the face. Characterization models that result from this can look so realistic it’s difficult to tell the difference.

“JJ Lin is the world’s first Chinese-speaker to use Light Stage,” he proudly proclaimed, speaking about himself in the third-person.

Read about our other cool gadget, facial motion capture, here.

lightstage Asian pop star gets a facial (scan) at NMA

‘Invisible monkey’ stars in Dodge car commerical

American car company Dodge, made an advertisement with a monkey. When animal rights group Peta saw the video they were very angry and contacted Dodge. Peta said that any use of apes could promote mistreatment, and asked Dodge to not use the monkey in the commercial. Dodge immediately agreed to remove the monkey, and apologized because they had not known about the history of monkey mistreatment. To solve the problem, Dodge agreed to switch out the monkey, and use an invisible monkey instead. That way, Peta was happy that no real monkeys were used, and Dodge was still able to show their commercial. The invisible monkey solution left everyone happy and made the ad popular on the internet.

Reality distortion field remains strong with Steve Jobs after antennagate

Apple founder Steve Jobs have been busy defending the iPhone 4, which has been mired in problems since before its launch. The latest scandal to crop up, dubbed ‘antennagate’, is so-named because the phone’s antenna gets poor reception if the phone is held the wrong way. Watch Jobs try and convince the world it’s not a big deal in this animation.

Is Islamophobia sweeping the US?

A proposal to build a US$100 million Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero has sparked controversy in the US. While opponents say they are not against Islam, protests against similar mosques far from Ground Zero have raised fears that intolerance toward American Muslims is growing. One church plans to burn the Koran. 20% of Americans and 46% of Republicans believe Barack Obama is Muslim. A taxi driver in New York City was attacked after telling his passenger that he is Muslim.