Evaluating the Perceptual Realism of Animated Facial Expressions

Christian Wallraven, Martin Breidt, Douglas W. Cunningham, Heinrich Bulthoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The human face is capable of producing an astonishing variety of expressions—expressions for which sometimes the smallest difference changes the perceived meaning considerably. Producing realistic-looking facial animations that are able to transmit this degree of complexity continues to be a challenging research topic in computer graphics. One important question that remains to be answered is: When are facial animations good enough? Here we present an integrated framework in which psychophysical experiments are used in a first step to systematically evaluate the perceptual quality of several different computer-generated animations with respect to real-world video sequences. The first experiment provides an evaluation of several animation techniques, exposing specific animation parameters that are important to achieve perceptual fidelity. In a second experiment, we then use these benchmarked animation techniques in the context of perceptual research in order to systematically investigate the spatiotemporal characteristics of expressions. A third and final experiment uses the quality measures that were developed in the first two experiments to examine the perceptual impact of changing facial features to improve the animation techniques. Using such an integrated approach, we are able to provide important insights into facial expressions for both the perceptual and computer graphics community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalACM Transactions on Applied Perception
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D-scanning
  • avatar
  • Evalution of facial animations
  • Experimentation
  • perceptually adaptive graphics
  • psychophysics
  • recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • Computer Science(all)
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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