Render me real? Investigating the effect of render style on the perception of animated virtual humans

Rachel McDonnell, Martin Breidty, Heinrich H. Bülthoff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

155 Citations (Scopus)


The realistic depiction of lifelike virtual humans has been the goal of many movie makers in the last decade. Recently, films such as Tron: Legacy and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button have produced highly realistic characters. In the real-time domain, there is also a need to deliver realistic virtual characters, with the increase in popularity of interactive drama video games (such as L.A. NoireTM or Heavy RainTM). There have been mixed reactions from audiences to lifelike characters used in movies and games, with some saying that the increased realism highlights subtle imperfections, which can be disturbing. Some developers opt for a stylized rendering (such as cartoon-shading) to avoid a negative reaction [Thompson 2004]. In this paper, we investigate some of the consequences of choosing realistic or stylized rendering in order to provide guidelines for developers for creating appealing virtual characters. We conducted a series of psychophysical experiments to determine whether render style affects how virtual humans are perceived. Motion capture with synchronized eye-tracked data was used throughout to animate custom-made virtual model replicas of the captured actors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number91
JournalACM Transactions on Graphics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jul


  • Facial animation
  • Motion Capture
  • Perception
  • Uncanny valley

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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