Discover how to create animations that show one face turning into another
At a time when home computers can do pretty much anything – from editing movies to recording music – it’s easy to get blasé about the technology. But some tricks still have the ability to impress – and that includes image morphing.
This is the ability to transform one image into another seamlessly, in a single, smooth animated sequence. The key is to pick two good images, preferably ones taken from the same angle and with roughly the same proportions, that are otherwise noticeably different – making faces ideal subjects.
The effect can be amazing but surprisingly, it’s pretty simple to achieve. In this workshop we will show how to do it using the free software Fotomorph.
Launch a web browser and visit Diphso. When the website appears, click the green Fotomorph link. At the next screen, scroll down to the large yellow button that says ‘Click for Your Free Download’ then ignore any security warnings and click Run. Click Run again and follow the installation wizard. It will offer to install a series of extra toolbars for your web browser – these aren’t necessary and we would advise clicking to remove the ticks so they’re not installed. Accept the licence agreement and click Finish.
Before we start the project we are going to use a more basic shape to show how Fotomorph works. So when the program loads, make sure the Projects tab is selected and click the New Project button on the left and then select Morph Sequence from the submenu. Next, click the Images tab. Click once on the large empty Start Image box to select it (a green line appears round it) then click the Open button and navigate to the first image in your morphing sequence – click to select it and then click Open.
Click the empty End Image box, then click the Open button again and add the second image – in this example we are going to morph a square into a diamond. To get started, click the Control tab at the top. Roll the mouse pointer over the first image and it will change from an arrow into a pencil/pen. Click once on the top left-hand corner of the square and then repeat this on the other four corners. As you do this, you will see that the indicator dots also appear on the second image in the same place – these are transition points.
See the music player-style transport controls at the bottom? Click play and the morph starts. Because we haven’t actually linked any transition points yet, all that happens is a graceful fade from the first image into the second one, like a dissolve effect in a Powerpoint slide. Let’s fix that by grabbing the first marked point on the second image (it’s the small circle at the top left-hand corner) and dragging it across to the top point of the diamond. As we do, the pointer turns into a little hand with a pointing finger.
These transition points are the building blocks of Fotomorph and here we are telling the program we want the top-left corner of the square to be transformed into the top of the diamond. Fotomorph then takes care of the animation between the two points automatically. Move the remaining three points on the second image from their respective corners on the square to their respective points on the diamond. Remember we are only moving the points on the second image. To preview the morph, click play. Alternatively drag the green slider to move a frame at a time.
Now the principles are clear, we will do a more interesting morph, between someone’s younger and older faces. Click the Projects tab, then click the New Project button, click No to abandon this morph and then click the Morph Sequence button. Next, follow Steps 2 and 3 to load in two pictures. Fotomorph is pretty forgiving but to achieve the best results, try to find two photos where the subject is at the same angle and in the same proportions. Next, click the Images tab and crop the two photos so that they align as much as possible. Use the bottom composite image as a guide.
Click the Control tab. Roll the mouse pointer over the first picture and ‘drop’ transition points onto it by left-clicking (as you do, the same points will appear on the right-hand picture). Start as we have done here by following the outline of the face. When you have finished you will see that some of the transition points on the right-hand picture won’t be in the correct place. Hover the mouse pointer over these so it turns into a hand and move them into the correct position.
Preview the morph by clicking the play button. Then, use the vertical slider controls to zoom into the image and then use the vertical and horizontal scroll bars to find the part you want to work on; notice as you do, the two images move in sync so you can always see the same area on both. Try adding transition points around features like eyes, eyebrows, the nose and so on. Made a mistake? Just right-click on a point to remove it.
There are no hard and fast rules but in general, the more features you mark and the more points used, the more impressive the final morph will be. When all transition points are in place click the Animation tab at the top. There are various extras you can add here – such as different coloured and sized frames as well as drop shadows, text and even backgrounds – but for this example we are just going to click the Export Animation button to continue.
The Export dialogue box includes various ways to save the finished morph – as a Flash animation that can be used on a website or animated GIF that some people like to use as an avatar for forums and bulletin boards. Alternatively, try saving it as an AVI movie file and then choose a location (such as the Windows Desktop) to save it. Don’t bother compressing the video (it’s probably quite small) and click OK. Find the new file on the Desktop and double-click it to play the animation.
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