Studying alone is often a good solution when one cannot find support or has no understanding of something new and exciting, albeit not appealing to the general public.
Still, when it comes down to evolve and adapt scientific knowledge to the benefit of human beings, there is nothing better than having around people with the same goals, motivated to devote towards a better world, more accessible to those who have interest in that certain area of knowledge.
Earlier in 2012 I began my studies in the field of forensic facial reconstruction. Now, a year and a half later, over forty reconstructions have gone by, mostly of modern humans, some hominids and even a saber-teeth tiger.
Over that time, in the lectures I taught, in the e-mails I received or courses I offered, people often questioned me about the precision of the method, whether had I tested it in skulls of known people (living or not).
I had already done some experiments, but for technical reasons and in order to not disclose the identity of volunteers, I did not publish them. Instead, I was limited to showing the work of great artists such as Gerasimov from Russia, Caroline Wilkinson from England and Karen T. Taylor from USA.
Fortunately, a few days ago, research partner Dr. Paulo Miamoto sent me a scanned skull at my request, so I could test a newly developed technique to "wear" the skin over the virtual muscles. This skull, sent without much background on it, but with permission for reconstruction by its "owner", would be the first opportunity I had to show a case of facial reconstruction of a living person, exposing the degree of accuracy that such works may reach.
Development of the WorkA few days ago, I began to test a series of Blender modifiers, seeking an option that would allow me to "wear" the skin over a reconstruction in muscle stage. The goal was to make the process faster, and therefore more accessible to those who wish to replicate it, whether one is gifted with artistic skills or not.
I managed to find a solution with a modifier called Shrinkwrap (and a number of adaptations), as seen in the video above. The skull shown on the video is from another reconstruction in progress. It may seem almost imperceptible to a layman in forensic facial reconstruction, but it is a "blessing" for those who are just starting to work on virtual sculpture.
Back to the skull previously provided by Dr. Paulo Miamoto, it offered me the possibility to reconstruct a living person that was only known to him. He asked me for help with the configuration of the skull, since he would have to "assemble" the structure, because the CT was acquired by a Cone Beam tomograph.
Usually a cone beam CT captures only a portion of a skull due to a reduced field of view of the hardware. It is and equipment widely used for dental purposes and it is usually cheaper than a medical CT scanner.
An interesting fact in this story is that the whole process was done with open-source software. Initially, Dr. Miamoto opened the scans in InVesalius and filtered the part that corresponded to the bones. For this step he used a tutorial that I wrote, explaining the basic operation of InVesalius (translated from Portuguese): http://bit.ly/18mN6TR
After aligning the meshes the skull was exported as a .ply file and sent with the following anthropological data for the iorientation of the reconstruction:
- Gender: Male;
- Ancestry: miscegenated xanthoderm (of Japanese descent) and caucasian (white);
- Age: 20-30 years.
Then it would be the time to test the quality of the reconstruction in relation to the face of skull "owner".
The part in blue, comprising the cheeks traditionally differs from scannings of the living individual because the soft tissue depth table used as reference was done on cadavers that may have undergone a slight change in its shape (due to dehydration and action of gravity upon its record).
This was an example of how a facial reconstruction done with open-source software can provide a rather satisfactory degree of compatibility with the living individual, provided it fulfills the current and already validated protocols.
The use of new technologies and specific tools in Blender 3D contribute to a satisfactory degree of compatibility of expression lines of the face, thus making the process faster and easier for those who wish to perform a reconstruction but often do not have an art training background.
The findings of this study are currently being structured as a scientific article. I hope to publish them in a peer-reviewed forensic journal, so that the technical aspects of using exclusively open-source software for forensic facial reconstruction can be adequately exposed and disseminated among those interested in this field.
To the Biotomo Imaging Clinic staff from Jundiaí-SP: Dr. Roberto Matai and Dr. Caio Bardi Matai for the CT scan of the reconstructed skull.
To the Laboratoř Morfologie a Forenzní Antropologie team, from Faculty of Sciences at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic: Prof. Petra Urbanová, MSc. Mikoláš Jurda, MSc. Zuzana Kotulanová and BS. Tomáš Kopecký, for access to the collection of skeletal material of the Department of Anthropology, aid in research of photographic technique for photogrammetry purposes and optical scans.
To the Laboratório de Antropologia e Odontologia Forense (OFLAB-FOUSP) team, from Faculty of Dentistry at University of São Paulo: Prof. Rodolfo Francisco Haltenhoff Melani and MSc. Thiago Leite Beaini for supporting the works in Brazil.
To the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES): for granting a scholarship for Abroad Doctoral Internship Program (PDSE).