Digital Facial Reconstruction

Facial Reconstructions from Underlying Skulls

Face Reconstruction process: a view of individual step
Facial reconstruction process: Left - Initial damaged skull, Middle left - Restored Skull, Middle Right - Face reconstructed , Right - Final face.

The Chair FaciLe

The FaciLe Chair team is a former member of the ISCD Junior teams programme. Launched in 2014, FaciLe was investigating an innovative field of research: the combination of scientific computing techniques and 3D visualization to digitally reconstruct the face of an individual from his skull. Combining 8 different research fields,  FaciLe relies on deformation techniques, called morphing and warping and includes biophysics and biomechanics properties of soft tissues.

Fully automated, applications range from forensics, where facial reconstruction assists the identification of deceased persons, to paleontology and archeology. Results have been summarized in a publication in Forensic Sciences Research Journal.

Bruto's skull
The Skull of Bruto, previously used as filming prop in various films and documentaries.

Bruto: a documentary retracing history

Bruto, used as film prop on a short-movie filming, is a human skull and the main protagonist of the documentary film of Carole Grand.  Fascinated by this unknown skull, she decided to retrace his own history. An investigation that led her to ISCD, for recovering the initial face of Bruto.

I've met Bruto during a short-film filming. I needed to know what his story was about.

Carole Grand
Documentary film-maker
Skull damaged over time

Carole has met various scientific teams for retrieving the origin of Bruto.  She first worked with the Paris Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle (MNHN) for performing Carbon-14 dating and scanning the skull. She then met scientists from the Musée de l’Homme, for DNA testing analysis. They concluded that Bruto was a 40-60 years old man, most likely living between the 17th and the 19th century.

Because the skull of Bruto was significantly damaged, anthropologists from MNHM had to digitally restored it. Indeed, some teeth were missing, and the inferior jaw was partly broken. A true precision-work, as seen on the right image, showing a 3D rendering of the restored skull. From this restored skull, ISCD was able to reconstruct his face, using its facial reconstruction technique.

3D Digital restored skull

Facial Reconstruction

Traditional facial reconstruction methods rely on manual methods. The basic idea is based on face landmarks placed on the skull for which soft tissue with an average thickness is added to each of them. The face is then deduced by wrapping the skull fitting best the estimated landmarks.

However, these methods depends on the interpretation of the artist, are quiet long and not easily replicable. In contrast, the use of the FaciLe algorithm allows to have reliable reconstructions in less than a hour and rely of computational methods providing a “naked” face with clear and distinctive traits. The face can then be customized easily, by adjusting adiposity, secondary characteristics or age.

The below grid of images presents some of the Bruto renderings. According to the anthropologic and DNA analyses, he was most likely a 40-60 years old Caucasian man. In collaboration with students from ISART Digital school, we have been able to provide a wide range of portrait of his possible appearance.

Facial reconstruction of Bruto
Facial reconstruction of Bruto, made at ISCD, Sorbonne University.

A 3D Face Customisation Tool

The idea behind this work is to be able to develop a complete automated customisation tool. This application would allow any users to directly customize the face reconstructed.

This open-source software is currently under development at ISCD. It could be useful for forensics, but also for museums, surgeons, paleontologists, or archeologists.

In the future, providing further developments, we could also imagine to apply this reconstruction technique on mammals.

Learn More (video in french)