Dynamic emotional expression choreography: perception of naturalistic facial expressions

Robin J. S. Sloan, Brian Robinson, Malcolm Cook, James L. Bown

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Animators and animation researchers have looked to the work of psychologists - most notably Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen – to learn more about the movement and perception of facial expressions. The Facial Action Coding System (FACS) and six ‘universal expressions’ have formed the basis of numerous character animation tools and research projects. However, social science research tends to focus on how facial expressions are perceived, with little consideration to how manipulation of movement or timing can improve perception of emotion. Publications in the field of psychology are rarely accessible or even applicable to practicing animators. While practical guides to facial expression and facial animation exist, an animators’ guide to believable dynamic emotional expression - based on solid research into audience perception - has yet to be produced. In this paper, the authors describe the Emotional Avatars project – an art-led research project looking at the dynamics of emotional expressions. Specifically, the authors explain the theory of emotional expression choreography, consider how audience perception of emotion can be measured, and discuss how comparative studies of nature, acting, and animation could lead the production of a digestible guide to perceptually valid emotional expression animation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInaugural SAND Academic Peer Reviewed Papers
EditorsMartin N. Capey, Barry Ip, Felicity E. Blastland
Place of PublicationSwansea
PublisherSwansea Metropolitan University
ISBN (Print)9780954875732
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2008
Event9th International Animation, Games & SFX Conference - Taliesin Arts Centre Swansea, and Techium Swansea, Swansea, United Kingdom
Duration: 24 Nov 200828 Nov 2008
Conference number: 9


Conference9th International Animation, Games & SFX Conference
Abbreviated titleSAND 2008
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Character animation
  • Facial animation
  • Emotional expression
  • Believability
  • Perception


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