Jason Fletcher
Motion Designer
PACK ⬕ Machine Faces
- This pack contains 39 VJ loops (52 GB)

I was in awe when I first saw the morphing faces generated by StyleGAN2. So I was excited when I realized that the extensively pre-trained models has been released for anyone to download and play with. The base videos were rendered using the FFHQ-1024x1024 model through StyleGAN2. I prefer the results from StyleGAN2 rather than StyleGAN3 in this case. I then used the Topaz Labs Video Enhance AI software to uprez the videos to 2048x2048. It's hard to believe that all of the human faces showcased here have been imagined by a computer and have never existed in reality.

To generate the creepy "mutant" scenes, I did some minimal re-training of this model using my own datasets. I say minimal because it only needed a few hours of retraining since it started off with the FFHQ model and then slowly evolving towards my datasets, and yet I stopped the re-training at the very early stages where you can still see the human faces. It was very weird to work on this since I had to pick out the best seeds for the latent walk videos, kinda like how you see Tetris in your dreams if you play it too much.

My initial inspiration for this whole pack was to have the faces glitching out while morphing and that worked beautifully. Then I started exploring some other glitch techniques and tried out the slit-scan effect which was the far out type of bizarre that I hunt for. It's the stuff of a fever dream while sitting in a sauna. The NestDrop experiments were icing on the cake.

I had the idea of taking the FFHQ video into After Effects, adding a multiplied layer with some fast blur, and rendering it to be used as an animated displacement map in Maya. Adding the blur helped to smooth out the features for use during displacement. I then applied this texture onto a sphere and was instantly happy with it. Then I experimented with getting the skin shader working correctly since the settings for subsurface scattering are so finicky.

The TextureDeformerDense and TextureDeformerSparse videos were actually tricky to fully realize. I wanted to convert the FFHQ video to polygons and then render a wireframe of it. But I was having trouble with the displacement map doing what I wanted and so instead I finally switched over to using a texture deformer. And yet then the polygons were a perfect grid due to the tessellation of the flat plane object and so the wireframe just rendered as a grid when seen directly over head, even with the texture deformer applied. So then I applied a poly reduction node and that's when things got interesting.

Released February 2022