Friday, November 8, 2013

Visual Forensic

"Visual forensic" is a method of 3D facial reconstruction used by Phillipe Froesch.

Starting with a CT scan of a person known only from a skull, Mr. Froesch digitally reconstructs the layers of muscle, skin and hair until he achieves the living appearance of the person.

These images show Mr. Froesch's reconstruction of the face of Simón Bolívar (1783-1830).

Fortunately, Bolívar is known from contemporary portraits, which helps a great deal.

This video shows some of the other faces he has reconstructed from skulls. (Video link) When it comes to prehistoric humans, reconstructions are more speculative, especially when it comes to soft morphology, such as ears, lips, and noses. Like a lot of other kinds of digital graphics, these images suggest a greater level of certainty than anthropologists really have.


Tom Hart said...

I'm confused: The reconstruction of Bolivar - was that done with Bolivar's own skull, knowing that it was Bolivar? The beginning of the post mentions the use of an unknown skull. Obviously, at least the last portions of "Bolivar" were done knowing it was he, judging by the hair and the uniform.

In any case, it strikes me that a really good test of forensic reconstruction would be to use a subject's skull - the identity and appearance of which is known, BUT unknown to the reconstructor. It would be really intersting to see how close the recontruction comes.

James Gurney said...

Tom, yes, they had the skull of Bolivar as a starting point, as well as the paintings, of course. The reconstruction was commissioned by the government of Venezuela, I believe.

I like your suggestion of doing a blind test using a skull of a known individual whose appearance was unknown to the Froesch.

Mauricio said...

Such blind tests have been done many times in the past to check the accuracy of forensic reconstruction, and the results have been variable. An interesting history of these methodologies can be found in the book "Making Faces", by J. Prag and R. Neave. Forensic reconstruction software obviously uses parameters based on modern humans and it is largely useless for reconstructing extinct hominid species. For instance, the Froesch reconstruction of Homo erectus from Dmanisi gives it a modern-looking, forward projecting nose that is not supported by osteological evidence. You cannot let the software do the thinking for you!

Tom Hart said...

I know the comparison is stretched, to a greater or lesser degree, but I can't help but think how bad some of the representations in "wax museum"-type exhibits are, and those artists usually have scads of good photographic reference to use.

Rich said...

Amazing reconstructions.
From dead skull to live physiognomy!

Reconstructing jaws or some prominent chin I can envisage. To reconstruct and trace the more or less protruding profile of a nose seems to me an even more difficult job.
From a skull to deduce the shape, curvature and density of eyebrows: How far out is this?

Eddie H.Hinestroza said...

You are right James Gurney, I'm from Venezuela, The reconstruction was commissioned by the government of Venezuela. and yes, they used the real skull of Bolivar...

sadly that image of Bolivar is been used for political purposes.

but Phillipe Froesch. did an excelent work.

David Yanchick said...

I remember watching an episode of MacGyver where he reconstructs a face from a skull using pencil erasers. No fancy software for him, just good ol' fashion know-how. Season 4, episode 1 - The Secret of Parker Place.

Linda Roth said...

I just finished reading George Washington by Ron Chernow. Aside from the American revolution and his presidency, the author wrote about the various portraits the various artists painted of the man. The best portrait was done by a French artist who came to Mount Vernon to make a plaster cast of the President's face. George approved of his sculpture, (standing outside Philadelphia's Liberty Hall I believe), over most of the portraits done by others, Stuart and Peale among them. But bear in mind, George was a vain guy.

António Araújo said...

Here's a nice paper on this kind of thing:

("Facial reconstruction – anatomical art or artistic anatomy?",
Caroline Wilkinson, Journal of Anatomy, 2010)

Unknown said...

I really think thats not bolivars face, im from venezuela and the goverment does that for political reasons , i wonder , why only the Oil Painting of bolivar is diferent? the "mortuary masks" of other famous people on that time tell us that the painters are right in their pictures. im sorry ese no es BOLIVAR