In an age when a race to remain on the cutting edge of technology ensues throughout the pathways of the Internet, you can be willing to bet that image morphing techniques are being implemented everywhere, and in every way.
You may not even realize the frequency with which you're viewing morphed images; good ones are often difficult to detect and there are some genuinely crazy looking people walking around these days, which contributes to the confusion. The adult industry especially, in its current state, prompts webmasters to find and develop unique content in order to remain competitive. With so much free adult content on the loose, and so many players emerging and effectively saturating every imaginable niche, it is all the adult webmaster can do to dream up something special that nobody else has offered. The pickings are scarce these days; believe me, just about every imaginable novelty and obscenity that can be performed in reality, using real human beings and what have you, has been done. In order to come with something fresh and new anymore, especially if you're aiming for shock value, as is the majority of unique content that is currently floating around, you often have to venture off into fantasyland. Now fantasyland may mean developing people that you can't realistically offer in your content because they are ridiculously famous or of an illegal age, or it may mean developing some crazy, fictional characters and objects for incorporation. Either way, it is most likely going to involve some level of image morphing.
Morphing is a type of animation where two different images become blended into one. Beginning with a photograph of a young boy and one of an elderly man, the morphed result would exhibit a middle aged person displaying the characteristics of both initial images. When performed as a series of steps, a progression between the first image and the second, the animation portrays the young boy as he grows older. To improve upon the realistic appearance of the morphed image, certain areas, such as the eyes, must be lined up on the overlapped first and last images, and then locked in place for the remainder of the process. The other elements involved in the images transform themselves to line up accordingly around the fixed points.1
The morphing of two images to create an aging or metamorphosis effect is an extremely useful visual technique, utilized often in the entertainment industry and also for educational purposes. Traditional film production techniques clearly illustrate these effects. You've witnessed morphing scenes in graphic horror movies, gruesome werewolf transformations in which a man's feet sprout claws and become hairy and misshapen before your very eyes. Or those wildly educational films we were subjected to back in grade school that displayed an array of people aging in different fashions depending upon their drug of choice, "just say no!" An optical cross-dissolve, an effect in which one image is faded out while another is simultaneously faded in exhibiting cosmetic changes or object substitutions, is another example of a morphing technique that is very commonly put to use in the entertainment industry.2
Image morphing techniques can also be used to generate compelling two-dimensional transitions between images. In this situation, however, the differences in the perspectives at which the two objects are posed can cause unnatural distortions in the resulting image morphs. These distortions can be very difficult to correct manually. It is possible to work around this difficulty by using the basic principles of projective geometry to implement a technique called view morphing. This works by warping two images prior to morphing them together, and then warping the interpolated images afterwards as well. This technique may be applied to photographs and drawings, as well as rendered scenes, requiring no knowledge of the objects' three-dimensional shapes in order to perform the morph. The ability to replicate three-dimensional changes, both in viewpoint and image structure, allows for a wide variety of interesting three-dimensional effects to be performed through simple image transformations.3 There are a variety of different software aids and techniques to choose from when designing a morphed image.
Following is a list of popular morphing software5:
There are a variety of different software aids and techniques to choose from when designing a morphed image. The delicate art of image morphing, and of constructing the image sequences that depict the transitions between images, has been researched extensively. For images generated based upon three-dimensional models, an alternative to morphing the images themselves is generating a series of intermediate three-dimensional models. The morphs, generated directly from the given models. These morphs can then be rendered to create an image sequence, depicting the transformation that has taken place.4
Three-dimensional morphing overcomes the following shortcomings of two-dimensional morphing when it is applied to images that have been generated from three-dimensional models. During three-dimensional morphing, the creation of morphs is accomplished independently of perspective and lighting parameters. Hence, a morph sequence need be created only once, and then it is possible to experiment with various camera angles and lighting conditions during the rendering of the sequence.4 Two-dimensional morphing, on the other hand, requires that a new morph be recomputed every single time an alteration in the perspective or the illumination of the three-dimensional model is required. Because two-dimensional techniques lack information regarding a model's spatial proportions, they are unable to correctly handle such changes in illumination and visibility.4 Two examples illustrating the potential shortcoming of images altered with two-dimensional morphing are shadows and highlights that fail to correctly mimic the shape changes occurring in the morph, and instances where a feature that is not apparent in the original, two-dimensional image needs to be included in the three-dimensional object. Such a feature cannot be prompted to appear during the morph. One example of this can occur when an actor needs to open his mouth during the morph; pulling his lips apart only thickens the lips instead of revealing his teeth, as his teeth were not included in the original image.4
Before morphing images, it is important to consider the dangers involved in altering the way that another person appears to the online world. This type of activity is not only a violation of privacy; it can easily be considered a federal crime. It is important to understand the ways in which image morphing is currently used and accepted, as well as understanding the legal implications that can arise from improper uses. Check back next week to explore the ways that morphing is currently being utilized throughout the Internet, and to find out why morphing images can be a potentially hazardous activity.
Amanda Grimm has worked in the adult industry for three years. She specializes in international Web design and usability testing. Amanda holds a BS in Business Information Systems, and can be reached at: Amanda@AdultWebmasterConsultants.com and http://www.adultwebmasterconsultants.com/