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The Body and Mask in Ancient Theatre Space - Research Project

Virtual mask decoration - by Martin Blazeby

Decorating the digitised masks is somewhat subjective and extremely experimental. The original artefacts show scant or no surviving painted evidence to permit conclusive accurate virtual restorations. However, pictorial depictions of masks from antiquity provide clear indications of the range of colours used and clues relating to possible materials used in their construction. Many of these colour depictions identifiable in wall paintings and mosaics tend to illustrate common elements of colour and features relating to particular mask types. In addition to pictorial evidence, textural narrative describing performance masks also provides a valuable insight into the decoration and materials used. The Onomasticon by Pollux is an excellent account, in which he describes in detail the characteristics of New Comic masks.

The rationale for applying decoration to the digitised mask miniatures, that otherwise contain no evidence of decoration, is that without decoration the masks reveal little in the way of their individualistic traits and expressions. The process of applying decoration to the masks is speculative and can be considered a distortion from the original data it can also regarded as the fabrication of fantasy. However, by adding decoration, the process in itself is 'virtual' enhancing the characteristics of the mask through means of experimentation in a non intrusive manner. The virtual decoration process when documented through means of 'paradata' also provides a legitimate contribution to the research outcome of the project. Furthermore, renderings taken from the resultant virtually decorated masks aid and facilitate the next phase of the project, where the mask maker constructs and decorates ‘full-sized’ wearable versions.

In order to proceed with the decoration, comparanda of masks are sourced relevant to the digitised mask type. Common elements such as colour, hair and expressions are examined. Using 3D Studio Max software the scanned digitised mask devoid of any colour and texture, is then rendered as a still 2D image, front facing using an orthographic projection; this frontal rendering method ensures that distortion of perspective and angle is omitted. The resultant rendered image is then used to form a base layer in Adobe Photoshop providing a template on which to build precise layering of textural information used for UV mapping purposes.

The painting process is reliant on various paint stokes and colour variations to be applied to multiple Photoshop layers, allowing for subtle modifications and experimentation to take place relating to elements of the mask, for example, separate layers for the hair, mouth, eyes and skin colour etc. In this way, individual elements can be altered with out having to modify the entire file as a single image. A plain UV map is then applied to the 3D mask and the Photoshop file, saved in its native form is attached as the texture. The methodology is such that the painted decorated mask, generated in Photoshop, when placed onto the 3D mask, allows for a precise correspondence of painted features with that of 3D mesh features.

virtual decoration   virtual decoration   virtual decoration   virtual decoration   virtual decoration
Mask comparanda
Template rendering
Painting over the mask template
Comparanda and texture map comparison
Texture map applied to the 3D mask


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Mask comparanda