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Disney Has a Horrifying New Method to Create Video Game Teeth

Creating perfect digital teeth requires something akin to a medieval torture device, apparently.
How Disney creates video game teeth
Image: Disney

Computer graphics in video games and movies have gotten terrifyingly realistic and the methods of rendering them have become increasingly complex and labor intensive. Take it from the researchers at Disney, who in an effort to create the perfect digital teeth strapped some poor man to an upright gurney and outfitted him with some horror movie-worthy gear before blasting him with lights.

“The ideal teeth appearance depends on the social and cultural context of the subject, as well as on their age since teeth appearance changes over time,” Disney researchers said in a paper titled Appearance Capture and Modeling of Human Teeth. “We present a system specifically designed for capturing the optical properties of live human teeth such that they can be realistically re-rendered in computer graphics.”


To capture the beauty of both the teeth and the oral cavity, Disney researchers needed their volunteer to remain still while a barrage of 54 different lights blasted at his face for 10-15 second intervals while a camera snapped pictures.

“To facilitate this, we provide a stabilizing neck brace, a head strap and a rigid object to bite on, which also helps to separate the upper and lower teeth,” the research paper states. “To minimize occlusions by the face, we retract the lips and cheeks using an OptraGate lip retractor.”

The visual effect of this gear—described in such anodyne, scientific language—is a horror pulled from A Clockwork Orange, if the film was about dental hygiene.

How Disney creates video game teeth

Image: Disney

Once the researchers obtained their chomper data, they ran it through a complex series of math equations to match their digital recreations with the volunteer’s actual teeth. Once this process is complete, post processing and integrating the digital chompers into movies and video games can begin.

This is video game design now—we are in the age of perfectly recreated horse balls and teeth imaged with a medieval torture device.

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