Stroke of genius as computer learns to paint a new picture

By Eddie Cassidy
IT'S a stroke of genius that would make the old masters blush. The styles of da Vinci, Van Gogh and Michelangelo have been captured by computer creativity.

With the click of a PC mouse, a favourite snap from the family photo album can be transformed into a natural-looking oil painting and virtual masterpiece.

New methods for creating masterpiece illustrations from two-dimensional images have been perfected by computer scientists such as Aaron Hertzmann.

He was the brainchild behind a "painterly rendering programme" developed at the Media Research Laboratory Department of Computer Science in New York University.

The painterly rendering technique is based on analysing an artist's paintings and style and applying them to a two-dimensional image.

However, the process has been further advanced over the past two years and similar techniques are being used to produce 3-D images.

Computer scientist Barbara J Meier has already presented a Walt Disney feature animation in a painterly style.

Her method eliminated what was known as the shower-door effect in which an animation appeared as if it was being viewed through textured glass because brush strokes stick to the viewplane and not to the animating surfaces.

"A powerful combination of using 3-D particles, surface lighting information, and rendering 2-D brush strokes in screen space gives us the painterly style we desire and forces the brush strokes to stick to animating surfaces," she said. "By varying lighting and choosing brush stroke parameters we can create many varied painterly styles."

Hertzmann is also using the technique to produce moving images.

He has told New Scientist magazine, "You could have an animated movie set in a Van Gogh painting style."