Now Avatars Are Getting Their Own Model Agency

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In 1990 Linda Evangelista famously declared she didn’t get out of bed for less than $10k. Fast forward a couple of decades and she might not even have had to bother.

Photogenics, the Los Angeles based art-driven model agency founded by former model Nicole Bordeaux and Smashbox co-founders Dean and David Factor is opening an avatar division set to reimagine how models can monetize their careers beyond the physical world.

It’s debuting with photorealistic 3D avatar versions of 13 models on the Photogenics books including Sedona Legge who starred in the Gucci Love campaign with Snoop Dogg, Louis Vuitton model Kiddy Akita Lou and Calvin Klein girls The Fly Twins. NDAs are currently in place regarding their first client projects but Bordeaux reveals that she’s in talks with “high end beauty and luxury fashion brands.”

During the pandemic, Bordeaux opened an office in Paris representing short-form digital content creators working with luxury brands from Chanel and Dior to Balenciaga and Balmain. It was this new norm of remote working coupled with a swiftly developing pool of digital creative talent that gave rise to the idea. But CGI left her cold. “My division is designed around the human factor,” she says, “I wanted my avatars to have a heartbeat and a mission statement.”

The technology behind the project has been engineered by digital creative pioneer Nina Hawkins and 3D filmmaker Sage Morei.

“Unlike us, our avatar never sleeps and never ages — unless you want it to — it can be working on an exciting campaign on one side of the world while you are working IRL on another. Your avatar can retain your legacy even long after you retire,” say the duo in a joint statement.

Hawkins’ company Lillium Labs has created a mobile face scanning application called Embryo which uses the iPhone’s Lidar or True Depth camera function alongside a proprietary stitching algorithm to create workflow-compatible 3D shapes from the images.

It’s much more cost effective, faster and more portable than using the traditional photogrammetry rig involving a 360 degrees 100 camera set up she says. “It gives you a mesh of the face that is super accurate — down to 1mm.” The avatars are then “sculpted, fine tuned and exported with an internal skeleton ready for use in animation.”

The body is created using the model’s measurements to which you can then apply motion capture data, preset or handmade animations adds fellow collaborator, 3D filmmaker Sage Morei.

Hawkins and Morei both have their own avatars who are naturally on the books of Photogenics’ new division.

When it comes to dressing the avatars, bespoke solutions with be devised according to the needs of a particular client. If they already have a collection digitized they can be provided with the raw files. Otherwise outfits can be digitized to order by the Photogenics team with full looks composed in collaboration with IRL stylists, hair and makeup artists.

For the purposes of the avatar ‘model cards’ and the Photogenics campaign film, the two have worked with Nusi Quero, Yumeng Yu and DressX. Quero’s designs can be seen on Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” album cover and its upcoming video.

Avatar remuneration rates are similar to those of IRL models depending on the project and usage. IP ownership will depend on the contract with the agency. Some avatars will be owned by Photogenics while others are licensed and there can also be buyout provisions for the models alongside revenue sharing.

Hawkins’ Lillium Labs Embryo application is currently a prototype but she is planning to release it for public use over the next couple of years once she secures additional funding. “My moto is ‘IRL to URL,’” she says, “to make it accessible for everyone to turn themselves into an avatar.”

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