Saturday, December 23, 2017

Forensic Facial Reconstruction

I’ve long found the process of forensic facial reconstruction to be fascinating. It is a combination of science and art. The process begins with measured data about the average depth of tissues at various key locations around the skull. The forensic artist builds up "tissues" on the skull from the unknown remains using clay or, as described in The Reconstruction, computer software. The artist then adjusts the resulting approximation of the unknown individual’s living face based on any other information available about the individual and thoughtful choices regarding eye and hair color, hairstyle, and similar details.

Lisa Bailey’s book Ask a Forensic Artist: Skulls, Suspects, and the Art of Solving Crime (Honeybee Media 2014) is an engaging read for anyone interested in learning more about this topic. That book also describes other types of work a forensic artist performs, such as creating composite sketches from eyewitness descriptions and performing age progression to approximate what an individual might look like some years after a photograph was taken.

The computer-based process I described in The Reconstruction is as accurate as I could make it, within the tolerance of literary license. To see some fascinating descriptions and videos of computer-based forensic facial reconstruction, I recommend visiting The AFRAM software I described in the novel is not real, but it’s patterned after the examples illustrated at that website.

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