The Perceived Human Likeness and Familiarity of Human Actors in Relationship to Digital Actors in Film

  • Willie BouwerEmail author
  • Francois Human
  • Rudi de Lange


When human actors act opposite computer-generated (CG) Actors, they have to invent and imagine the actions and behaviour of these absent, non-existent actors on set. With CG Actors, it is understood that the more human they appear, the more they risk being influenced by the uncanny valley effect. The research question asked how the perceived humanness of CG and real human actors may be influenced by variations in the human actors’ performance. This is an area that has not been previously researched. The human actor’s performance was tested with three films with different levels of emotion, one film with eye contact, and a control film. The five films were shown to four hundred participants after which measuring instruments were completed. The results have shown that, when human and CG Actors interact in a film, the acting quality of the human actors has an impact on audiences’ perception of the humanness and familiarity of the CG Actors. When the human actor’s acting was natural, the human likeness and familiarity of the CG Actor was rated as lower (that is more inside the uncanny valley). When the human actor’s acting was poor and mechanical, the human likeness and familiarity of the CG Actor was rated as higher (more outside the uncanny valley). This indicates an inverse relationship between the perception of the human likeness and familiarity of the human actor and the perception of the human likeness of the CG Actor.


Digital humans Uncanny valley Green screen acting Photorealistic CG Actors 3-D animation Virtual actors Synthespian 



We wish to thank Dr Karl MacDorman from the School of Informatics and Computing, Indiana University, for all his support and permission to use the measuring instrument he has developed.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Willie Bouwer
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Francois Human
    • 1
  • Rudi de Lange
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Drama and FilmTshwane University of TechnologyPretoriaSouth Africa
  2. 2.3D Animation DepartmentPrestige AcademyBellvilleSouth Africa

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