SERVICES SPOTLIGHT This month: Dimensional Imaging
FORMED IN 2003 and originally offering services for research applications, Dimensional Imaging has gradually entered the games industry over the past few years, providing developers with on-location facial performance capture services. As part of this service, the company
provides developers with a mobile rig of synchronised hi-res digital video cameras running at 50fps or 60fps, and video lighting to capture facial performance in minute detail. “We use our own proprietary software
to process the captured video streams to recover a dense ‘3D scan’ per frame and then ‘shrink wrap’ a template mesh supplied by the client onto the 3D scan data, and track every vertex of that template mesh through the sequence,” explains the studio’s CEO Colin Urquhart. “This tracking stage is important because it is essential to provide a consistent mesh topology so that it can fit easily into facial animation pipelines. We provide the data as point cache plus normal map and texture map per frame.” The Scotland-based company’s first
project was working with neighbours Axis Animation on the infamous Dead
“Improving the realism of facial animation without blowing the whole budget is a big focus for many studios and using advanced facial performance capture techniques such as Dimensional Imaging’s is becoming an increasingly attractive option,” he says. As for the company’s future, Urquhart
says that Dimensional Imaging is looking to expand its facial performance capture service internationally, and will strive to make its mobile setup more readily available in countries outside of the UK, such as industry hubs in the United States and Canada.
Island trailer. Originally intended as just a test with Axis in using traditional optical marker-based facial mo-cap for the project, Urquhart says the studio liked the services so much, it decided to use them for the trailer instead. As well as working with Axis, Dimensional Imaging has also worked with EA, with its software used to capture player models for FIFA, while Valve has also used one of the
company’s systems to capture facial blend shapes for its critically acclaimed Left 4 Dead 2. Urquhart says that motion capture is
becoming increasingly important in gaming, and the level of realism involved in animation before it crosses the so called ‘uncanny valley’ is constantly pushing boundaries. He also insists there is more need for more cost-effective solutions as prices rocket.