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Peter Busch, VP of business development at the Develop Award-winning Faceware Technologies, talks us through its ten years of mo-cap experience with Rockstar

ROCKSTAR HAS BEEN a pioneer in leveraging full performance capture to get the most of its cinematic experiences. Post mortems, constant study and optimisation allows the fi rm to be on the bleeding edge of mo-cap, and performances in its games are rock solid.

Anyone wanting to adopt motion capture should learn how Rockstar does it. Rehearse fi rst; all of Rockstar’s actors not only know their lines, they know the blocking, intent and context for eff ective delivery. Many actors experienced in fi lm and on-camera lack the expertise and knowledge for what is necessary for eff ective mo-cap.

accessibility of the tech involved, a number of studios are investing in their own solutions. But Butler doesn’t believe the process will be brought completely in-house any time soon. “A lot of the developers I talk to have a mo-cap studio on site but they use it for prep,” he says. “They don’t actually use it for full-on development – they go out externally to another site or they get someone else to do a lot of it for them and work with professionals.” Morris concurs: “It’s been the case for a long time that developers will buy a small system or mo-cap suit, stick and animator in it, and use them for rapid prototyping to see if certain things work. If so, you put it on the list of things to be shot at a bigger studio. “But there’s a certain things you can’t do in-house: if you need a lot of stunt work, or height and big volume stuff , that’s where a service provider comes in. We’re still kept busy with things like sports games that need a big area for a footballer to run or someone to play cricket. We did a job a while ago – it wasn’t for games – where we were capturing two horses and a chariot going at full pelt. “For big scale stuff like that and cinematics, service providers are still needed.”


Antoniades adds that mo-cap specialists develop this technology much more eff ectively than any games studio could in-house, making the benefi ts obvious. “Yes, it’s expensive to have a lot of people under one roof for four-to-six weeks, but the benefi t is you end up with a cut of your entire game and all the cinematics,” he says. With the technology behind motion capture already more accessible and convenient than

developers could have ever hoped, what’s the next step? What barriers remain that prevent studios from utilising this high-end tech? “The barrier used to be the cost of entry, but that’s disappearing,” says Morris. “As the technology gets into the hands of new creators that can get their hands on the gear, we’ll begin to see more impressive performances.” Elderfi eld adds that mo-cap isn’t restricted to use in studios anymore: “It’s starting to move outside, it’s starting to move onto sets and all over the place. As we move towards simplifi cation at the production user-end, I think we’ll end up with a system that’s much more invisible and much more mobile.” There are still technical hurdles to overcome however that could improve the effi ciency of motion capture. The process can still be a slow one, partly due to the set-up time required. “I’d like to see that time reduced,” says Butler. “If we move our cameras, we’ve got to refocus them. There isn’t an exact science with that, it’s just about going in and fi ddling. The biggest shift would be the ability to very quickly set up wherever you are, within an hour rather than four.”

Meanwhile, Antoniades dreams bigger: “I’d like to see a future – which might be ten, 15 years off – where we’re not capturing dots, markers or paint on the face, but everything: the clothing, the way it wrinkles. “I would love to see a future where we can capture a massive amount of data but all the sensors are hidden, so you can shoot outside and on location with the right lighting.” Only time will tell if this will come to pass, but given the leaps forward made in the last 30 years, it’s a safe bet that motion capture will become even more advanced in the next 30. 

AUGUST 2014 | 57

In mo-cap, the ‘camera’ is always on so they cast actors with stage experience as well, as eff ective mo-cap sometimes occurs when the talent is not the main focal point. Rockstar uses talent from the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA, and it shows. Their actors always embody their characters – something that comes across with Faceware’s video-based facial mo-cap software. Second, they have the right personnel on set: directors and stage supervisors who know how to direct live talent eff ectively. This combination of casting, directing and embracing technology has put Rockstar at the forefront of motion capture in gaming.

Third, Rockstar uses mo-cap for more than just what ends up

in the fi nal product. They provide cinematic ‘pre-viz’ to the facial animation team, giving them more context and allowing them to focus on what is most important. One major factor that often gets overlooked is head-pose. So much emotion and delivery is in the position and motion of your characters’ head. As tech evolves, game and cinematic directors will be able to make more eff ective story-telling decisions, leading to better quality narratives. We are excited to see how Rockstar and the industry embrace things like Faceware Live, our real-time facial mo-cap software. Rockstar already uses our beta version to capture performances with four to six people. Look out for what’s next from them; with the addition of Faceware Live, I have no doubt it will exceed GTA V.

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