A new face-off in the video game industry has begun, but this one has little to do with hockey, John Travolta, or Nicholas Cage. Amidst all of the recent hubbub about the ground-breaking facial animation capture technology in Rockstar's upcoming period cop-drama, L.A. Noire, Remedy Entertainment (Alan Wake, Max Payne), has revealed that it's working on some proprietary tech meant to help games leap even further over the uncanny valley.
According to a report by Edge magazine, who got to visit Remedy's Finland-based offices for a closed-door demonstration, Remedy is going to be using the new tech in their next project, though there's no word of what that project might be.
Created by John Root, former Lead Animator at Id Software, Epic Games, and Disney, explained that the new software helps enhance the "retargeting" process -- the tweaking of raw capture capture data by the animators.
The new tech still uses motion capture as a starting point for their actors (accurate up to half a millimeter), and maps the sixty-four facial expressions that serve as modifiable templates for the entire spectrum of human emotions. Once the detailed model of the actor is captured, animators can use a series of real-time sliders to tweak the digital performance. It sounds quite empowering for animators, given that it eliminates the need for manual animation of actors' faces, or being forced into animating around a pre-recorded vocal performance.
Edge magazine seemed impressed after being shown a tech demo of the software using the actor who played Alan Wake, though the technology isn't yet complete. In particular, Root mentioned a color mapping sub-system of tech that will allow animators to "simulate blood flow beneath the skin, adjusting its colour as brows are furrowed or lips pursed."
CEO Matthias Myllyrinne also noted, "LA Noire has set a bar for facial animation, but [Rockstar’s game] is here," he said, placing one hand higher than the other. "We're aiming to be here."