Remedy developing facial animation tech, aiming to be better than L.A. Noire

Remedy announces that it's developing facial animation technology meant to surpass the impressive tech seen in L.A. Noire.

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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."

From The Chatty
    • reply
      April 11, 2011 5:31 PM

      now all studios need to develop is writing talent

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        April 11, 2011 5:55 PM

        All the best game writing has been on walls in games, and it shouldn't even be there! Who stops in the middle of a crisis and writes on the wall with their blood, etc?

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        April 11, 2011 8:18 PM

        STFU I WILL KILL YOU >:(

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        April 12, 2011 7:54 AM

        I know some studios are working on some amazing inking technology, should help them write better text.

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      April 11, 2011 5:57 PM

      Okay, see you in five years Remedy.

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        April 11, 2011 6:16 PM

        Don't you think that's a little too optimistic?

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        April 11, 2011 10:25 PM

        I'm curious how many of the cores on my x6 processor this new technology will utilize?

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          April 12, 2011 5:41 AM

          Probably all of them but in the end changed to fit on console and wont be released on PC, so no matter.

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      April 11, 2011 6:02 PM

      Technology to come out in the future is better than what is currently being used. Shocker.

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      April 11, 2011 6:05 PM

      i'd be happy if people caught up with what valve/source games have managed for years now.

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        April 11, 2011 6:07 PM

        Pretty sure valve worked with a doctor who specializes in autistic children & the ways they can tell emotion just from facial expressions. They're also some of the few games with correctly shaped eyes.

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        April 11, 2011 7:33 PM

        It is pretty impressive that, even all these years after HL2's release, L.A. Noire is the first to top their facial animations, let alone come close to touching it.

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          April 12, 2011 4:40 AM

          And even then LA Noire uses a cheating technique. It's basically copying/pasting a real person's face and movement onto a virtual character. The character even looks the same as the actor so you can't even model your own character which is lame; well unless they can modify those details but from what I've seen I don't think it's possible.

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          April 12, 2011 8:02 AM

          The neat thing about Valve's approach is that lip syncing is easy to do. You supply the audio file and text spoken to a tool they wrote and the appropriate mouth movements are generated. Compared to Team Bondi's/Rockstar's approach, I guess it's more flexible in that you can provide localized audio with the correct mouth movements.

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      April 11, 2011 6:08 PM

      [deleted]

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      April 11, 2011 6:12 PM

      won't come out on pc

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      April 11, 2011 6:12 PM

      Worthless boasting until we see this "superior tech" in a shipping title. Most studios don't produce middleware for shit and end up having to source a company like Havok. Frankly, that's the way it should be for all but the largest development houses.

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      April 11, 2011 6:19 PM

      oh man i hope it's just sam lake screwing his face up over and over

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      April 11, 2011 7:03 PM

      it's easy to do better tech than a game that's coming out next month when you are still building a game with no release date that probably won't even be out this year.

      either way, all i want is alan wake 2 from that studio :(

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      April 11, 2011 7:05 PM

      I guess it's easier to do complex facial animations when your game only has one enemy

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      April 11, 2011 7:07 PM

      They're going to have to lower the texture resolution and draw distance on current gen consoles. Come on devs, (pointing fingers at Remedy and Rockstar) - leverage your uber high tech stuff on the more powerful hardware (aka the PC).

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      April 11, 2011 7:08 PM

      YAY YAY http://i43.tinypic.com/30t08e9.gif

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      April 11, 2011 7:52 PM

      I wonder if it's markers vs markerless. If it's marker based, good luck to them, there are a lot of problems and it'll never look right. If it's marker less, I wonder what their lips and eye region solutions are.
      Also, what's their eye strategy, since that's one of the biggest problems right now.
      I know I have personal reasons for it, but I wonder why they just don't use Mova's Contour tech. It went over huge at GDC, but I know they started focusing on movies more, but that would work quite well for them.

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        April 11, 2011 8:04 PM

        looking at mova's example footage on their website, it looks pretty similar to the test footage house of moves sent us awhile back. nothing too spectacular as far as the motion goes. i think a lot of this stuff is over blown. most of the performance can come down to how well the area between the nose and forehead is developed with rigs and geometry, then layered with proper normal maps over top

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          April 11, 2011 8:08 PM

          and looking at more of the mova footage, some of it looks like it's actually been keyframed over top of to exaggerate certain poses. i'd really like to see footage of the actor side by side to make a real comparison though.

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            April 11, 2011 8:15 PM

            well, to defend them, the stuff on their website is from 2007 i think. i haven't actually worked there in a few years, so I don't know what it's like now, but I remember when we worked on the Hulk and Benjamin Button, a lot of the detail we captured we had to throw out for the rig, so I was hopefully they improved on it by now and are getting closer to what was captured.
            A lot of the earlier stuff was turned into FACS poses, so some of it was keyframed over, but I know the Geni4 and the GDC demos didn't have additionally keyframing on them.

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              April 11, 2011 8:20 PM

              and yeah, I agree, it really does depend on the rig it's put onto. I don't know, seeing the raw footage as it was reconstructed made me realize what it was capable of, and having them be my first real job in the industry, I want them to succeed, but I also am glad I'm out of mo-cap right now.

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                April 11, 2011 8:38 PM

                yeah i just looked up some more stuff and you're right, it looks like that's actually pretty old.

                i couldn't find much else from my quick search, just another interview from gdc 2008, but it's still definitely very cool stuff. most impressive is the claim that it's doing that type of capture without restricting the movement of the actor. (i only say claim because i can't confirm what the capture environment was) freely capturing as much of the performance as possible all in the same take is huge.

                for all the hype the la noire stuff is getting, how you can really feel that the actor was bolted down into position, limiting their performance, still really bothers me.

                and of course, cost is always a major prohibitive factor as well, especially when it comes to games. i still think that improving the actual models, textures and rigs of the characters, especially around the eye area with normal and wrinkle maps, is the major difference you're seeing these days. awhile back someone linked me to a cod5 cinematic to show me their facial animation, and no disrespect to the animators there at all, their work was still solid, but it wasn't the motion selling it, it was everything the motion was driving. the animation itself wasn't anything spectacular.

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                  April 11, 2011 8:39 PM

                  also, if you know where i can find more recent mova footage i'd love to see it

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                    April 11, 2011 8:44 PM

                    I still know the people that work there, so I can talk, they used have a test/tech account on the ftp to download rigs and materials to test, but I don't have the login/password for it anymore.
                    I could maybe get you talking to the right people, but who knows how quickly that might turn sales.

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                      April 11, 2011 8:51 PM

                      ah that's alright. it was more for just my personal interest for now.

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                  April 11, 2011 8:41 PM

                  i guess it wasn't cod5, but black ops. whatever, there's too many to count now!

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                  April 11, 2011 8:42 PM

                  I remember the first GDC we did, and the big problem was the bones limitation and that the Unreal engine limited to 8bit bones. We used 255 bones just for the face, so it was really unusable for anything other than pre-rendered. If I remember right, the mask we used for the Incredible Hulk was about 700 points, and B. Button was about 800, so they'd have to really switch to at least 16 bit bone system. When we talked to the CryTek guys, since their booth was next to ours, they claimed interest, but said upping the bone system was a low priority and a few years down the line. I wonder if the new Unreal Engine and CryEngine have increased that, which would be a huge help.
                  Are you the one at Blur?

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                    April 11, 2011 8:50 PM

                    no i think that's mankero, im over at capcom atm

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                    April 12, 2011 3:57 AM

                    I exported a 1600 joint animated mesh to Doom3 once- didn't break anything and there were other animated figures in the test room.

                    I wrote a script for maya that took mesh deformers and converted them to per-vertex joints, then parented the joints to the character rig prior to export. Obviously created a ton of joints but idTech4 ran it like a champ.

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      April 11, 2011 8:20 PM

      Huh, if this is true it sounds better than Hollywood, in terms of a tool. As far as I know procedural retargeting is not something Hollywood has done yet.

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        April 11, 2011 8:22 PM

        Aaand the post above me proves me wrong, guess I'm behind on the times in terms of Hollywood tech : (

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      April 11, 2011 8:36 PM

      FUTURE GAME MORE FUTURE THAN PRESENT GAME

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        April 12, 2011 12:11 AM

        Right? What's the point of this?

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          April 12, 2011 2:06 AM

          finally, a videogame that improves on the tech of its predecessors!

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      April 11, 2011 9:11 PM

      Well, I guess we pretty much all win in this battle. L.A. Noire is looking as good as it is because they cast people with talent as well as having great tech, though. That's going to continue to be most games' downfall.

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      April 11, 2011 11:53 PM

      Too bad they wouldn't be using it in a new Max Payne game. They could drop good 'ol "constipated Max" in there as an easter egg :D

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        April 12, 2011 2:25 AM

        I'd say it's too bad they didn't care about facial animation that much in Alan Wake ... it was ridiculous how bad the animation was when characters were talking ...

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      April 12, 2011 12:42 AM

      Remedy is a small team, I'm looking forward to their next game though. And to be honest they always had some cool tech. Alan wake was awesome and fuck you if you didn't like it >:D

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        April 12, 2011 5:44 AM

        Well sorry, but I dont have a working 360 since a long time ago so I havent played Alan Wake yet, thanks to them not releasing it on PC.

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      April 12, 2011 5:40 AM

      Remedy? Oh dear, and I was just replaying Max Payne 2 again (on PC of course).

      I really hope their next game is going to be on the PC too...Too many disappointed fans already from Alan Wake :(

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      April 12, 2011 5:52 AM

      If it's console-only then their only aiming here **places hand above testicles**

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      April 12, 2011 5:54 AM

      test

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      April 12, 2011 8:48 AM

      Am i missing something? Where does it say anyone at Remedy says that their tech it's better? All i see, from your own article, is "We're aiming to be here [higher]"

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        April 12, 2011 11:27 AM

        Huh? The title says they are aiming to make it better than LA Noire... which is exactly what that quote says. I don't know what you're confused about.

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