At the Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco this week, studio Quantic Dream showed off an eight minute long clip highlighting their new facial capture technology. The demo titled Kara features an android being constructed and subsequently becoming self-aware. Its creator deems it defective and attempts to dissemble her while she pleads for him to stop. The performance by Veronica Mars’ Valorie Curry, along with the sharp facial animation, makes the video an extremely riveting watch.
David Cage, the clip’s director, said the performance was captured entirely in one take. The facial and body animations were captured using 180 markers, half of which were attached to the actress’ face. Cage hopes that one day CGI performances will be indistinguishable from the real thing, pointing to the success of Avatar as a signpost for the new technology. “A large audience can just forget about the CG and focus on the story. I don’t think Kara is perfect, of course. But step by step, we are leaving the valley.”
Quantic Dream is best known for Heavy Rain, their intense PlayStation 3 exclusive from 2010, which Cage also directed. The game is best described as an interactive drama; three character story lines become entangled as a father searches for his kidnapped son. Quantic Dream used their 64 camera studio to create intense and lifelike performances for each of their characters.
Facial capture technology may be the future of creating lifelike performances in movies and video games, but for now the process remains both expensive and time consuming. Last year’s detective hit, L.A. Noire, was filled with performances captured using technology called MotionScan that worked using 32 cameras to fully capture actors performing. Even though the game was a worldwide hit, its developer went bankrupt. Team Bondi of Australia spent six years creating the game, and closed its doors in August of 2011, only three months after the title was released by Rockstar Games.
After watching Quantic Dream’s demo from GDC. It’s easy to imagine the potential improved facial capture technology will have for creating believable and unique performances. It’s scary to think that one day we might not need actors at all. But then who would the tabloids talk about?