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n n n n Gaming these characters were critical to the gameplay: He wanted players to invest not only time, but also emotion, into them as they played through the game’s chapters. “One of our ambitions was to create highly believable characters that look and move in a realistic fashion and express subtle emotions, captured from real actors’ performances,” says Tierry Prodhomme, lead character designer at Quantic Dream. “It necessitated rethinking the complete production pipeline and devel- oping specific techniques and tools that we then used.” To ensure a cinematographic vision of this film-noir thriller, the studio built a character team comprising concept artists, fashion de- signers, and 3D artists. “Fashion designers were in charge of defining the mood and style of each character, concept artists provided turnarounds and proportions, and 3D artists produced the final models,” explains Christophe Brusseaux, art director at Quantic Dream. Quantic Dream cast real actors to perform live acting, motion-capture shooting, and voice recording, and used 3D scans of actors’ faces. A cast of 70 actors worked on the mas- sive game, which required a record amount of work. Te 3D scans were mostly used as tem- plates for the artists, who worked in Autodesk’s Maya. Accompanying photo sessions provided all the skin details in high resolution. To model the characters, the group first re- surfaced low-resolution models of the faces with edge loops dedicated to facial deformations and animations. Ten the artists created the high- resolution models in Pixologic’s ZBrush, unfold- ed UVs, and built the skin shader using specifi- cally developed proprietary tools. “Our proprietary Materials Editor is based on a nodal shading network system similar to Maya Hypershade,” says Brusseaux. “With this system, we can easily create a lot of complex shaders, in particular, skin shaders, including SSS, translucency, and thickness.” To bring Heavy Rain’s characters to life, Quantic Dream built an in-house mocap studio. Tere, the team filmed multiple ac- tors on stage at the same time using props and basic sets. For the characters’ bodies, the crew used motion-captured data as a reference for building volumes and proportions. An initial skeleton was built for producing a body place- holder used by the animation team as a first reference and by the 3D artists for creating the final body model. When the animators completed the basic skinning, they built an exoskeleton for each model: Tis additional skeleton was driven by the main skeleton, and contains automatic expressions, enabling special behaviors and in- creasing the quality of the mesh deformation. For the faces, the group used only raw mo- cap data captured in the company’s sound studio at the same time of the voice acting. A special marker set was used to capture the face movements, while for the body motion, the crew used 1.5mm markers along with a Vicon setup that includes 14 MX cameras. “For aesthetical reasons, we didn’t use blendshapes, as these often look too robotic,” says Prodhomme. “We focused on capturing raw mocap data to avoid heavy post anima- tion work, which also retained the maximum information from the original performance of the actor.” Te animators also produced a special rig that handles 76 base bones for the body, 105 for the face, and 60 for the exoskeleton. To enhance the characters’ appearances, the team used Havok Cloth to dynamically simulate certain clothing, such as long trench coats, as well as hair and special props. On traditional shots, the team Isaac’s suit in Dead Space 2 features a fold-away helmet to reveal the character’s emotion, which is apparent in his face. 24 August/September 2010 used classical light setups for direc- tional, spot, and ambient lighting. However, Brusseaux noticed dur- ing the production that specific, highly cinematic, close-up shots required a higher quality of light- ing. To solve this issue, Quantic Dream’s R&D team developed a specific tool to manage the special lights with high resolution, inte- grating the technology into the real-time directing bench used by the camera team to set all in-game cameras and to “direct,” among other segments, the real-time, in- game cinematic sequences. “Technology, tools, and pipe- lines have greatly evolved during the past few years to allow us to create highly believable characters,” says Brusseaux. “Te time when artists alone were crafting characters and ani- mating them is probably over. By using scan- ning and motion-capture technologies, as well as through the use of advanced shading, skinning, and lighting tools, we were able to capture the performance of real actors, produce highly realistic characters, and bring them to life in a way that, we think, has further pushed the boundaries of emotion in games.” Given the success of the game and the ability for the team to avoid the Uncanny Valley criticism that has even plagued some Hollywood CG films in recent years, Quantic Dream’s pipeline has solved many problems and opened up a new doorway into character creations. By utilizing real actors and adding another layer of emotion to this game, the stu- dio has pushed the boundaries of interactive entertainment. And Quantic Dream is not resting on its laurels; the studio is already working on its next project, and as the game industry looks ahead to the next generation of hardware, this pipeline will breathe life into even more be- lievable virtual characters in the near future. Playing With Character At the end of the day, many of today’s video- game characters have become as well rounded as anything seen on the big screen or on televi- sion. Technology has given the current genera- tion of artists and character creators the ability to craft unique heroes, heroines, and villains using the methods that they prefer. Ultimately, whether using motion capture or cel shading, these characters are leaving an indelible mark not only in gaming, but in the broader entertainment landscape. Hollywood has taken notice, developing big-screen ver- sions of games like Gears of War, WarCraft, Uncharted, Dead Space, and EverQuest. Jerry Bruckheimer elected to turn Prince of Persia into a summer movie—and potential fran- chise—because of the character and story that Jordan Mechner created with Ubisoft. Moving forward, these more believable game characters will more easily migrate across media. As gamers already know, one of the reasons is because many of these characters stay with players long after the power button has been turned off. n John Gaudiosi has been covering the world of video games and the convergence of Hollywood and computer graphics for the past 16 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Wired Magazine, Reuters, AOL Games, and

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