The title says it all. Naughty Dog’s Judd Simantov, (whom I understand works remotely from South Africa), takes us through the rigging of the amazingly appealing characters of their soon-to-be-released action title.
Archives For GAME ANIM Articles
This is a post I’ve been waiting years to write as whenever I’m knee-deep in demo reels I’m invariably too busy hiring, but all that changes this week. After sifting through hundreds of examples while creating this Vimeo group of Game Anim Demo Reels, here are my thoughts on creating the perfect demo reel with the specific intent of landing a videogame animation job. Greater length, quality and variety is expected from someone with industry experience behind them, whereas a student need mostly show potential, passion and imagination that can be nurtured. Admittedly, these are only my opinions so I’d be interested to hear what other developers think, and please also add your reel or others you know of to the group – it’s open to everyone.
Ten steps to a great game animation demo reel:
Show really strong work
It may sound obvious, but this is so important above everything else that it’s worth putting as number one. This brief list won’t tell you how to do that as it takes years and years of hard work and practice, but it will help you sell what you have in the best possible light to stand out from the increasingly talented crowd while avoiding many of the pitfalls that can detract from otherwise good animation. Making a strong demo reel is the single most important way to get my attention and make me want to work with you, so take your time and approach it with the same level of creativity and polish that you would any other project with your name on it.
Ubisoft has recently opened the doors to its technology blog Engine Room and one of the first posts focuses on the data-driven systems developed for Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood that afford animators more freedom in giving personality to the crowdlife.
A summary of their GDC 2011 talk, my extremely talented team-mates Aleissia Laidacker and Nic Barbeau take us through Brotherhood’s Crowd Life, Data-Driven AI and Animation Systems.
Everyone’s talking about it so it would be rude not to post that the new trailer for Rockstar’s (Sydney-based team Bondi’s) L.A. Noir dropped yesterday and the facial performances look fantastic. Using Depth Analysis’ MotionScan technology, they appear to be going all out to capture the performances of apparently over 200 characters.
While the visual benefits are obvious, I can’t help but wonder just how much it cost the production for so many actor contracts when not only voices but likenesses are required. Additionally, the production task must be one of the hardest parts of the game, considering that at the time of writing they’re still hiring senior roles for the cinematics team around 6 months before the planned release date.
That said, I’ve really been keeping an eye on this since E3 so can’t wait for spring to roll around, plus I’m a Noir nut since a Humphrey Bogart stint last summer.
Read more about the MotionScan tech and process here.
UPDATE: They’re not still hiring as the front-page job posting on their site is dated 2008. Makes me feel better about the frequency of my own posts.
DICE have posted a number of slides covering various aspects of their games’ development over on their website. While there’s a beautiful presentation from middleware company Illuminate Labs on their lighting technology in Mirror’s Edge, arguably the game’s standout visual feature, of interest to animators will be the one on the creation of their first-person animations which, with the camera, combine to give an immersive experience not seen since Project Breakdown.
I loved the game when it came out last year and immediately started replaying on completion as well as picking up the DLC and downloading the soundtrack and the recent iPhone game, (a superior free version of which you can play here). Unfortunately without the accompanying talk the details are light, but some info can be gleaned. It’s interesting to see someone else thought of attaching a camera to a mocapped head, though it didn’t work out and good old animator talent was the solution.
Download the presentation from the Art section here.
Once again, the Japanese Softimage site has posted information on another showpiece title – and they spend a heavy amount of time talking about how Softimage interfaces with Motionbuilder. This is encouraging for me as I’ve decided to dive fully into Motionbuilder for my current project after finding it to be the most rounded solution for mocap, keyframe and facial animation out there.
When we initially showed Mass Effect at E3 2006 I recall a handful of Square developers attending to evaluate the facial animation. While it looks like their production methods are somewhat dated due to the long development cycle, playing FFXIII shows the eventual result to be outstanding – presumably due to their dedicated engine for facial closeups and meticulous planning.
The Mocap Club has posted an interview with Uncharted 2 Cinematics Lead, Josh Scherr on the mocap process for the game’s high quality cinematics, complementing the videos on the subject included with the game.
Some technical insights towards the end, but most interesting of all is the emphasis placed on the human side of the shoot, something that comes through in the finished work. Regarding casting:
“Well, we start with the obvious things – e.g. talent, distinctive voice, whether an actor is appropriate for the role, etcetera. But since we’re looking for people who will be doing both the mocap acting and the voice, we also watch how the candidates physicalize their performance. It’s also important to see how they deal with adjustments and to see if they take direction well. For the top candidates, we’ll actually bring them back for a second audition and have them perform a scene with Nolan (North, who plays Drake) to make sure they have good chemistry.”
I’m playing through Braid again after the initial realisation that years of hand-holding in 3D have softened my platforming and puzzle-solving skills, and took a trip over to the portfolio site of David Hellman, artist behind the beautiful painterly worlds. While the painterly style is the defining feature, the animation does fit the unsettling Czechoslovakian fairytale stop-motion aesthetic perfectly, (especially the expressionless goombas that wander the levels – creatures that could have been lifted right out of my childhood nightmares).
Beyond examples of animated gifs like the one included here, you can download Photoshop PSDs of all the character animations in the game from this handy location. Certainly worth a look to get an idea of the animation process behind this wonderfully infuriating little game.
Valve have posted the slides of Mike Booth’s recent Stanford AIIDE-09 conference presentation. While only the first section on path-finding will likely be of most interest to animators, he also goes some way to breaking down the famed AI Director used to dynamically tailor the game experience for each new playthrough.
They certainly give the outward impression at least that they’ve attained the developer holy grail of sharing technology across projects, recently announcing early Bots for Team Fortress 2 using the same decision-making as described in this paper.
Find a list of all of Valve’s speaker presentations here.