Video Game Faces So Real, You Can Tell If They’re Lying (Trailer)

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Video Game Faces

Team Bondi has developed new ways of capturing faces for ultra-realistic characters in video games.

Rockstar Games is best known for the Grand Theft Auto series of video games and its sojourn through gritty and violent city streets. With Rockstar's upcoming title, L.A. Noire, they'll be exploring a locale that's even more treacherous: the human face. Developed by Australia's Team Bondi, L.A. Noire features cutting edge facial image-capturing technology that allows real world actors to express a wide range of subtle emotions that will be seen in the virtual world. Many previous titles have used such high resolution close-ups of characters, but typically only in "cut-scenes" - the video interludes between interactive portions of the game. In L.A. Noire they will be critical to how you play. The smallest ticks on fully rendered human faces will be important clues to the crimes you are trying to solve. You have to look at these actors and know whether or not they are lying. That sounds like one heck of a video game. Check out the trailer below, followed by a behind-the-scenes look at the rig used to capture these life-like expressions. Motion capture technology is getting better and better - give it a few years and the Uncanny Valley may be banished from video games forever.

In order to get the highest quality recordings of actors' faces, Team Bondi developed a remarkable 32 camera system called Motionscan. Those cameras operate in pairs to capture the actor from every angle in a room full of intense white light so that no wrinkle is left unexplored. Gizmodo Australia had a chance to visit Team Bondi's studios and see how the recording unfolds. This is an intense experience. Nine servers operating at 300 MB/s with a 45 TB buffer are required to handle all the digital processing, and the system can only be used for about 50 minutes of footage a day. Still, actors have logged in hours upon hours in this rig. According to Gizmodo AU, Aaron Staton who plays the main character in L.A. Noire and whom you may know from the TV show Madmen, has spent 80 hours in the Motionscan setup. You can watch Staton, John Noble (from Fringe), and many other US and Australian actors take their turns in the chair in the behind-the-scenes look of Team Bondi's technology in the video below.

James Cameron and Avatar set the bar pretty high for realistic 3D animation using motion-captured human actors. Yet Team Bondi and Rockstar are producing some brilliant images with their Motionscan technology. I think it's remarkable how fast the video game technology is approaching the blockbuster budgets of Hollywood movies. Let's not forget that even cheaper and simpler 3D motion capture tech is waiting in the wings, and will likely be ready for some commercial applications in the near future. For computer animations and motion capture, the time it takes for a technology to move from cutting edge to mainstream to out-of-date seems to be shrinking. Moore's Law is helping give the virtual world a new face lift every few years. At this rate I won't be surprised when video games appear as beautiful and realistic as movies. L.A. Noire looks like it's a good step in that direction. In the decade ahead we may see fully artificial characters, not just motion captures of actors, that appear lifelike enough to believe. Let's hope at that point that we're still perceptive enough to tell when they are lying.

[screen capture and video credit: Rockstar Games Australia]
[source: Rockstar, Team Bondi, Gizmodo AU]

Discussion — 4 Responses

  • ultratempum December 20, 2010 on 10:32 pm

    you might be interested to know that (at least in regards to real humans), while there are facial and body language expressions that people can INTERPRET as lying, it has no correlation to whether people are actually lying or not. So (a game, a movie or a psychopath) can make you think that they are lying or not, but a normal person will give both the impression that they are and aren’t lying subconsciously – regardless of whether they are actually lying or not! So games can use this technique to help players find the truth, but it doesn’t work in reality. (Funnily enough, voice alone does have some subtle and reliable indicators – but nothing visual). And yes, ‘Lie to Me’ is almost complete fiction.

    • Wealthychef ultratempum December 25, 2010 on 2:32 pm

      I would go so far as to say, there are NO reliable indicators of lying. The evidence I submit are that there are no lie detectors that work. All of them require operator interpretation and lots of finesse, and even then they are not objectively accurate. This is a big deal at national labs like the one I work at where lie detectors are employed on high risk individuals. — more security theatre by our government

  • Dancupid December 21, 2010 on 4:42 pm

    Link this to the recent kinect video conferencing story and you have a perfect virtual reality video conferencing system.

  • Dsmithhfx December 25, 2010 on 12:39 pm

    The trailer is not that impressive. Yes the faces are *slightly* improved over that of current shipping games. The motion, physical proportions of the characters, and telling details such as cloth physics, hell even the lighting, are all below par. At no point did I think I was looking at footage of real actors. Not even close. Fail.