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Watch A Human Actor Become A Convincing 3-D Character

Two of the best facial animation companies in the business gives an awesome demo of what they can do.

You might not know the company Cubic Motion by name, but if you’ve seen the spooky advertisements for the latest Call of Duty, in which Kevin Spacey appears as a video game character, you’ll recognize their work.

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Cubic Motion is one of the top companies doing facial motion capture work today, translating an actor’s facial expressions into that of digital characters.

In this new demo, the company teamed with fellow facial capturing titan 3Lateral (GTAV, Ryse), to show a current state of the union on the core technology. Watch the clip above, and you’ll watch as an actor performs a scene, a camera sucks in his face, and the computer molds the intricate performance into a digital skin. (To get a real taste at the quality of this technology, pay special attention to his mouth. See how he says “bum” and it feels just right?)

Keep watching, and you’ll see how well the intricacies of this performance can even translate to a less detailed model, meaning that, whether the character is on a high end system like a PS4, or a lower power device like an old smartphone, much of the experience can still shine through the processing limitations.

If you’re not at all impressed at this point, realize that this animation is just what they call a “playbast“–a low resolution, quick and dirty preview. It hasn’t had all of the deep, extra skin texture and shading added that you would see in a Hollywood movie, or even a video game cut scene that could be rendered over weeks. And it doesn’t show how easily these facial animations can be edited, either:

Animation and CGI have already been mapping the facial expressions of virtual actors for some time now. But as this technology becomes more and more polished, well, anyone can see in the above clip what a difference it makes. From movies to video games to software, we’re interacting with virtual humanoid faces every day. And if we want those experiences to be as human as they’re intended to be, then we have to be capturing every subtlety just right. Because when it comes to recognizing the human face, we’re all experts.

[h/t: Prosthetic Knowledge]

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company who has written about design, technology, and culture for almost 15 years. His work has appeared at Gizmodo, Kotaku, PopMech, PopSci, Esquire, American Photo and Lucky Peach

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