The Quarry’s hyper-detailed facial animations were achieved using the same motion-capture technology behind Marvel’s Thanos, and the whole process sounds pretty gruelling.
According to a Washington Post interview with Aruna Inversin, the creative director of effects studio Digital Domain, a whole new motion-capture system called Masquerade 2.0 was created specifically for development of The Quarry, and it was designed to track facial and body movements, and convert them to digital characters that could be edited in real time. The system iterated on the original Masquerade, which had been developed to track the motions and recreate Josh Brolin as Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War.
In order to capture performances for The Quarry, Digital Domain started by generating facial scans of each of the actors. It then covered each of the performers in motion-sensitive dots, and had them act out a series of tests to properly calibrate the equipment. The most creative part of the process, however, came from Digital Domain building physical moulds of each of the actors’ heads, then drilling holes into them, and inserting the motion-sensitive dots to match those on the actual actors, allowing a sophisticated AI to follow all of the movements and motions, and automatically replicate any that may have been missed during filming.
“That’s the performance that Ted Raimi did, says Inversin, referring to the character of Sheriff Travis, “and you see it in the game, and that’s his lip quivering and that’s his look around. An animator didn’t go in and fix that. You know, that’s what he did onstage.”
Compounding the amount of work required, in movies, motion-capture artists can take a single performance and digitally render it wholesale. In games, however, when players can choose interactions and dialogue options, facial animations have to be able to change in response. To accomplish this, Digital Domain utilised another system, called Chatterbox, which uses a sophisticated algorithm to register players’ inputs, then select an appropriate facial response from a library of over 1,000 performance captures. You say something that makes a character sad, Chatterbox hears it, then loads and plays a sad face.
All told, Digital Domain captured a gigantic 250 million frames of animation for The Quarry, and of the approximately 4,500 shots considered good enough for use in the game, only 27 were adjusted post-production by animators – the rest were natural performance captures.
It sounds like a mammoth effort, but if you’ve played The Quarry, and seen how it brings its characters to vivid life, it certainly all paid off.