Facial Animation Technology

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Animation Technology

In terms of technology, we have improved the solid base provided by the CryEngine to push the boundaries of what is possible to get on PC. The high fidelity work on the skeleton, rigging and graphics resources is achieved by 3Lateral, making is possible.

High-Resolution Scan

This scan individually activated facial muscles. Each scan is composed of millions of triangles. These data do not work effectively in the CryEngine. Each scan is a snapshot in time, having no connection with any other scan. That’s why we created a tool analyzing the skin surface to find matches between each scan. Thus we find hundreds of thousands of correspondence between scans. This allows us to create distortions adapting to any topology.

The scans are then examined by artists who remove unwanted movements, all these scans in context then create a panel of hundreds of expressions that will be used to create a face model: A kind of virtual doll of the character. This can be animated and transferred to the graphics engine of the game. Regarding photorealistic characters, every detail counts, not only its general shape and textures but also in terms of animation. This extends to micro-expressions.

The stretching of the skin and pores, circulation under the skin or the aqueous humor between the eyelids had your eye. Everything must be likely to maintain the credibility of the scene. The essential for a project of such magnitude you need to have a sufficient team, but also the right tools. To solve this problem, we used a Cubic Motion.

Cubic Motion was responsible for recreating the performances of actors using facial rigging 3Lateral.

Animation Process

The first step in our animation process involves the analysis of the performance of the actors. Save hundreds of points on the face, covering characteristics such as eyes, lips, teeth and skin folds. In addition, we record the different textures of the videos, allowing us this level of fidelity in rendering.

Process Data

After this analysis the process data in the character management program is each parameter is measured in the program, and each measure relates to an area of the face, and how it moves in relation to other areas. We combine several measures to recreate realistic facial expressions like when you speak or are moved.

Two examples

  1. First, we have a mouth funnel. The shape is important for the facial animation and the lip sync.
  2. The second example is in the nuances that can capture.

Once all control data are processed, we are finalizing the animation; we send the data to IGC so they integrate the engine of the game.

In SC, faces use a combination of blend shapes and bone combining all the techniques of real-time rendering. If I activate the “debug” mode, a colorful grid indicating the density of the number of bones appears. This gives us smoother and more realistic deformations. Recent enhancements allow processing via the GPU, which improves performance and allows greater use of these techniques. Simultaneously blend shapes are led by animation. Bishop uses about 400 of these shapes blend to reproduce the actor’s performance. We also use this form to assign the tangents of the mesh.

Thus, the shading is updated based on curvatures of intermediate forms. Also added is managing the animation broadcast, also called blood flow map, as the animation wrinkles. When everything is combined, a new quality is obtained in the return game. You can see how the changes are visible.

Others are more subtle: The lips are thinning when they stretch and darken when they pucker. Where older games under CryEngine used a texture wrinkles, we combine up to three textures of wrinkles and blood flow maps. In total, we have 44 facial zones for mixing and spreading normal and recreating expressions and wrinkles as accurately as possible.

You can get an idea of the complexity of this report “debug” where the white areas show the relative intensity of mixtures. The eyes have been improved to make more alive. Among other realistic pupil reaction to light changes. An animation of this quality can be heavy. Animate 200 bones and 400 blend shapes is a lot of data.

For compression, we passed hundreds of MB to just a few. Care is taken to compression in order to keep the quality of entertainment transmitted by Cubic Motion, a quality that should be reflected in the graphics engine. The faces of the management pipeline for Star Citizen are well advanced and go much further than any game before.

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