Tuesday 14 August 2007

Live blog - mo cap

(Its all about Heavenly sword - 2 of the actresses from the game + chief creator. Missed names completely. MC is the women whose MC'ing the session)

(Chief creator) We wanted to focus on the massive storage and processing power to create dramatic performances. Similar to 300, in that its fantastical and draws from a lot of influences: Asian, Mongolian, Chinese.

(Anna / Nariko) She was born to a clan where a hero was prophesied to be born and she grew up in a clan fighting for her place. The Heavenly Sword, being meant for a diety kills anyone who wields it.

(CC) The game starts as a tragedy and becomes a love story.

(Kai) Kai is an absolutely fascinating character for a game and is such a quirky character that you might only see in other platforms. She is kind of a feral child from a young age, and then was found by Nariko and bought into the clan. She is a strange feral creature and lives in her own imaginary world and comes of age as the story progresses. She has a very close bond particularly with Nariko. She uses a cross and has her own fighting technique.

(All videos are played from a build of the game. It has an unlocked video features that they are playing from. They shoot a scene with Nariko and Kai. Kai has an annoying way of speaking - lots of overdramatic strings and significant-pauses-between-words. I suspect the cutscene leads into a section where Kai is the primary character. Kai talks about herself in the third person ala golum and looks a little like him.)

(Anna) I'm from NAIDA (Australia) and most of my work has been in film and television. I don't have a physical theatre background.

(Kai) I had dance training when I was younger and then ended up moving into classical theatre and physical theatre. Kai is quite a physical character.

(MC) What were you expectations coming to this process?

(Anna) Because there are so many cut scenes the game feels like a film script. I got a shock when we got to NZ and went 'oh this is the motion capture stage'.

(Kai) I didn't have much experience of the gaming world. With the help of Andy Serkis, who's an expert when it comes to motion capture.

(MC) Was there anything specific that you were looking at the actors for the casting process?

(CC) Andy and his casting agent did most of the casting. I was looking for the voice and body movements. I was looking particularly at the way the actors moved, particularly for the game, as well as the cut scenes to make sure that the actors moved the same for the animations in the game as well as the cut scenes.

(MC) Can you tell us a little bit about rehearsal?

(Anna) We had to keep coming in at the back of all these battles, and rehearsed all the cut scenes as well as all the action.

(Kai) We had these polystyrene swords.

(Anna) The game plays longer (Than two hours we took to rehearse this).

(CC) We're not going to release [the rehearsal footage we took]

[Shows Andy Serkis capturing performance video]

(MC) How important was total capture: face, body and voice.

(CC) For golum, they just had body capture, and they animated his face by hand. For Kong, they developed facial capture, but only within a metre box. When we got to Weta, they built a new stage for us, and it allowed up to five actors to interact and record both their voice, their face and their body. As far as an actor is concerned, it is more like a play or a television. This is the first time, in film or games that actors can play off of each other.

(Anna) It changed things completely, because otherwise it would have been a completely technical experience.

(MC) How was the direction like, how do you think motion capture was player, should be played by you?

(Kai) Kai was a very physical character and very stylised.

(Anna) Nariko was very straight and I found that even thought that you're being picked up by all these light sensors, you still have reference cameras in the room. Even though there is a reference camera and you are still playing in the round and I would handle it in a different way next time, treat it more like puppeteering.

(MC) So its more like acting in the round?

(Anna) Only once you see the after effects do you see what the potential in the room is.

(CC) You can't see the daily rushes, and this is probaby the first time the actors have seen the performance last year.

(MC) Were you able to get real time feedback at all?

(CC) As part of our rehearsal process, Andy arranged for body motion capture and every actor could have a live feed of them moving around. But we shot on video and so you could see yourself on video playback [but not rendered].

(Kai) Personally, I don't like to see the rushes.

(MC) In theatre or film, the last step is putting on the suit or costume. In motion capture you don't get that, so how were you able to get into character?

(Kai) We really had to use our imaginations entirely.

(MC) Was it possible to lose a sense of the barren motion capture studio? Were their moments you were method acting?

(Anna) Absolutely. Even working on a set, its incredibly distracting. So in actual fact you didn't have any of that and the bareness of the motion capture studio, you didn't have that.

(Kai) It often felt much more intimate than working on a film set. It was very intimiate and helpful because of that.

(CC) We even put a curtain up over the window into the motion capture studio.

(MC) How important was it to cast each actor separately? I mean, in games and CGI movies people are cast in multiple roles.

(CC) To be honest it didn't occur to me. We weren't too concerned about the physical apperance, more that they had the character right.

(MC) How many were in the cast?

(CC) Principles: Lydia, Anna, Andy, Stephen Birkoff + 2 others (his generals), plus Nariko's father (Ewan Stuart). This scene is very complicated. That's the beauty of motion capture, you don't have to be real. We wanted to create a house of horrors scene for the generals: every performance is heightened.

The character Stephen Birkoff came up with on set was completely different from the character we wanted to play. As every cast member bought more and more into their character, we ran it more as an improve.

(MC) So this is much more different to normal game development.

(CC) Often, its because the director of the mo cap session doesn't know the context, or has to work with the levels that are already there. Because Heavenly Sword was half way through development, I could change the layout of the level and make the scene work better that way. With Andy as director and myself as game director, we were able to make these choices. We always made the choices based on the dramatic side. The dramatic side we treated as sacrosanct.

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