PERFORMANCE CAPTURE DIRECTOR
Emotionally real digital humans stake a claim in the next generation futuristic reboot of the best selling action game franchise CALL OF DUTY.
For Performance Capture Director Remington Scott, the eighteen month production was similar to shooting a season of episodic television encompasing over a dozen episodes. Except, in that comparison, CALL OF DUTY: ADVANCED WARFARE has the scope and magnitude of feature film action sequences for each episode.
However, the spectacle of action is only as powerful as the audiences connection to the characters in conflict. In order to heighten the sense of drama, performances were crafted by a high caliber cast led by Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey.
Performance capture was shot at James Cameron's Lightstorm stage using next generation technology developed after AVATAR.
Remington directed the closed set, responsible for ensuring smooth operations of the production. The on-set crew consisted of over 40 professionals including Director of Photography Kevin McGill and cinematographer AJ Raitano shooting the action with simulaneous A/B/C set-ups.
Ensuring that performances were grounded in near-future technology is a proficiency Remington excels in. Providing accurate combat details in order to establish the highest level of realism, Remington worked with Seal Team Six Chief Special Warfare Operator Mitchel Hall and Delta Force Commander / New York Times bestselling author Dalton Fury. Writing summits with screenwriter John MacInnes and Creative Director Bret Robbins were crucial in developing the drama of conflict that fueled each characters unique performance and helped inform the production team of the scope of each episodic session.
New methodologies meant risk for a multi-billion dollar franchise.
Glen Schofield, CEO of Sledgehammer Games, wanted to ensure that the story, penned by Nicholl Fellowship screenwriter John MacInnes, would connect with the audience on a deeper emotional level. To achieve this goal, characters would need to be more lifelike.
Sledgehammer Games co-development of MODERN WARFARE 3 went on to gross $1billion in 16 days, beating AVATAR's record of 19 days, becoming one of the most revered entertainment products of all time. Not ones to rely on their past successes, Sledgehammer's drive to push the envelope is infused company wide. One of the biggest pushes was in changing the capture methodology of the past.
Activision's previous COD games had assembled clips of pre-recorded voices and, at a later time, recorded stuntmen miming their body motions to the timing of the voice tracks. The operation was centered around recording audio first, then filling in the visual performances such as a body capture session and then animating the faces. This was problematic because the disconnect between seperate vocal and capture productions were focused on technically matching performances rather than a more unified method of crafting an emotional moment.
CALL OF DUTY needed to revise the pipeline towards performance so as to raise the bar in quality for emotionally compelling digital characters that engage audiences and strengthen meaningfulness of story.
A sweeping change in pipeline, production and capture methodologies was proposed to achieve a higher level of realistic performances. Wiping the slate clean and working with new technologies and methodologies that were previously unproven in the Activision pipeline were risky propositions for a high profile project. However, Schofield's desire to push the envelope beyond what was created in past games and Animation Director Chris Stone's keen awareness of the benefits were the guiding forces that embraced change.
The new pipeline that Remington implemented features hyperreal human faces created by utilizing a proprietary system of digital muscle and emotion based simulations that are driven by high definition optic flow and image analysis algorithms. Remington also directed "ultra deep resolution" face scanning sessions with the principle actors.
This is the foundation that allows for a fundamental change in the way performances are now crafted. Actors are now recorded in an ensemble during one performance capture session that unifies body, face and voice.
The drama of the performance enhances blockbuster action sequences by connecting with audiences on a deeper level through nuances conveyed in facial expressions that paint complex emotions. You can now read a character's expression and believe their intentions, whether it's an enemy who needs your help or a friend who's about to betray you.