Dr. Of Machinima

A blog By Dr. Nemesis following the progress of Binary Picture Show's work, as well as other Machinima.

Facial Animation in Machinima


The last test video (Meet the heavy Spoof) went well. I definitely intend to use this method on the new ‘Bouncers‘ series, but before I commit to it entirely we’ll actually be making a short film that will rely heavily on the technique, to see just how far we can push it and if it’s really feasible to do it for a runtime above 1 minute.
So this test project is called ‘Beast’ and it’s heavy on the dialogue.
One problem Machinima has almost always been plagued by since inception is the lack of emotional expression available. Facial animation was always difficult to implement and on the whole emotional Machinima has had to rely solely on audio. Great actors and a few choice tunes were really all you could do, and you don’t need to be a veteran to know that great acting is rare.

Thankfully now, there is Half-Life 2 and UT2K4. However many of the popular engines still have no lip syncing tools. The Sims 2 is a great example. The film dialogue has to be laid over characters who are actually moving their lips to something else (ie lines from the game). Because of this I’ve always thought the technique relied too much on luck, or accidents. Facial expression’s are do-able using a few tricks, but it’s not really possible to get a range of emotions to be as fluid as in an engine with a dedicated tool.
Another great example is Second Life. Highly popular for Machinima, but unlike it’s counterpart, There.com, it doesn’t come with lip sync abilities. And this is where it get’s interesting.
It’s becoming popular, not just in Second Life but also other lip sync lacking engines, to use Crazy Talk. This way you could potentially lip synch any engine, although some video editing is often required, and it can be extensive.

In Machinima’s progress, not only are we seeing better graphics as the engines improve, but also a greater ability to connect with the audience. It’s from this ‘fight for emotion’ that ‘Beast’ will be born. With any luck the facial animation will do what the voice acting cannot, as we are one of the many groups who don’t have easy access to great actors. ‘Beast’ is designed in such a way that the facial animation is not a nice extra, but rather an absolute necessity. Simply having lips move is not enough anymore, and not having them move at all…. So hopefully in a week, we’ll have some interesting results. We’ve been working on it for almost 3 weeks now so it’s very close.