Talking heads – Mixamo, Unity3d and Star Wars

High end games have increased peoples expectations of any experience that they take part in that uses game technology. Unity3d lets any of us build a multitude of applications and environments but also exposes us to the breadth of skills needed to make interesting engaging environments.
People, avatars and non player characters are one of the hardest things to get right. The complexity of building and texturing a mesh model of a person is beyond most people. Once built the mesh then has to have convincing bone articulation to allow it to move. That then leads to needing animations and program control of those joints. If it is complicated enough with a body then it gets even more tricky with the face. If a character is supposed to talk in an environment up close then the animations and structure required are even more complex. Not only that but if you are using audio, the acting or reading has to be convincing and fit the character. So a single avatar needs design, engineering, voice over and production skills all applied to it. Even for people willing to have a go at most of the trades and skills that is a tall order.
So it is great that companies like Mixamo exist.They already have some very good free rigged animatable people in the unity store, that help us small operators get to some high end graphic design quickly. They have just added to their portfolio of cool things though with Mixamo Face Plus

They have a unity plugin that can capture realtime face animation using video or a web cam. So now all techies have to do is figure out the acting skills and voice work in order to make these characters come alive. I say all 🙂 it is still a mammoth task but some more tools in the toolbox can’t hurt.
They have created a really nice animated short film using Unity which shows this result of this technology, blended with all the other clever things you can do in Unity 3d. Mind you take a look at the number of people in the credits 🙂

Even more high end though is this concept video using realtime high quality rendered characters and live performance motion capture in the Star Wars universe.

The full story is here direct quotes from Lucasfilm at a Technology Strategy Board meeting at BAFTA in London. So maybe I will be able to make that action movie debut after all. There is of course a vector here to consider for the interaction of humans across distances mediated by computer generated environments. (Or virtual worlds as we like to call them 😉 )

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