LA Noire developers reveal facial animation secrets


— 6:00 AM on December 17, 2010

If one thing about last months L.A. Noire trailer caught my eye, it was the shockingly true-to-life facial animations. A new video released by the developers at Rockstar now confirms my suspicions: there's some special sauce at play. That special sauce is much more elaborate and technically impressive than I imagined, though. Check it out:

Unlike in, say, Avatar, where characters' faces were animated manually based on reverse helmet-cams worn by the actors, Rockstar's tricked-out dentist's office appears to generate 3D models directly using multiple video feeds. That means actors have to do separate takes for facial and body movements, but the result is—at least to my eyes—leaps and bounds beyond what other games have been able to achieve so far. And this ain't no gimmick; the developers in the trailer suggest that being able to tell whether characters are lying will be integral to the gameplay.

It's just too bad LA Noire apparently isn't scheduled for a PC release. I'm excited about the prospect of similar technology making it into other, cross-platform titles, however. Staring at mannequin-like faces for hours on end in games like Mass Effect 2 is starting to get a little passé.

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