4m sales in week one, digital sales double, online games triple
Reported by Dan Pearson
2K’s annual basket ball franchise has struck new milestones with this year’s instalment, breaking previous sales records and continuing its transition to digital retail apace.
Not only did NBA2K16 shift four million units within seven days of release, this year saw the number of digital sales double from the last and the number of online games triple, an effective microcosm of the wider console picture. For contrast, Mario Maker sold a million copies in just under three weeks last month.
Riding on the back of a series of glowing reviews and new features, the series is now the highest rated and best selling game within the simulation category, according to NPD figures quoted by 2K. Presumably this is a category which would include EA’s FIFA, although it’s possible that the NBA numbers are referring to US sales alone.
“Our goal was simple, make NBA2K16 the most playable, authentic basketball experience ever,” said Greg Thomas, president of developer Visual Concepts. “The development team demonstrated tremendous dedication to recreating every nuance of the sport both on and off-court, which has been the driving force behind our early success.”
The success of sports games relies on engendering a sense of reality – not just in the ebb and flow of the sport itself, but in selling the player on the fantasy that they really are in the sneakers of their favourite players.
To capture that sense of authenticity in its famous basketball series, 2K relies on the fidelity of Faceware…
Video game facial animation has come a long way, from the first twitch of Mario’s moustache to the near-Hollywood production levels of titles like Grand Theft Auto and Halo. Today’s characters can emote with a visual fidelity that’s long since leapt over the Uncanny Valley and entered the realms of true-to-life realism.
But dramatic impact isn’t just the domain of narrative-led action titles. A sense of believability is also key to the next generation of sports games – games like NBA 2K16. Not only must these games accurately reflect the strategy and physicality of the sport that they emulate, but also the intensity, the passion, and the all-out drama experienced by the players.
“I’ve been working on the NBA series for six years now, and our end goal hasn’t changed in that time – we just want to get better and better at selling the emotion of basketball,” begins Anthony Tominia, performance capture stage manager at 2K. “We’re working on 2K16 now, and we want everything to be as realistic as it possibly can be. That means everything from mo-capping the basketball itself to realistically representing the real-life players in digital form.
“This year we’re trying to get more expressive emotions; better-looking lip sync in our story mode; distinct reactions that mirror what happens on the actual court – Faceware Technologies is an important contributing factor to all of that.”
Capturing every wrinkle
2K has used Faceware’s hardware and software solutions for it facial performance capture for many years, and utilised them once again to bring NBA 2K16 to life. For Tominia, the technology was nothing less than integral in capturing the raw kinetic energy of the sport.
“Basketball is a story, and emotion helps you to tell that story,” he says on his team’s approach to NBA 2K16. “Those physical facial expressions add to the drama of the game. The player might get irritated if they miss a shot, or reach for the skies when they make that last-minute alley-oop, and seeing that makes your actions all the more engaging. We really wanted to delve deeper into those little narrative movements this time and sell what’s happening on an emotional level.
“So, in 2K16 we’ve really exploited our rigs to the extreme so we can match every nuance of the person,” continues Tominia. “We’re making sure that not only does each digital character look like their real-life counterpart, but they also show the signature emotion of that person. When you look at Shaquille O’Neal this year it’s not just a representation of him – it has every tic, every subtle nuance that makes his face uniquely ‘O’Neal’. It’s not just a celebratory face, it’s Shaq’s celebratory face, based off his real-life performance. And that’s thanks to Faceware.”
Faceware’s technology was used to capture the facial performance of over 30 different NBA athletes, including O’Neal. Actions both on the court and off were recorded, with players undergoing full performance capture for their in-game animations and also recording dialogue for the My Career story mode. Once this acquisition was complete, it was time to transplant the performances into the game.
To make the next steps of the process more streamlined, the 2K team dived into the Analyzer and Retargeter scriptability.
“The great thing about Faceware’s script interface is that it’s really simple, so we can easily develop scripts that make our job easier,” explains Tominia. “In this case, we wrote a bunch of Python scripts that allowed us to automatically solve everything that little bit faster. There were over 232 lines spoken by each of the 30 players, and we found that we could easily batch, through Analyzer, 232 lines per player without having to even touch the data.
“We did the same thing with Retargeter,” he continues. “In our pipeline the Python script does the retargeting, creates play blasts and saves those files immediately for review. The process doesn’t have to be manned, so we could capture all day, then leave the system to analyze and retarget overnight. We would then just come in the next morning and quickly identify which files needed the most touch up and pass those on to the team. The speed could not be better.”
Speed and power to rival LeBron
The ease of use of the software, along with the custom development done to streamline the pipeline, meant that after analyzing and retargeting the data, clean-up time on NBA 2K16’s animation was down to three-four minutes per second of data.
“At the end of the day, this kind of work will always rely on the touch of a human animator to flesh the capture out – that’s just a matter of fact,” begins Tominia. “However, in our line of work we want to get as far into the pipeline as we can before a human has to touch that data, and Faceware delivers excellent results in that regard. Four minutes per second wasn’t really that much time, because there was nobody touching the file until that point, and that’s a huge advantage in a production such as this.”
Combined with the raw power of Faceware’s solutions, this speed makes for a particularly lethal combination. “Last year for NBA 2K15, we recorded 120 hours of facial animation – that’s massive amounts of data,” says Tominia. “In comparison, most feature films are two hours long and have a maximum of three CG characters on screen at any time, so that’s just six hours. But we did 20 times that in the space of a year.
“When you put that into context, it’s insane,” he marvels. “A keyframe animator might be able to give you five minutes of animation a day, and that’s pushing it. That would take one animator nearly four years of nonstop work to achieve, and if you’re paying them $30 an hour it’s going to total up to an incredible amount. Really, there’s no number of animators on the planet that could be assembled to put out 120 hours of animation in a year. But Faceware’s tech enables that, so you’re making an incredible amount of savings, both in time and money. Faceware really is just so good at what it does – in my experience, its solutions are the fastest that are out there.”
Working as one
When you’re depending on a solution such as Faceware to complete work of such high quality, you need to ensure that you have the support in place to keep things running smoothly. With this in mind, 2K has developed a strong and lasting relationship with Faceware, one that keeps the development of the series on schedule even during challenging times.
“If you have any questions or run into any problems with anything, from scripting to hardware, it’s as easy as picking up the phone and calling Faceware – they’ll have your answers straight away,” beams Tominia. “A great example of this was when we were shooting scenes with multiple helmet characters, and the director decided that we needed four more within two days. We’re up here in Novato and Faceware is down in LA, but we picked up the phone, told them what we needed, and they got the extra cameras built and sent here in time.”
Faceware also went as far as to build a custom camera for the NBA 2K team – one that could capture data at the higher, non-standard framerate the team utilises for the game’s production.
“When it comes to the amount of help Faceware extends, it really feels like you’re dealing with a small company, but that’s not the case,” says Tominia. “I know Faceware deals with a lot of people and works with many different companies, but you really wouldn’t know. It’s impressive that they can make you feel like you’re their only customer, even with all that other stuff they have going on.”
The next level
The end result of this collaborative relationship is some of the most convincing facial animation in modern sports games. Every wince, every cheer, every determined glance towards the net has been captured in absolute detail, and all of it, no matter how subtle, feeds into that all-important sense of raw emotion.
“Faceware really has given us limitless volume in our facial animation,” concludes Tominia. “What we’ve achieved with NBA 2K couldn’t have been done without its solutions.”
Pro HD Wireless Headcams make VR Experience Possible
Los Angeles, Calif. – Aug 15, 2015 (Original Post on Tennis.com)- Virtual reality matches against the Russian will take place around the US Open grounds. (AP). Faceware was proud to provide wireless Pro HD Headcams in the making of this VR project.
“I’m no actress,” says Maria Sharapova, “but you feel like you’re part of The Matrix in a way.”
For those super-fans and boisterous upstarts alike, the opportunity to play against Sharapova at the U.S. Open this year is a reality. Virtual reality, that is, as American Express has harnessed the forthcoming HTC Vive device and Steam VR technology to bring exactly that experience to fans at three outposts on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the season’s final major event, per Adweek.
“I was so excited when American Express approached me about this virtual reality,” says Sharapova, “because, as a tennis player, I know how emotional and physical the sport is. And virtual reality is all about the details of our movement, and the power, and the explosiveness. By doing all the things that we’ve done today, I think that will really show the fans how powerful we really are.”
The virtual Sharapova encourages the user with sayings such as “Good try. Breaking serve is tough.” Here’s hoping Sharapova herself, who just pulled out of the WTA Tour’s Cincinnati stop after doing the same in Toronto, gets fully healthy ahead of playing in the flesh in New York.
Los Angeles, Calif. – Aug 11, 2015 – Faceware Technologies, the leading provider of markerless 3D facial motion capture solutions, today announced the launch of the Faceware Live plugin for Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4. The new integration will enable UE4 developers to capture facial movements with any camera and instantly apply those movements to characters in the Unreal Engine. Those interested in the plugin can get more information from Faceware’s website or by visiting Faceware at SIGGRAPH 2015 (booth #753).
“Faceware Technologies has a long history of creating some of the most iconic and realistic faces in games and films,” said Peter Busch, vice president of business development at Faceware Technologies, “while Epic’s Unreal Engine is known for helping create some of the best-selling games ever. Integrating our real-time technology with their premier game engine was just a natural fit.”
The new Faceware Live plugin works like this: Unreal Engine users capture an actor’s facial movements using any video source, such as an onboard computer video or webcam, the Faceware Pro HD Headcam System, or any other video capture device. That captured movement data is then streamed instantly into the Unreal Engine to drive a character’s facial animation in real time. The facial movements display in real time via the Unreal Persona animation system.
The plugin was co-developed by Australia’s Opaque Multimedia (the company behind the Kinect 4 Unreal plugin, the UE4 integration with the Microsoft Kinect 2 sensor) and is ideal for quickly generating facial animation for animatics in the pre-viz process, or for creating facial animation for live interactive events, shows and concerts.
“The ability to combine the power of the real-time performance capture pipeline of Faceware Live, and the power and flexibility of Unreal Engine 4, gives developers an incredibly powerful tool,” said Norman Wang, the director of development at Opaque Multimedia. “Developers will be delighted to see how easily they can access the data from the Faceware plugin through the native Blueprint interface.”
Several unannounced projects that utilize the plugin will debut later this year.
For pricing and sales information, contact email@example.com or visit Faceware at SIGGRAPH 2015 (booth #753). For general product information, please visit the Faceware Live page.
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About Faceware Technologies
Sherman Oaks, California-based Faceware Technologies Inc. (FTI), which spun off from Image Metrics in 2012, is dedicated to meeting the needs of professional animators in the video game, film, television, and commercial industries. The company’s Faceware product line has been utilized in the production of more than 130 video game titles, feature films, music videos, commercials, television shows, and stage plays, and is the leading facial animation solution provider for clients such as Double Negative, Digital Domain, Blur Studios, Activision-Blizzard, Rockstar Games, Microsoft, 2K Sports, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sega, Sony, Bethesda, Motion Theory and Moving Picture Company. The Faceware Facial Motion Capture product line consists of the Faceware Head-Mounted Camera System (HMCS), the 6th generation facial performance capture hardware; Faceware Analyzer, which allows clients to analyze and process their own performance videos without IP or content going offsite; Faceware Retargeter, a free plug in which allows users to create facial motion capture data at a much faster rate than traditional methods; and Faceware Live, the real-time facial capture and animation solution.
About Opaque Multimedia
Opaque Multimedia is an award-winning technology consulting and game development firm based in Melbourne, Australia. With a strong focus on adapting entertainment technologies to novel applications, Opaque Multimedia specialises in altering, extending and combining existing and emerging technologies and design techniques to solve problems in a range of domains.
Opaque Multimedia has significant expertise in Unreal and other game engines, especially plugin and renderer development; VR tools and applications; conducting research and interfacing with academia; and developer experience design. Opaque Multimedia extends entertainment technologies with designs and innovations from computer vision, bionics, robotics, artificial intelligence and data analysis to solve problems in a range of complexities and contexts.
Opaque works closely with some of the largest tech companies in world, including Microsoft, Google, Valve and NASA; partnering to develop innovative, cutting-edge solutions.
If you’d like to engage with Opaque for R&D, design, games or software development, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, please visit:
“A Night to Remember”, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt launch cinematic, has arrived!
Feast your eyes on a gripping portrayal what The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is all about and step into the shoes of professional monster hunter Geralt of Rivia in this launch cinematic. CD Projekt and Digic Pictures leveraged Faceware for the gripping trailer. Look for more Faceware work when The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Releases May 19, 2015
Method Studios proudly used Faceware Analyzer and Retargeter on Kleenex Cottonelle’s Heart of Borneo project. The spot is aimed at saving lives of Orang-utans’ livingin the heart of Borneo. Largely due to deforestation, their population has halved in the last 6 decades. As the only partner of WWF Australia’s Love Your Forests program, Kleenex Cottonelle® has been committed to sustainable forest management and promoting FSC® Certification – the mark of responsible forestry.
See how you can join their cause at https://www.keeptheheartbeating.com.au/
Ubisoft and Puppetworks leverage Faceware on The Crew
Puppetworks Studios used Faceware software on the exciting Ubisoft title “The Crew.” Puppetworks is a high-end character animation and visual effects studio providing digitial production services for computergames, films, and commercials (http://www.puppetworks.eu/). The Crew was developed by Ivory Tower games and Ubisoft Reflections and was released December 2, 2014.
The Motion Capture Summit- Los Angeles, California June 2015
The Mocap Vaults is partnering with Faceware Technologies Inc. and Just Cause Productions to bring you the most exciting event in motion capture.
In June 2015, we are launching an event that will unite technology and drama for a two day intensive learning experience for actors, directors, animators and technicians. There is nothing else like it. The Mocap Vaults and our partners feel that it’s time to blow the world of mocap wide open.
Working in a professional motion capture stage, you’ll be taught by a group of industry veterans with specialisation in your chosen field, whether you want to work in front of the cameras or behind them. We’re bringing together the greatest minds in the business for a momentus weekend of training and development.
You’ll learn the skills required to work in both video games and movies and actors will leave with high quality show reel material that will get you started in the business.
We want to create a new wave of mocap superstars that are trained, prepped and ready for the job. We will have guest speakers that invite the various fields of mocap to share knowledge and precious advice with each other, aiming at a new, higher level of performance capture than ever before.
There are very limited places at the event so if you wish to attend then please contact us as soon as possible to register interest.
Interested studios can visit the contact page here:
Performance Capture and Virtual Production Studio to offer Faceware as a Service
Vancouver, British Columbia – February 25, 2015 – Vancouver-based performance capture and virtual production studio, Animatrik Film Design Inc., has announced the addition of Faceware Technologies software to their service offerings for face tracking, solving and retargeting.
After a thorough evaluation of facial mocap and animation solutions, Brett Ineson, CEO of Animatrik Film Design Inc. stated
“The Faceware tools are very production friendly. They put the power in the hands of our artists, allowing them to finish shots quickly and consistently. Compartmentalizing the various parts of the process in their software allows us to make quick improvements along the way, without compromising other areas of the solve”.
“We’re extremely pleased to be working with the experienced team at Animatrik Film Design,” said Peter Busch, vice president of business development at Faceware Technologies. “They understand the quality and time demands of high-level production and know the tools that exist in the market, so their use of our solutions is a huge compliment to us and our development team. We look forward to a long and close partnership with Brett and his staff.”
Having now been utilized in over 130 AAA titles and feature films, including many of the top-grossing game titles in 2014, Faceware’s combined hardware and software technologies are setting the standard for facial mocap and animation solutions. Faceware’s product line consists of the Faceware Headcam kits and systems; Faceware Analyzer, which allows clients to analyze and process performance videos automatically with little to no user input; and Faceware Retargeter, a Autodesk plug-in which allows users to create facial motion capture data at a much faster rate than traditional methods.
Headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Animatrik is a leading provider of motion capture, previsualization and virtual cinematography services. With one of the largest motion capture sound stages in the pacific northwest, and an expert team of technicians and visual effects artists, Animatrik is a proven provider of stage and location based motion capture and virtual camera services, with film and games credits which include American Sniper, Chappie, Elysium, Warm Bodies, District 9, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Thief 4, Crysis 3 and Mortal Kombat Legacy. Visit www.animatrik.com for more info.
About Faceware Technologies
Sherman Oaks, California-based Faceware Technologies Inc. (FTI), which spun off from Image Metrics in 2012, is dedicated to meeting the needs of professional artists in the video game, film, television, and commercial industries. The company’s Faceware product line has been utilized in the production of more than 130 AAA video game titles, feature films, music videos, commercials, television shows, and stage plays, and is the most innovative and experienced facial animation solution provider for clients such as Double Negative, Digital Domain, ILM, Blur Studios, Activision-Blizzard, Rockstar Games, Microsoft, 2K Sports, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Sega, Sony, Bethesda, and Moving Picture Company. The Faceware Facial Motion Capture product line, which is now in use in six continents, consists of the Faceware Headcam kits and systems; Faceware Analyzer, which allows clients to analyze and process performance videos automatically with little to no user input; Faceware Retargeter, a Autodesk plug-in which allows users to create facial motion capture data at a much faster rate than traditional methods; and Faceware Live, which converts live video into facial animation and applies that to characters in real time. Visit www.facewaretech.com for more info.
For over a decade, Faceware Tech has pioneered marker-less facial motion capture with our technology and expertise. Our software has been used on Oscar-winning visual effect films, award-winning AAA video games, commercials, music videos, and web series the world over.