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How MotionScan Technology Works


In Your Face, Film!
L.A. Noire is a dark crime game in which the player conducts a lot of interrogations. Interview subjects reveal important clues with their facial expressions.
L.A. Noire is a dark crime game in which the player conducts a lot of interrogations. Interview subjects reveal important clues with their facial expressions.
Image courtesy of Rockstar

The massive computing horsepower driving MotionScan automatically tweaks fine details in each sequence, meaning animators don't have to labor for hours to make each facial expression look more human.

That means shorter filming and programming sessions, lower shooting budgets and quicker progress from concept to market, all saving the developer money and potentially making or breaking the game's profit margin.

Now, all that's left is to see how much gamers notice and appreciate MotionScan's breakthroughs.The game L.A. Noire, which will officially be released in May 2011, is the first type of media to use MotionScan, which was integrated into the game to add lifelike facial animation. Noire is an ominous, mature crime game for adults set in 1940s-era Los Angeles that's designed to play like an interactive movie. In keeping with its film-like aspirations, the game casts Aaron Staton (from television series "Mad Men") in the lead character's role.

The game relies heavily on character development and dialogue, and as such, accurate facial expressions are paramount -- without those nuances, players would have a harder time reading characters and moving through the plot. For example, as this is a crime drama, some characters' faces offer clear clues that they are lying. Interrogation and witness questioning are critical elements to help move the plot forward, so body language and facial expressions are key.

In the future, Depth Analysis, the company behind the trailblazing technology, will probably license it to other video game developers and also film producers. So, one day, you might see the technology pop up in animated feature films.

For now, the company is committed to perfecting and expanding the capabilities of MotionScan. Ultimately, MotionScan's makers would like to capture full-body images, which would be particularly useful for feature filmmakers. However, this is a technological hurdle that MotionScan hasn't yet been able to clear, in large part due to the immense computer power and even more complicated studio construction that would be required.

MotionScan's full-body debut will have to wait. In the meantime, companies are already challenging Depth Analysis' motion capture techniques. Keep reading to see how the competition might find a way to upstage MotionScan with better graphics -- or maybe even by using less sophisticated animation.