For immediate release:
10th August 2010. Daresbury, UK
Cubic Motion today announced the addition of audio-driven animation to its list of animation services. Video game developers often use audio data to create character animation, typically as an alternative to more expensive methods of video or marker-based facial capture. Cubic Motion believes that the quality of audio-based animation hasn't to date been comparable to that of other types of animation in games. Their new service aims to deliver character animation which sits comfortably alongside animation generated by other methods.
The pipeline is developed by Cubic Motion's team of vision scientists and animation experts, as Dr. Steve Caulkin, Chief Scientific Officer explained: "We've looked around at various audio-based solutions and frankly, couldn't find what we were looking for, so we decided to develop some ideas of our own. The important thing is to ensure that, whilst it's impossible to know exactly what an actor's expression was when they recorded just audio data, we produce animation data which includes plausible expressions and accurate interaction of those expressions with speech. We also need to ensure that the facial dynamics generated by an audio pipeline are absolutely consistent with real facial movement. Finally, we have to support a very wide range of rigs, including cartoons and nonhuman faces".
The system is in continuous development and the team are currently focusing on speed improvements. Dr. Caulkin outlined the current work: "The incentives for developers to use audiobased methods are reduced cost and better turnaround speed, compared with video or marker-based methods. We've addressed both these issues, but we're the first to admit that we'd like to make the process faster and that's our current focus."
Dr. Gareth Edwards, CEO, explained why he thinks Cubic's approach is important: "I'm a huge advocate of video-based animation, but I recognize the need for more cost-effective solutions when animation is needed in extremely large volume. We've brought the cost of video-based animation down to levels that any developer can use, but we also need to bear in mind that there's a production and direction overhead in filming actors. Sometimes, audio-driven animation is an important part of production. At Cubic, we only have one quality level, "final", and so we want all the data we deliver to be consistent. In particular, we don't like to see huge quality variation across different animation in the same game, so it's important that animation derived from audio doesn't look out of place alongside other types of animation. We make no apologies for the significant amount of human involvement in all our processes, and this includes audio-driven animation. Only by detailed expert inspection and oversight at all stages of production can we ensure the highest standards."
About Cubic Motion:
Cubic Motion are specialists in products and services for performance-based facial animation. Cubic is run by a mix of scientists, artists and producers - all with extensive experience in movies, video games and television. Cubic Motion was founded in 2009 by Mike Jones, Doug Tate and Dr. Steven Dorning. The team is led by CEO Dr. Gareth Edwards, co-inventor of the Active Appearance Model. Research and development is led by Dr. Steve Caulkin. The company's advisers include Professor Chris Taylor FrEng OBE, Associate Vice President of Research at Manchester University, and Andy Wood, a games industry veteran and director of Peter Gabriel's Real World.