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Andy Serkis’ real-time rendered Shakespeare is truly Epic stuff

Andy Serkis did an impressive Shakespearean turn for today’s Epic GDC keynote. He wasn’t present in person but that didn’t make his Macbeth any less impactful as Epic used it to showcase its impressive real-time ‘digital human’ technology.

His performance of Act V, Scene 5: "Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player…" was full-blooded and captured by Serbian studio 3Lateral using its ‘Meta Human Framework’ system of volumetric cameras. It was then replayed using a digital render of Serkis’ head and shoulders. Which was incredibly lifelike, despite being created in real-time.

The demo really got started then with 3Lateral’s founder Vladimir Mastilovic able to adjust facial features in real-time, adapting the captured performance as it played out. He then mapped the performance onto an alien face, which then delivered the speech using Serkis’ capture data.

The company then switched to an iPad to show the performance in AR, able to move around Serkis as he gave his rendition. This would potentially allow for AR or VR experiences where even multiple viewers or players would see the character deliver their speech directly to them.

Unreal also showed off a real-time demo of a girl, named Siren, whose performance was being directed in real-time by an actor in a capture rig. Epic worked with Cubic Motion, 3Lateral, Vicon and Tencent on this demo, and Vicon will be demoing Siren in real-time on their stand at GDC this week (241 South Hall). The real-time graphics included numerous new techniques with transparency around the ears and nose, light bouncing off the cheekbones into the eye sockets and dual-layered skin.

Don’t expect to go full Serkis in your next title though: ‘While this is a stunning proof-of-concept achievement that for now will remain in the realm of professional visual effects, someday photorealistic digital humans will be used in interactive entertainment, simulations, research, non-verbal communication as an interface with the machines, artificial intelligence and mixed reality applications as well,’ Epic noted in a press release. 

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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