GDC Europe 09: Blur studio wants lifelike facial expression tech in its upcoming racer

Bizarre Creations chooses Image Metrics

Liverpool-based studio Bizarre Creations has struck a new partnership with middleware tech group Image Metrics to use its renowned facial animation services.

The deal will see Bizarre’s upcoming racing project, Blur, use Image Metrics’ unique facial animation system – which shot into the public eye with the famous Emily video:

Image Metrics uses actors to perform a range of facial expressions, with the firm’s tech recording and calculating the resulting range of motions. The group then turns this data into animations that can be incorporated into 3D character models. This process requires no markers, no make-up and – claims the group – no costly equipment.

Such animations will be provided to Bizarre Creations, who will then apply it to Blur’s character models.

Bizarre Creations has already made it clear that it wants to inject more emotion into the racing genre. Earlier this month the game’s associate producer Chris Pickford told Develop,

“I think one of the next things for racing games is adding more emotional content; racing games are usually quite dry, a bit soulless. If there’s one place where racers can really innovate, it’s in that extra emotional attachment.”

In announcing the deal at GDC Europe, Image Metric’s VP Brian Waddle echoed Pickford’s sentiment.

“A fast-paced, heart-pumping racing game like Blur gets even more intense when players connect emotionally with the characters in the story,” he said.

"Instead of working around facial animation by using helmets to mask characters, we are excited to help the team at Bizarre Creations by using our technology to animate characters that visually express the intensity and excitement in the game."

As part of the new deal, Bizarre will also be using Image Metrics’ rig building and transfer tech. Blur remains on course for a 2009 release.

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