Facial animation experts Image Metrics has teamed up with Babel Media to dramatically improve the quality of localisation for high-end games.
A new partnership between the two will see Babel’s popular localisation pipeline – which includes voice recording for different languages – married with Image Metrics’ technology, which quickly produces high-volumes of animation data for a number of high-profile games developers.
The aim is to raise the quality of non-English versions of new games by matching characters’ facial inflections to those of the voice artist, instead of simply dubbing over English-language animations or worse, just subtitling them.
As Image Metrics’ facial animation technology is based on video of an actor’s performance, the process accurately reflects the mouth, tongue and subtle facial nuances associated with local dialects.
“Currently, most developers are forced to sync the existing English facial movements to the localised audio track,” explained Michael Starkenburg, CEO of Image Metrics. “This is a cumbersome manual process that delivers poor results. Some do nothing.”
He added: “Babel was the obvious choice for our expansion into localisation. No other partner has Babel’s scale in translation and localisation – with over 400 in-country translators – or their truly global reach.
"Image Metrics and Babel already enjoy an extensive shared customer list, including Ubisoft, Take-Two, and Activision-Blizzard, so marketing the combined offering seems a natural fit. Also, Babel’s experience leveraging technology in their business will be very valuable to Image Metrics as we develop more localisation-specific functionality into our tech.”
To capture the new data for animating the more accurate facial expressions, Babel films voice over actors when they read game dialogue and narration in each language – although the footage is just basic DV, it captures the nuances of inflection and tone relevant to each language.
Added Starkenburg: “Image Metrics’ technology addresses the specific, hard problem of developing realistic, expressive facial animation. This problem is big for developers and getting bigger, as game platforms get more capable and consumers become more demanding.
"The more ways we can integrate into the developer’s lifecycle, the better we help them solve the problem. The partnership with Babel, and its potential impact on localisation, is a great example of this, and for our part, we’re actively looking for other ways to simplify the development process.”