Develop takes a look at a 4D surface capture service that's improving facial performance in games

Services Spotlight: Dimensional Imaging

Dimensional Imaging was founded as a spin-off from the University of Glasgow and the University of Edinburgh in 2003 by Colin Urquhart and Douglas Green.

The company was originally called Virtual Clones and its aim was to provide high fidelity stereophotogrammetry-based 3D surface capture to the entertainment industry. It latest innovation, a 4D capture system, has started to generate significant interest from games developers in the last two years.

“Improving the realism of facial animation without blowing the whole budget is a big focus for many developers, especially with the impending release of next-gen consoles,” CEO Colin Urquhart tells us.

“Using Dimensional Imaging’s advanced facial performance capture technique is becoming an increasingly attractive option, because it allows very high fidelity facial animation to be captured directly without a prohibitive amount of manual intervention.”

Facial capture traditionally splits into either facial performance capture or facial 3D scanning. Dimensional Imaging’s 4D surface capture solution effectively combines both by capturing dense 3D ‘scan’ data at 50 or 60 fps. This means that facial performance can be captured with much higher fidelity than with traditional facial performance capture approaches.

It also means that expressions can be captured more effectively than with traditional static 3D scanning approaches.

In the past, Dimensional Imaging has worked on projects including Left 4 Dead 2 and the now-famous Dead Island announcement trailer. It’s most recent high profile project was Halo 4: Spartan Ops. It provided 4D facial capture data to Axis Animation for several of the main characters.

It has also worked on its first television project, providing facial performance capture for the Euchdag character in Merlin, and, further to this, it recently finished shooting for its first movie project which is likely to be released in 2014.

“Dimensional Imaging’s 4D capture service offers developers a very convenient method to access the DI4D technology, without having to make the financial and resource commitment of purchasing and operating a system themselves. We can, and normally do, capture on-location, which means we can capture the talent when and where they are available, for example during a motion capture shoot or ADR session, and we process the data ourselves, which means the client gets the best possible results from the technology,” explains Urquhart.
Looking ahead, DI will be approaching new frontiers with its facial capture tech.

“We expect that head mounted capture systems that are compatible with our solution will become available in the near future, allowing capture of body and high fidelity facial performance simultaneously from multiple actors.

“We will also continue to push the limit on the detail and subtlety of performance that can be captured so that we are indeed continuing to get closer and closer to crossing the uncanny valley.”

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