New 'Accelerated Keyframing' service from Cubic Motion shows promise

VIDEO: Black Kennedy gets Develop’s vote

Cubic Motion has a refreshed its own unique facial animation service, and claims the results show a dramatic improvement on its previous work.

The Accelerated Keyframing process involves a games studio handing over an audio file – typically the quotes from a voice artist – which Cubic Motion will process into a full facial animation.

A video of a black man voiced by John F Kennedy, found below, has demonstrated the technique capably.

This is not a new service from Cubic, though the UK firm has revamped its audio-feed approach. More artistic input is used, though the sophisticated tech provides a very good rough start for artists to build on.

However, the JFK video itself is not of an in-game rig, so the quality shown may not be representative of typical game animation using the tech. Accelerated Keyframing is however a lightweight technique, offing high-end animation at little cost to the processor.

Cubic Motion has, uniquely, revealed its costs privately. Accelerated keyframing costs anything from $400 per minute to $1800 per minute, depending on rig complexity.

“Of course a client can always choose to keyframe everything in-house,” said Cubic Motion prodiction director Mike Jones.

“We think that up to 30 minutes of consistent AAA-quality per week, priced from $400 to $1800 per minute represents quality, reliability and value that will often be better than a client’s in-house option,” he added.

“We have a great deal of experience in performance-based animation and it works well in many situations, but we’ve also spent a lot of time talking with clients who have issues with facial performance capture. These include cost – not just the cost of animation, but the cost of casting, directing and filming great facial performance.

“Many game developers are used to working with voice talent, but this doesn’t always easily transfer to a full capture pipeline and developers often want to create great animation without the extra overhead of a capture pipeline.

“Moreover, sometimes a human facial performance just doesn’t work on a character, no matter how clever the performance transfer. Art directors often want full control of the character animation regardless of the actor’s performance. We all know that skilled key frame animation can look great and is the ultimate guarantee of quality… provided you have enough time and money… which has always been the barrier.”

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