Motion capture technology has changed a lot in the past few years, and Naughty Dog has been changing how the studio approaches it quite extensively as well. Lead Animator Jeremy Yates talked about it extensively during a livestream by GamesRadar.
According to Yates, motion capture has become much more sophisticated. In the past, in order to do the motion captures of Drake sitting on a Jeep, Naughty Dog rented an actual Jeep, but now they realized that this is “totally ridiculous.”
“Now we have become much more efficient at building things. We’ve got this whole library on the stage… They look like giant building blocks. They come in all different sizes, from one meter square boxes, one by two, twenty centimeteres by such and such… So we literally have an entire warehouse back area of building blocks.
So we get to go and just make stuff. We can make a jeep out of blocks, with seats and a steering wheel, and we’re actually able to do it pretty quickly. Once we figure out all the pieces we need to do, we can put it together in like fifteen or twenty minutes.
We have learning as we go what’s needed, what’s the most efficient way to do it.”
In the past Yates also tried to do the motion capture for the gameplay of an entire game in a few days, causing the developers to spend a lot of time to tweak the motion capture afterwards or to hand keyframe things in between the captured motions to integrate what was recorded, in order to make it work.
Now they have learned to “take it as they go,” with shorter sessions, shooting a couple weeks in advance. They can even do the motion capture and the next day the animations are in the game.
“The turnaround is getting a lot faster. You kinda work with what you need at the time, instead of trying to do things to far in advance.”
Yates also mentioned that now the studio is comfortable with motion capture. They know what to need to do and how long it’ll take to do it. Today he had a motion capture session, and yesterday when the livestream happened, he hadn’t even started planning it yet.
In fact, motion capture for Uncharted 4 is still going on, and a whole lot of it has been done.
“We’ve been capturing non-stop for Uncharted 4 right now, we’re calling it the Mocapalypse, just because every day is “ok we’re gonna be shooting tomorrow.” My week has been like I go to the stage, I’ll shoot all day, I come back to the studio, I’ll deal with whatever is waiting for me here, because there’s so much going on at the studio, that I have about 200 emails, that people are talking all the time time, that they have been waiting all day to get my time.
So I get through all of that, and then people start to leave the studio and I’m like “oh my gosh, people are leaving me alone. I have to plan for the next day’s shoot, starting now.”
It’s been pretty brutal, but that time will pass. It’s especially hard now, but it kinda relaxes a bit once I’ve gotten everything figured out and we have the animators put it together.”
From what we’ve seen so far of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, all that hard work is really paying off. Personally, I can’t wait for March 18th to be able to see it on my own screen.