What Ubisoft's New Canadian Studio Means for Videogames

by Dan Verhaeghe

The videogame industry is expected to grow to a staggering $67 billion dollars worldwide by the end of 2012, according to Ubisoft.

Here in Toronto though, last week’s Ubisoft studio launch is uniting expertise from the film and game industries. It is creating deeper characters through facial, body, and emotion recognition. This leads to more immersive storytelling as videogame producers and filmmakers are both at the most basic level storytellers. Ubisoft is leading the way in more filmic-type productions and actor-driven games.

Some of the features of the studio include head-mounted cameras, and harnesses for flying actors. Beyond that is the editors of the production are finding things they were not expecting with motion and performance capture because everything is traditionally shot in “coverage mode."

This was explained by David Footman, the Director of Splinter Cell Blacklist that will be released in 2013. All cameras in the studio are able to see the actors moving in time and space while seeing the markers on the actors’ body suits.

The cameras actually talk to one another to understand where the chest markers are, for example. Footman continued in saying that once you add more people to motion capture, it gets more complicated as the art of the medium depends on where you put the cameras and how you set it up. That’s just like how traditional video shooting is vastly different from shooting something in 3D, as I explain here back in February.

The fact that Ubisoft’s studio can now shoot 11 actors in motion capture simultaneously is unheard of compared to five years ago. Computers used to crash trying to process that much information at once and the editing process was incredibly labour-intensive.

Footman’s experience on a film set as an assistant director in film and television in which he worked before finally finding a way out to videogames has allowed for this sort of innovative expertise. He worked on a role playing game for the Lord of the Rings series and never went back to film and television.

Footman says that the technology for motion capture has advanced to a point where the technology is beginning to become invisible and we can now focus on performance from the actors. In motion capture, a producer used to do nine or ten takes.

Now, they are doing 15 to 20 takes like film producers and TV producers do. It’s allowing Ubisoft to focus on the most important aspects of entertainment and videogames. That’s to make a great game and a great story.

Reference camera technology is getting really good. In motion capture, a producer previously used really wide up and down cameras. The ability to show emotion through facial recognition and the use of more actors has led to Ubisoft's more widespread use of reference cameras. However, Footman says it isn’t about the technology- it is the people and how we use the technology to enhance performances.

Just as in television and film, Ubisoft is using the concept of a “video village." That’s where employees can watch and communicate with one another to edit the right way: slowly and methodically.

Last but not least, the gamer will certainly be in awe at just how realistic video gaming is becoming.

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Ubisoft is a leading international developer, publisher and distributor of interactive entertainment products. more

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Dan Verhaeghe

Dan Verhaeghe

Dan Verhaeghe focuses on marketing, mobile, major technology players, entertainment, and new media. Dan has a dozen years of online experience that dates back to the turn of the millennium where he dominated a now non-existent online RPG game for a couple of years at the age of 15. He would eventually become a Toronto Blue Jays blogger who earned his way into Toronto's CP24 studios six years... more

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