Incredibly lifelike facial animation helped elevate the moment-to-moment action in Marvel’s Spider-Man and really sold the cinematic sequences.
It’s no surprise that Spider-Man’s acrobatic, arachnid-powered moves are a perfect fit for thrilling video game adventures. Millions of players have poured countless hours into past games, slinging webs through the iconic Marvel’s New York cityscape, vaulting across rooftops, and pummeling foes with a bevy of fast and fluid attacks. The web-head’s best past adventures turned childhood fantasy into immersive, interactive bliss.
Known for riotously fun titles like Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive, the veteran game studio sought to put its own inimitable stamp on the iconic Marvel hero. Sony Interactive Entertainment enlisted the studio to develop 2018’s PlayStation 4-exclusive title, Marvel’s Spider-Man, and apply the latest technology and innovations to a vast, open-world action experience with all of the polish, precision, and personality that players have come to expect from Insomniac.
Cubic Motion’s facial capture technology allowed Insomniac Games to quickly and accurately record every nuance of an actor’s performance and then transfer that data into a game engine, with the team able to provide all the necessarily polish and tweaks.
From face to game
Cubic Motion is well known as the game industry’s leading provider of advanced facial animation technology and services. With that in mind, Insomniac tasked most of the facial animation in Marvel’s Spider-Man’s to the Cubic Motion team, from cinematics to in-game interactions.
The company builds bespoke computer vision motion tracking models for each actor that are applied to the performance capture and solves the data for each individual character’s facial rig. Each character animation is uniquely crafted to match the actor and accurately represent the nuances of his or her real facial movements. No one-size-fits-all solution would have been able to capture the incredibly lifelike results that Insomniac sought and that Cubic Motion demands of itself on every single project.
In total, Cubic Motion was tasked with creating more than five hours’ worth of unique animations across the Marvel’s Spider-Man’s character pool, which required tight collaboration between the teams.
With Cubic Motion based in Manchester and Insomniac Games in Los Angeles, the eight-hour time difference could have presented a barrier to that collaboration. To ensure that wasn’t an obstacle, Cubic Motion sent its key senior animators to Insomniac during the project’s major milestones, to work side-by-side with the game’s animation director. This ensured that the animators could receive instant feedback during their stay and then take all of their learnings back to the wider team.
This approach allowed the team to stay completely in sync with Insomniac Games throughout their collaboration and also made its contributions to the title more direct and streamlined.
The company was on-hand from start to finish in the animation cycle, making adjustments as necessary to ensure perfect integration with the game’s engine, and owning the facial pipeline right up until shipping.
Incredibly lifelike facial animation helped elevate the moment-to-moment action in Marvel’s Spider-Man and really sold the cinematic sequences. Whether it’s Peter and Mary Jane chatting over French fries in a diner, Dr. Octavius’ complex facial expressions while juggling tennis balls with his robotic arms, or an intensely emotional scene at a police officer’s funeral, Cubic Motion’s computer vision technology delivered photorealistic animations through its industry-leading motion tracking and facial solving software.
The team continued to deliver facial animations for the new characters and fresh adventures introduced by Marvel’s Spider-Man: City That Never Sleeps downloadable content, spanning a three-story arc. Of course, facial animation all matched up to the same standard as the base game – ensuring fans won’t want to stop swinging as Spidey anytime soon.