Faces of Cubic: Ben Saxby
In a new series of profiles, we’re putting the talented artists, scientists and producers behind our biggest work centre stage to learn more about them and their careers.
First up, Ben Saxby, our live systems technical lead. Ben has been with Cubic Motion since June 2017; joining as senior software application developer. He was the second member of our growing R&D team in Pinewood; responsible for keeping our computer vision technology at the forefront of our industry, helping clients develop products based on performance capture for real-time, high fidelity digital humans to be broadcast over any medium including gaming VR/AR, mobile, console, film and TV.
We spoke to Ben to find out more about his role at Cubic, his career highlights, and what the future holds. Take it away, Ben!
What is great about your job?
I first heard of Cubic Motion at Siggraph 2016 in the unprecedented demonstration of a new way of shooting CG scenes in real-time; “From Previs to Final in Five Minutes: A Breakthrough in Live Performance Capture.” Using previously shown virtual human technology, a complex scene from Ninja Theory’s upcoming game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, was shot, captured and edited to final quality in minutes, a process that would normally take weeks or months. Without doubt Cubic Motion have unparalleled computer vision technology and I wanted to be a part of that.
I am incredibly lucky to now be leading software development for live shows and products. The reality is even more exciting that what you get to see in the YouTube videos. I have not been disappointed at all with joining Cubic Motion. Absolutely my dream job.
I work on many aspects of the software; from the real-time pipeline to the machine learning algorithms used to train the models, and from the test framework to the user interfaces of the tools we use. I have learnt a huge amount since I started working here and gained lots of valuable experience. If something needs doing, I get to learn how to do it from true experts; PhD computer-vision scientists and technologists.
What has been your defining moment so far?
Definitely working with Epic Games to create a real-time digital human in Unreal Engine for a live demonstration in China. Travelling around the world, meeting interesting people and running live shows is pretty cool but I will never forget this particular trip because our actress fell sick 3 days before the live show. We had to pull all-nighters, working with a new actress to make sure we were still able to go ahead with the demonstration. Chaos but so exciting and pleased to say we pulled it off.
What is life like here?
I work in Cubic Motion’s new Pinewood office and it’s just the three of us there at the moment, but we’re growing. Communication with the rest of the company in Manchester is good though, and it often feels like being part of a big family.
What is really obvious is that no matter what you do, or how long you have been with the business everyone is committed to quality and focused on constantly challenging ourselves to keep at the forefront of this industry. We are not frightened to do something different, to try something new. If the best way to fix a problem is to start again on a different platform we will just do it.
What does the future look like?
The future looks exciting, with lots of new projects kicking off and great new products to deliver based on our internal tools. We’re expanding too, so it’s always exciting to see the team grow. I don’t think I will be the new boy for long.
We are recognised as one of the pioneers in creating industry-leading facial animation in real-time at high quality and speeds. However, our future is not just about facial animation. We are also building on our computer vision technology; including AR and VR. Can you imagine the possibility of combining our real-time technology in the world of social VR? In the near future I am sure we will all have an avatar that will match our facial movements in real time. And I am going to help make that happen!