I recently had the opportunity to speak with Anna Zevelyov, Director of Business Development at Artec and quiz her on the advantages of using a 3D scanner to create models and assets when compared with the typical methods of design, and see just how far the tech can go.
Many of you may have already seen the Artec 3D Scanner’s rewards without knowing, as the technology was used for the creation of Elizabeth in the TV advert for Bioshock: Infinite and the company’s 3D Scanner, named EVA, is also playing a role in the creation of Beyond: Two Souls– which arguably has shown the most convincing facial expressions in a game so far.
So what makes the technology such a useful asset to the game industry? I asked Anna what advantages EVA can provide over the traditional development methods when creating a lifelike character.
“The trouble with game creation is when drawing the face or body it’s incredibly hard to make it appear realistic, regardless of how talented the artist may be. For example, It’s one thing if you’re trying to kill a person from far away but if you kill the person close up then you see the face pretty well, and this can be hard to draw in realistically. This is where 3D scanning comes in. We can scan the face and get an incredibly detailed model and textures in a really small amount of time.”
She also touched upon the change in the industry as time has gone on, which undeniably the industry has shifted it focus a lot over the years with the new focus being hyper realism, which is exactly what 3D scanning is good at. She continued:
“Over time people have come to want games that are as realistic as possible, I mean we’re past Tetris right?” she laughed “we’re at the point where it’s all very conceptual, we want it to be virtual reality. Again this is where the scanners come in, it can give you the true measures of the face, every hair and every dimple to a level that can’t be attained when drawing it in from scratch. This is exactly what the tools is for, creating a highly realistic representation in minimal time.”
But of course from the perspective of the developer they will need more than just quality but affordability, which is something EVA also caters too. She continued to explain how the sharp cut to development times that the tool can provide assure that the studios will see the return from their investment in a small amount of time.
“So why use these scanners? Not only does it allow for the creation of images that are much more realistic but it also saves a LOT of time. To give an example, let’s say that a good modeler was given the task of drawing Brad Pitt into a game in high quality, the modeler would be handed two images to draw from and this could take the modeler around 4 hours just to create the shape of the face, then about another 4 hours craft the textures. But if you had one of our scanners, you would be able to get this done in 5 minutes. Any studios looking to adopt our technology will see just how fast they will make the money back from the investment”
It’s undeniable that the creation of assets can really string out development times, especially as the expected quality level is on the verge of increasing with the next generation of systems approaching. I asked if the introduction of new hardware may pave the way to 3D scanning playing a much larger role in the video games industry.
“Yeah, I think within a matter of years it’s going to become a standard tool in the industry. Say if you wanted to record 3D motion, our scanners can certainly do that. If they want the game to be realistic, currently they can use an actor and a motion tracking studio, which is extremely expensive and cumbersome, the results can be good but it takes a genius to make it work, it can also be a lengthy process and take weeks to do. Of course the cheaper alternative is the traditional method of applying markers to the joints or areas of the face that require movement and set values to limit the movements to something that looks as realistic as possible. It’s not as effective visually and it’s also very time consuming as well.”
Notably, the visual difference between animations that are crafted from scratch as opposed to those that are recorded using motion tracking are home to a rather large gap in quality. With the next generation looking to usher in a new wave of graphical fidelity, unarguably there will be a necessity for better animations to achieve parity. She continued to explain how EVA can fill this gap:
“So the next step is that we have to find the middle ground and that’s where 3D Motion Scanning comes in. For instance we have this video on our website where it shows a model of a girl dancing scanned in by four of our 3D scanners in real time. For us these were only the early stages of development, and I think that this will be the next step. Not only can it convey the actual size of the human but also the a realistic representation of the emotions as well without the need for any tracking balls.”
I started to wonder what other types of games could benefit from the use of the technology and one that came to mind was the racing genre. Considering how much work goes into the development of car models in games, particularly the incredibly large roster of cars in Gran Turismo 5 which suffered many delays and had to strip cockpit view out of most of the cars until an update in the future due to the majority of vehicles lacking an interior. I decided to ask if Artec’s 3D scanners could assist with scanning larger objects such as cars too.
“You can scan a car for sure. There isn’t a quick solution for scanning cars right now, but I would say to scan a car on average would take about 8 hours as an estimate, if you have a good PC with a lot of power then you can also post-process that pretty quickly too. The inside would probably be fairly fast to scan as well, excluding the engine and trunk I’d say it would take around 4 hours, again as an estimate since the volume of each car would vary.”
And finally I decided to ask if there were any other game studios that they plan on assisting with the use of Artec’s range of scanners.
“Yes, but of course I can’t say who they are” she laughed “I know as we’re speaking right now there’s a shoot going on for a game but I can’t reveal which game it is”
Whilst we may not know any extra projects that the device will be used for just yet, you can bet it probably won’t be hard to tell either with such a striking visual difference in quality. Whilst I couldn’t get confirmation as to whether or not the tool was used for the creation of any in-game assets for Bioshock: Infinite we can all expect to see the tech come to fruition in Beyond: Two Souls which is set to release later this year.