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Unravelling L.A. Noire’s MotionScan technology

Submitted by on Monday, 20 December 20105 Comments

When Rockstar released the début trailer for L.A. Noire last month, we were impressed by the authentic motion-capture on show, especially the lip-sync, which looked considerably more sophisticated than anything we’ve seen before. We are therefore pleased to learn a little more about MotionScan, the technology behind L.A. Noire’s powerful acting performances.

MotionScan is provided by Depth Analysis, a Sydney-based technology company, committed to redefining 3D CGI performances in films and videogames. MotionScan surrounds the actor with 32 high definition cameras, capturing performances at up to 30 frames per second. These cameras are said to record every facial nuance, and accurately capture the actor’s emotions and mannerisms.

As well as being precise, MotionScan is also cost- and time-effective; no markers or phosphorescent paint needs to be applied to the actor, and no post-production work has to be done to clean up the image or improve animations. Directors are also given the ability to view an actor’s performance from any angle and re-light in any way from one take without the need for multiple camera and lighting set-ups.

With this in mind, it’s clear to see why developer Team Bondi would find this technology invaluable; it would have been impossible to film the 400 plus actors in L.A. Noire with a less efficient method. L.A. Noire also needs this edge because it relies heavily on dialogue and communication rather than action. Detective Cole Phelps (performed by Aaron Staton of Mad Men) will interrogate suspects throughout the game, and it would be flat without the natural performances provided by MotionScan.

From what we’ve seen so far, MotionScan certainly gives L.A. Noire a cinematic edge. We just hope that Team Bondi hasn’t just cherry-picked the best scenes for the trailer and that the rest of the game will live up to the high standards we have seen so far.

The actors also deserve a mention – their performances look terrific, full of passion and intensity. They are recording from a white room with 32 cameras zoomed-in on them so it can’t be easy for them to get in the zone. Yet, they appear to be doing a good job.

L.A. Noire is due for release in Spring 2011; it is expected to be one of the stand-out titles of 2011.