The Faceware Team has released both new versions of their markerless 3D facial motion capture solutions as well as a new free Personal Learning Edition (PLE), plus new bundled software and hardware packages. This is part of the lead up to the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco (March 16-18).
Previously, fxguide had reviewed the Faceware Analyzer 2.0 and Retargeter 4.0 packages using a special head mounted GoPro rig. The new Analyzer 3.0 and Retargeter 5.0 can still use that rig, but the team now also offer desktop mounted systems, not attached to the head of the actor. This is worthwhile noting as it means the PLE edition does not need a special head rig. It also means the company can offer both a bundled starter pack level GoPro system of lights, camera and software, and even a Pro Sony Camera rig - again with lights and everything you need to get started, right down to the tripod and light stands.
The PLE is a free license of Analyzer 3.0 and Retargeter 5.0 for individual, non-commercial use, including research. The PLE includes all of the functionality of the Studio version of Analyzer 3.0 and Retargeter 5.0 (see below), and will be kept on feature parity with the latest versions of those packages, so individual artists will always have access to the latest facial motion capture functionality.
Faceware has had a good year with the company doubling in size and the user base growing from under 50 users in 2013 to hundreds today. The company has its DNA in Image Metrics which excelled at some of the first facial animation to bridge, at least in part, the Uncanny Valley with projects such as Digital Emily with USC ICT.
Analyzer is Faceware's markerless facial motion tracking software. It is based on their computer vision technology, and it converts any video of an actor's facial performance into facial motion files for use in Retargeter. It is a markerless system and easy to use. Interestingly the new version extends the languages it can track to including nine additional languages: Japanese, Chinese (Simplified), Korean, French, German, Spanish (Castilian), Russian, Polish and Arabic.
Thanks to industry requests, the Analyzer now supports timecode, which means editing of in/out points of any new video, and the ability to capture live video straight into Analyzer's workflow using any of Faceware's hardware systems. All of these new features will be available in both Analyzer 3.0 Studio and Studio Plus versions. The Live tracking and thus live puppeteering means a voice over artist can give a performance while you watch a game engine rendered version (or Motion Builder version) simultaneously on screen as your target character.
This was recently seen at an RTX Games conference where two voice actors behind the screens allowed the conference attendees to talk and ask questions to two games characters or digital avatars in the main conference session interactively and with approximate lip sync. The real time system clearly is not as refined as what one can do with the system using recorded data and an iterative workflow, but it is a great addition to the mix of tools. At the conference the actual system that Rooster Teeth showed was setup and provided by Opaque Media (see more at kotaku.com.au).
Faceware's Retargeter software maps facial motion capture data from Analyzer onto any facial rig through a plug-in for Autodesk Maya, 3DS Max, and MotionBuilder. Like Analyzer, Retargeter 5.0 has been localized into nine additional languages and it supports timecode. All of these new features will be available in both Studio and Studio Plus versions of Retargeter 5.0. The Retargeter also has a range of workflow improvements and a new improved UI.
“The past year and a half has seen our software and hardware used on some pretty major games and films, like The Witcher 3, NBA2K16, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Destiny, The Walk, and more,” said Peter Busch, vice president of business development at Faceware Technologies. “As our success in these markets has grown, we've also seen increased demand from universities and in other countries where animation is gaining steam. These changes are in direct response to the increased demand and we can't wait for our users to try them out.”
Pricing: Software Rental Licenses
For commercial projects that need to be completed on relatively tight schedules, one can now also rent Faceware's real-time and creative suite software in 30-day increments. Rental costs start at $340 USD per month.
Pro HD Tripod Camera System
The Pro HD Tripod Camera system is the first non-headcam hardware system from Faceware. It allows actors to act freely in front of a prosumer camera on a tripod, and is perfect for any commercial production that is not wanting to use a Headcam. The Pro Tripod Camera system is a turnkey system that includes a HD prosumer camera, lights, tripod, and video converters.
“We saw a large number of our customers wanting to facial capture voice-over performances without the use of a Headcam,” said Faceware Performance Capture Product Specialist Christopher Jones. “The Pro HD Tripod Camera system allows VO studios to easily sync facial capture with their existing audio workflows.”
The Pro Tripod Camera System uses a Sony XDCam camera and as such can be focused in more and from a further distance than a GoPro - which typically has a very wide field of view.
GoPro Desktop System
The GoPro Desktop system is a completely turnkey system from Faceware that includes all hardware necessary for facial motion capture, including lighting and a small HDMI video converters to get video straight into the Faceware Live or Faceware Analyzer from the GoPro via USB. Designed to be used at an artist's desk, this is the simple, entry-level system. The GoPro Desktop System will also be available as a standalone product as well as bundled with Faceware's software via indie complete facial motion capture systems.
Both turnkey systems do not include the actual computer (but that is about all they don't include).
The company still completely supports the more traditional Headcam system. Finally, the software used to be sold as the Lite version and the Professional version. As the Lite is no longer that 'light', the company has renamed these to the Studio and Studio Plus.
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