Games

Activision R&D reveals stunning real-time character rendering at GDC 2013

Activision R&D reveals stunnin...
Close-up: dramatic lighting enhances the look of Activision R&D's real-time character
Close-up: dramatic lighting enhances the look of Activision R&D's real-time character
View 24 Images
Activision R&D's separable subsurface scattering (SSS) shader gives unprecedented realism to a character's skin and eyes
1/24
Activision R&D's separable subsurface scattering (SSS) shader gives unprecedented realism to a character's skin and eyes
Realistic hair was conspicuously absent from Activision R&D's real-time character demo
2/24
Realistic hair was conspicuously absent from Activision R&D's real-time character demo
Activision R&D's photorealistic characters have super detailed textures
3/24
Activision R&D's photorealistic characters have super detailed textures
Activision R&D's demo at GDC 2013 gives us a window into the future of video game visuals
4/24
Activision R&D's demo at GDC 2013 gives us a window into the future of video game visuals
Close-up: the character's eyes hold up well in a variety of lighting conditions
5/24
Close-up: the character's eyes hold up well in a variety of lighting conditions
The demo was powered by a GeForce GTX 680 in DirectX 11 at 180 frames per second
6/24
The demo was powered by a GeForce GTX 680 in DirectX 11 at 180 frames per second
Old men are typically used in these demos because their wrinkles and age spots naturally help to give the illusion of realism
7/24
Old men are typically used in these demos because their wrinkles and age spots naturally help to give the illusion of realism
Younger characters are actually much more difficult to render realistically because skin blemishes aren't as visible
8/24
Younger characters are actually much more difficult to render realistically because skin blemishes aren't as visible
Activision R&D's facial animation rig was capable of various expressions
9/24
Activision R&D's facial animation rig was capable of various expressions
Surprise - the facial animation is made more convincing with the addition of animated wrinkles
10/24
Surprise - the facial animation is made more convincing with the addition of animated wrinkles
Happy - even if his teeth lack the realism of the rest of his face
11/24
Happy - even if his teeth lack the realism of the rest of his face
Activision R&D's real-time character has little to frown about
12/24
Activision R&D's real-time character has little to frown about
The facial animation isn't 100 percent perfect, but is still a major leap forward
13/24
The facial animation isn't 100 percent perfect, but is still a major leap forward
Close-up: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
14/24
Close-up: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
Close-up of wrinkles and teeth: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
15/24
Close-up of wrinkles and teeth: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
Close-up of frown: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
16/24
Close-up of frown: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
Extreme close-up: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
17/24
Extreme close-up: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
Furrowed brow: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
18/24
Furrowed brow: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
Anxiety: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
19/24
Anxiety: Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013
Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013 holds up even better with more dramatic lighting
20/24
Activison R&D's real-time character rendering demo from GDC 2013 holds up even better with more dramatic lighting
Light coming from different angles accentuates the skin's semi-translucent qualities
21/24
Light coming from different angles accentuates the skin's semi-translucent qualities
Close-up: dramatic lighting enhances the look of Activision R&D's real-time character
22/24
Close-up: dramatic lighting enhances the look of Activision R&D's real-time character
Close-up: dramatic lighting enhances the look of the skin, wrinkles, and eyes of Activision R&D's real-time character
23/24
Close-up: dramatic lighting enhances the look of the skin, wrinkles, and eyes of Activision R&D's real-time character
A look under the hood at the real-time character's mesh
24/24
A look under the hood at the real-time character's mesh
View gallery - 24 images

GDC 2013 (Game Developers Conference) wraps up today after a week of presentations and late night parties. There have been some impressive tech demos shown, like Kojima Productions' FOX engine running Metal Gear Solid 5, but what really got people talking is Activision R&D's latest attempt at photorealistic characters. Check out the lifelike skin and eye shading in the uncanny video after the break.

“We will show how each detail is the secret for achieving reality," writes Activision Blizzard technical director Jorge Jiminez on his blog. "For us, the challenge goes beyond entertaining; it’s more about creating a medium for better expressing emotions, and reaching the feelings of the players.”

Company reps showed a real-time demo running on a two year old laptop and other examples that work on a GeForce GTX 680 in DirectX 11 at 180 frames per second.

"[This demo] represents to us the culmination of many years of work in photorealistic characters," Jiminez added, referencing a demo from February 2012. In just a year his team's separable subsurface scattering shader has progressed dramatically, and has now been applied to the character's eyes.

Activision R&D's separable subsurface scattering (SSS) shader gives unprecedented realism to a character's skin and eyes
Activision R&D's separable subsurface scattering (SSS) shader gives unprecedented realism to a character's skin and eyes

It's likely only a matter of time before Activision Blizzard and other developers will be able to squeeze this amount of detail into games. Exactly when that might be is still a bit unclear, since the demo currently only has a disembodied head on which to run, without any of the usual trimmings, like hair, a sophisticated environment, and any game-specific stuff like artificial intelligence.

The facial animation demo stops short of being totally convincing, but the team has done an incredible job of capturing the semi-translucent look of skin and eyes, which is still missing in most games. Check out the demo video below.

Source: Jorge Jiminez's blog

Activision R&D Real-time Character Demo

View gallery - 24 images
10 comments
David Anderton
if it wasn't for the mouth and teeth it would be 99% convincing
Dany Ehrenbrink
Looks like the only real difference from a real person besides the teeth and mouth movements and general intensity differences are the pupil dilation and contractions that come with and before the emotions reflected in the face movements.
Dennis Siple
Data never looked this good - no pancake. Astoundingly real skin tones, whiskers, expression. Scary good. And the teeth are the giveaway. I was thinking they should give him a gold cap or silver filling to throw you off.
Denis Klanac
little bit of tooth decay and I would be convinced, but still freaking awesome. great job.
Snake Oil Baron
In addition to the teeth, the mouth almost looked too dark or something. Maybe it was the brightness of the teeth but I got the feeling that the inside of the mouth was not fully rendered. Everything else seemed really persuasive.
Dekarate
I like the imperfections in the skin surface and the blood vessels in the eyes. But have to agree that the pupil's do not dilate correctly with the lighting conditions. Maybe the inside on the mouth cavity is the difference, such as the lack of the tongue that is missing when talking. Normally, the tip is seen forming sounds off the back of the teeth. All-in-all though a remarkable jump in the real-time model
Moochie Michieux
I felt that the whole inside mouth -- teeth and internal mouth -- gave it away. Still, an impressive achievement.
ralph.dratman
I like everything except the smile. The way the cheeks move up and puff out really fast looks wrong and creepy.
Steven Armstrong
My attention was also drawn to the mouth area as the least photo-realistic portion of this rendering. Otherwise, the effect was fantastic. A.
Foxy1968
There needs to be an interior to the mouth. People do not have a black hole inside their mouth. This left the teeth with unrealistic edges, they didn't get the full 3D render like the rest of the face. With emotions come changes in skin colour due to increases in blood circulation in the face. I didn't see any. It's close, but not perfect. Which means it is still in that spooky zone between perfect and not real which makes everyone uneasy when looking at it. To put in so much effort and then loose momentum at the teeth and interior of the mouth is unfortunate.