When L.A. Noire made its retail debut in 2011 it was hailed for featuring some of the most lifelike characters ever seen in a video game. This was largely due to the work of a company called Depth Analysis, which specializes in intensely detailed motion capture technology. Motion capture tech has been a staple of game development since the early 90s, but the system employed by Depth Analysis takes the concept to a whole new level of detail, allowing in-game characters to feature the same minute facial tics and unconscious physical reactions that commonly appear in real-world conversations but are almost entirely absent from the virtual world. L.A. Noire developer Team Bondi used Depth Analysis’ technology to complement the game’s hard-boiled, noir detective story, and as a result the act of interrogating witnesses in L.A. Noire is one of the most detailed, realistic CGI experiences to emerge from the gaming industry in recent years.
However, for all of the benefits that Depth Analysis’ intensive motion capture process delivers, it’s also got a dark side. The motion capture seen in L.A. Noire is the end result of what must be extensive audio production and editing work, not to mention countless hours of both voice and motion capture acting. Without all of this effort (which would otherwise be largely invisible to players), the characters in L.A. Noire could have been very different. Frighteningly different.
Below this text you’ll find a newly-released vignette courtesy Depth Analysis that attempts to document the unintended hilarity that emerges from simultaneously capturing an actor’s voice and facial expressions simultaneously. Ostensibly the video is supposed to be a funny, interesting look behind the scenes of a big-budget, blockbuster video game release, but it also gives us a look at the capabilities of the technology as well as showing us new high water mark for the uncanny valley.
It also is pure nightmare fuel.