April 16, 2009 - In the past three decades, video games have progressed rapidly in terms of innovation, complexity, visuals, and gameplay. Those of us who cut our teeth on Pong and Pac-Man have watched gaming technology advance far beyond the bounds of what we imagined possible. Graphics and animation in particular have increasingly grown more intricate and life-like in nature, and the impressive level of realism found amongst characters in today's games is staggering in comparison to the pixelated sprites of gaming's early days.
Players have improvements in motion capture technology and techniques to thank for much of the authenticity seen in modern gaming heroes and heroines, but the real heroes behind the pixels are the professional actors who spend hours in a studio busting out kung-fu and action scenes in tight spandex suits rigged with funny-looking dots.
Without motion capture technology (mo-cap for short), the spot-on character movements and expressions in games like Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil 5, Grand Theft Auto IV, Empire: Total War, and Guitar Hero: Metallica, among many others, would not be nearly as elaborate and masterfully orchestrated as they currently are. The process works by using high-tech camera equipment that records the movements of human actors wearing special suits outfitted with sensor markers. These physical actions are then mapped to 3D character models, allowing them to move with a great range of fluidity and authenticity inside the game environment.
Current generation consoles pack a ton of processing power. As a result, players have come to expect increasingly realistic gaming experiences and character models that closely mirror their human counterparts. The level of production found both in cinematics and the gameplay itself are now rivaling the quality found in traditional movies. It's no surprise that actors and other professionals from the film industry have taken on roles in blockbuster video games through voice acting and motion capture.
Reuben Langdon - an actor, director/producer, martial artist, and stunt/voice actor from Los Angeles - has found success and enjoyment through his work in the virtual world. Most gamers may not be able to pick his face out of a crowd, but they should be quite familiar with his work playing the mo-cap role of Chris Redfield in Resident Evil 5 and Dante (mo-cap and voice acting) in Devil May Cry 3 and 4. Langdon has also done mo-cap work in Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, Dead Rising, Tao Fang, and The Bourne Conspiracy, among other games. He was gracious enough to spend some time chatting with CheatCC about the unique nature of his work.
CCC: What first drew you to motion capture/voice roles in video games, and how did you initially become involved? How did those early experiences shape your desire to continue doing additional motion capture projects?
RL: I started out doing motion capture way before I got into voice acting. My first job was on Resident Evil: Code Veronica. I performed the motions for Chris for the game's cutscenes and the in-game moves. That was back in 1998, I think? Man, so long ago - anyway, after that I took a break from mo-cap until 2000, when I was called in to coordinate and put together a team of martial artists and stuntmen for the Xbox game, Tao Feng. After that, I caught the mo-cap bug and started doing it on a regular basis. I guess because I understood the technology and what was needed acting and performance-wise to make to the final product work for the clients. It's kind of its own beast. A combination of film and theater acting mixed with action… and stunts, of course.