EXCLUSIVE: Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 Preview
An in-depth and exclusive look at the next Call of Duty game.
Taking character animation to the next level
Adam Rosas, Animation Lead, then took us under his wing to give us a demo of how the studio improved upon its character animations for Black Ops 2. The team employed what’s known as a ‘full performance capture’, in which actors are fitted with special suits and up to 84 light-sensitive spheres are fixed onto their limbs and facial features to capture precise movements and expressions. In order to see just how far they could go with the characters, the team decided to first use a female actor to capture their first few shots. Rosas explained that women tend to emote differently than men, so it was much more challenging trying to map the female actor’s expressions with the character model. But after a little bit of tweaking and the addition of just four minor bones, the animated character was able to produce a near-exact lip sync with the actor’s voice, and her facial expressions and body language was fluid and right on cue. This was then used as a starting point for the other characters in the game, so the animations that we saw in the game were some of the best yet in the franchise.
Making it sound like 2025
The last leg of our studio trip was with the great guys from the sound team. Brian Tuey, Chris Cowell, Shawn Jimmerson welcomed us to their little corner of the studio, surrounded by speakers, amplifiers, and all kinds of weird and wonderful devices that they use to manipulate sounds and create new ones. The team explained that the challenge for them was how to dream up what warfare in 2025 would sound like without making it sound too artificial or cheesy. For them, the context of sounds are important as they help drive the game forward (along with the game’s background score), so it’s important that in a franchise like Call of Duty everything sounds realistic and true to form.
Shawn also showed a few of the custom-made electronics that they’ve dreamt up to generate all manners of blips, and squeaks which they can later manipulate into anything from a menu-navigation sound to a weapon firing. And speaking of weapons, Brian confided that a majority of the weapon sounds in the games are careful recordings of how the actual weapon fires in real life. A complicated firing range equipped with as many as sixty microphones help to capture the sound from every single angle, which is crucial to determining which sound track to use depending on where the player is standing in the game. It’s a true labor of love, and it shows on each of the team’s happy faces.
With the audio tour wrapping up our day at Treyarch Studios, we caught up with some of the studio members over a light dinner, but my head was already swimming with all the information we had been shown. Even with a brief look at Black Ops 2, the game looks to be well on its way to satisfying fans’ appetites and garnering a few more hundred thousand followers.
Make sure you check back later in the week for our in-depth interview with Mark Lamia, Studio Head at Treyarch.