EA Motion Capture Studio Tour
EA’s motion capture studio — EA CAPTURE — is housed in a nondescript grey building next to the main EA Canada offices. Its bland exterior — designed, no doubt, to prevent light from leaking in and disrupting the work inside — gave no hint of the excitement it contains. The rapid improvement in motion capture technology over the course of the last decade has revolutionized video games, and EA’s team is right at the heart of it. In addition to the expected slate of sports titles, they also did motion capture for smash hits like Battlefield 3 and Mass Effect 3.
First stop: the locker room, where racks of skin-tight lycra suits hung organized by size. Melissa Powell, the EA CAPTURE production specialist that lead the tour, joked that the suits “leave very little to the imagination.”
This rack held various crucial accessories, like the small, reflective velcro balls that are the key to motion capture technology. According to Powell, ball technology keeps changing to keep up with the increased sophistication of motion capture.
The room in which motion capture takes place is called a “volume,” and EA CAPTURE had a big one — so big it was hard to photograph. Giant theatrical curtains divided the room, and hinted at the possibility of even more space. This can come in handy when a motion capture athlete needs a long distance to get up to a full sprint for a take. Bathed in a creepy red light, the whole room felt very otherworldy.
This workstation was literally bursting with flat-screens and expensive-looking computer technology, which allow EA technicians to keep track of a shoot in progress.
When the volume is in use, this screen projects a rough mock-up of the capture that enables directors to get a sense of the finished product. Since the assembled journalists were at EA to see FIFA 13, the presence of a giant, empty soccer stadium was nice touch.
Powell stands by the virtual camera that directors use to capture actors and athletes in action. Subject to constant tinkering and improvement by EA engineers, the camera is also the basis for a number of pending patents.