Epic Games acquires studio behind facial animations in God of War, Spider-Man

Epic Games, the studio behind the massively popular Fortnite and the widely-used Unreal Engine, has acquired Cubic Motion, which specializes in facial animation technology.

Cubic Motion has created tools that allow video game developers and filmmakers to capture more realistic facial animations using a complex camera rig and software platform. The startup has also developed the Persona system, which translates a person’s performance onto a digital counterpart in real time, and allows for immediate facial animation of characters in Unreal Engine.

Video games that have used Cubic Motions’ facial animation technology include Sony Interactive Entertainment’s God of War and Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man, both PlayStation 4 exclusives. Meanwhile, titles powered by Unreal Engine, in addition to Fortnite, include The Outer Worlds, Gears 5, and the upcoming Final Fantasy VII Remake.

With Epic Games, Cubic Motion will work with 3Lateral, which joined the Unreal Engine team in January 2019. Cubic Motion and 3Lateral have previously worked together on facial animation technology.

“Digital humans are not only the next frontier of content creation but also the most complex endeavor in computer graphics. With Cubic Motion bringing their computer vision and animation technology and expertise to our digital human efforts, Epic along with our team at 3Lateral are one step closer to democratizing these capabilities for creators everywhere,” said Epic Games CEO and founder Tim Sweeney in a statement.

All employees of Cubic Motion will move to Epic Games with the acquisition, which is its seventh since the start of 2019, according to GamesIndustry. Unity Technologies, the company Unreal Engine’s competitor, has also purchased seven companies over that period, so it appears that the rivals are trying to keep in step with each other.

Cubic Motion’s capabilities

To showcase its facial animation technology in a pitch to a major game studio in Los Angeles, the company created an animated cutscene using one of the studio’s trademark characters. The character, after delivering pre-written lines, surprised executives by breaking the fourth wall and addressing them. It turns out that the cutscene was not pre-rendered, but rather a live performance that was being transformed real-time into the character.

“I’ve never seen a reaction like that,” former Cubic Motion President Andy Wood told Digital Trends. “There was an audible gasp from everyone in the room. Someone grabbed my arm because they just couldn’t believe what was happening.”

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