In Fifa 19 dreams come true and legends are created in the UEFA Champions League. To make the world’s best football game even better, acquisition specialist Sam Mynott and motion capture system specialist Paul Boulet of EA Vancouver travel around the world to recreate the image of many of today’s football stars in the game. Learn more about you and your work for EA Motion Capture Studio in this article.
This interview is an original translation of fifaultimateteam.it.
Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself first?
Paul: My name is Paul Boulet and I’ve been working at Electronic Arts for 4 years. I studied 3D modeling and animation, so I got a job at EA in Motion Capture Studio.
Sam: My name is Sam Mynott and I’ve been working at Motion Capture Studio since 2006.
How did you both get into the jobs?
Paul: I was very lucky and was hired as a motion capture assistant almost right after graduation. At first it was just a short contract, but I worked as hard as I could and made such a good impression on the team that they hired me back.
Sam: Already in 2006 I studied broadcast television and planned to work either as a video editor or in film production. I found the job advertisement on Craigslist, applied and was offered an interview. Everything I know about motion capture and 3D scanning I learned at work.
Your job is to travel a lot and visit many great clubs around the world to scan their players. How does it feel to be traveling so long?
Sam: I travel so much for work that I’m used to it – both Paul and I spent over 4 months each travelling last year. We can be away from home for a long time, but we get to know countries in a way that we probably wouldn’t otherwise get to know in that way.
Can you describe exactly how 3D scanning technology works?
Paul: 3D scanning technology uses a technique called photogrammetry, which essentially maps a person’s face from photos. We take all the photos and the team here in Vancouver starts the process of creating the individual heads of the players. The images are guided through special programs that look at each image and the software finds “unique identifiers” – details such as freckles or skin pores. Once all these images have been compared, the software creates a map of the player’s face. By using these unique identifiers and this map, their 3D representation can be created.
Each head scan then goes to designers who refine it, as raw scans are usually a bit rough. The designers smooth rough parts of each scan and then use the original images of the football players as reference material to create a final modeling and texture passport and ensure that the 3D heads look as authentic as possible.
Do you need special skills to do the scans?
Paul: The most important thing is knowledge and practice with the scan software and knowing exactly what is required of the images to make a quality scan.
Sam: Knowledge of the specific cameras and the proprietary scanning software we use is very important. The required intimate knowledge of our physical facilities and workflows comes only from experience. Attention to detail is also critical because the camera target is very tight and the depth of field for the focus is very small. We do so many set-ups and dismantlings that efficiency and teamwork are essential.
Isn’t there a lot of equipment that has to be transported to every club?
Paul: That’s right. We regularly have to transport more than 11 crates to the clubs. The crates contain objects such as cameras, miniature PCs, the metal parts of the equipment, lights, tripods, etc., which are then transported to the clubs on a regular basis.
The two of you have been working together in this field for several years. What improvements have you seen in the scanning process?
Sam: The rig is smaller and the cameras and recording software have improved. In previous years, the rigg was a complete 360-degree shot inside a tent, with light outside the tent for soft, diffuse lighting. Now we use a 180-degree rig, no tent and smaller lights. Polarized lighting has improved the quality of the scans and the interaction with the game engine. There are new developments in the factories that further reduce the amount of equipment, making it easier to capture more teams in less time and with less effort for the operator.
How does 3D scan technology improve Fifa gameplay?
Paul: The biggest thing that head scans do is bring more realism and immersion into the game. I don’t think anyone wants to play a game with their favorite soccer players if they don’t look like themselves in real life.
Did you scan your favorite player during your work?
Sam: As a Canadian, I’m more interested in ice hockey, so I’m just a casual fan. It’s fun to meet the players, but they’re usually pretty excited to be scanned, since most of them play Fifa themselves.
How does it feel to work with professional soccer players, considering that many of them play Fifa and know it inside out? Does that put more pressure on you?
Paul: It’s really fantastic working with the players, almost all of them play Fifa, but few of them ever ask us about their faces and statistics in the game. Overall, everyone is really excited to have gone through the process of having their head scanned for the game.
Sam: Soccer players are great at working together and are very respectful. Most of them play Fifa and look forward to being part of it, which makes our work easier. We are only a small part of a very big team, so I don’t think it puts any extra pressure on us.
Fifa 19 is expected on September 28th on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch.
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