Purchasing new hardware? Read our latest product comparisons

Activision R&D reveals stunning real-time character rendering at GDC 2013


March 29, 2013

Close-up: dramatic lighting enhances the look of Activision R&D's real-time character

Close-up: dramatic lighting enhances the look of Activision R&D's real-time character

Image Gallery (24 images)

GDC 2013 (Game Developers Conference) wraps up today after a week of presentations and late night parties. There have been some impressive tech demos shown, like Kojima Productions' FOX engine running Metal Gear Solid 5, but what really got people talking is Activision R&D;'s latest attempt at photorealistic characters. Check out the lifelike skin and eye shading in the uncanny video after the break.

“We will show how each detail is the secret for achieving reality," writes Activision Blizzard technical director Jorge Jiminez on his blog. "For us, the challenge goes beyond entertaining; it’s more about creating a medium for better expressing emotions, and reaching the feelings of the players.”

Company reps showed a real-time demo running on a two year old laptop and other examples that work on a GeForce GTX 680 in DirectX 11 at 180 frames per second.

"[This demo] represents to us the culmination of many years of work in photorealistic characters," Jiminez added, referencing a demo from February 2012. In just a year his team's separable subsurface scattering shader has progressed dramatically, and has now been applied to the character's eyes.

It's likely only a matter of time before Activision Blizzard and other developers will be able to squeeze this amount of detail into games. Exactly when that might be is still a bit unclear, since the demo currently only has a disembodied head on which to run, without any of the usual trimmings, like hair, a sophisticated environment, and any game-specific stuff like artificial intelligence.

The facial animation demo stops short of being totally convincing, but the team has done an incredible job of capturing the semi-translucent look of skin and eyes, which is still missing in most games. Check out the demo video below.

Source: Jorge Jiminez's blog

About the Author
Jason Falconer Jason is a freelance writer based in central Canada with a background in computer graphics. He has written about hundreds of humanoid robots on his website Plastic Pals and is an avid gamer with an unsightly collection of retro consoles, cartridges, and controllers. All articles by Jason Falconer

if it wasn't for the mouth and teeth it would be 99% convincing

David Anderton

Looks like the only real difference from a real person besides the teeth and mouth movements and general intensity differences are the pupil dilation and contractions that come with and before the emotions reflected in the face movements.

Dany Ehrenbrink

Data never looked this good - no pancake. Astoundingly real skin tones, whiskers, expression. Scary good. And the teeth are the giveaway. I was thinking they should give him a gold cap or silver filling to throw you off.

Dennis Siple

little bit of tooth decay and I would be convinced, but still freaking awesome. great job.

Denis Klanac

In addition to the teeth, the mouth almost looked too dark or something. Maybe it was the brightness of the teeth but I got the feeling that the inside of the mouth was not fully rendered. Everything else seemed really persuasive.

Snake Oil Baron

I like the imperfections in the skin surface and the blood vessels in the eyes. But have to agree that the pupil's do not dilate correctly with the lighting conditions. Maybe the inside on the mouth cavity is the difference, such as the lack of the tongue that is missing when talking. Normally, the tip is seen forming sounds off the back of the teeth. All-in-all though a remarkable jump in the real-time model


I felt that the whole inside mouth -- teeth and internal mouth -- gave it away. Still, an impressive achievement.

Moochie Michieux

I like everything except the smile. The way the cheeks move up and puff out really fast looks wrong and creepy.


My attention was also drawn to the mouth area as the least photo-realistic portion of this rendering. Otherwise, the effect was fantastic.


Steven Armstrong

There needs to be an interior to the mouth. People do not have a black hole inside their mouth. This left the teeth with unrealistic edges, they didn't get the full 3D render like the rest of the face.

With emotions come changes in skin colour due to increases in blood circulation in the face. I didn't see any.

It's close, but not perfect. Which means it is still in that spooky zone between perfect and not real which makes everyone uneasy when looking at it.

To put in so much effort and then loose momentum at the teeth and interior of the mouth is unfortunate.

Post a Comment

Login with your Gizmag account:

Related Articles
Looking for something? Search our articles