games reporter

Capture guy Footman turning into game boy

David Footman has worked as a motion- capture supervisor on such big-budget studio films as "I, Robot" and "Fantastic Four," but the studio that is becoming most prominent on his curriculum vitae is Electronic Arts.

Footman recently helmed the all-greenscreen sequences for EA's new racing game "Need for Speed Carbon," which features more than 20 minutes of pure cinematics with actress Emmanuelle Vaugier ("CSI: NY"). "Speed" marks the third game that he has directed for EA during the past three years following "Need for Speed Most Wanted" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age."

"I've been working in video games for three years now, and every year I work a little bit more with EA," Footman says. "I see myself working on more video games."

Footman is interested in becoming involved in a game and movie project stemming from the same story.

"I think if it's a good story, it's a good story," Footman says. "Wouldn't it be interesting if the story never ended, where a story went from a movie to a video game and it wasn't just repeating itself?"

Whether he is directing the 200 cut scenes for "Rings" or working on a racing game, Footman works closely with game makers to bring his vision to life in virtual detail. The fact that he is a gamer helps him seek new environments and interactions that gamers might not have seen before.

"All of our cinematics in the video games are in full CG environments, so you're working with absolutely nothing," he says. "You're having to establish the lighting even before the world is made. You're setting keys, geometry, change of elevation, where the cars will be ? all before the world is designed."

Another challenge is making a 20-minute story engaging, even though it will be told in small bits spread over hours of gameplay.

"The scriptwriting is just like it would be with cinema, except we design a 20-minute entertainment experience instead of a two-hour movie," says Footman, who also has worked as an assistant director on films like "The Day After Tomorrow."

"The story has to hold up for 22 hours with huge gaps in the middle," he says. "We plot out the story beats and moments as (they) would occur in a three-act play. Then I immediately start defining locations in the world that probably haven't been built yet. I call out locations like I'd like to shoot this at a beach, this would be great to shoot in an industrial area, do we have anything with a lot of high-rises?"

Footman and his team then take all of the shots and break them down in terms of visual effects elements like the number and types of cars.

"One of the biggest challenges with integrating live actors into full CG is that if you don't do a good job, they look like cardboard cutouts," Footman says. "The more motion animation you can provide, then the more integrated they are. We might start a camera move on something that's not there, like a car, and then slowly pan over to the actress."

The results are cinematics that feature live actors in a virtual environment. This technology comes across nicely on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, which deliver high-definition visuals.

"The future is not having to cut from gameplay to a story," Footman says. "The 'Half-Life' games have been instrumental in placing the player inside of a world and having the events occur all around them and allowing them control of the camera perspective."
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