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Ubisoft unveils cutting-edge Toronto performance capture studio for video games

TORONTO – Ubisoft Toronto celebrated its latest expansion Thursday, showing off a performance capture studio for its video games.

Ubisoft officials call it a cutting-edge facility that will be used by the company’s 26 studios around the globe.

The 2,000-square-foot (185-square-metre) facility features 80 mounted cameras plus wireless helmet cameras, a sound stage and a high-load beam to allow for physical stunts and aerial work.

“Games are not films but they are definitely borrowing techniques from each other,” said Yannis Mallat, CEO of Ubisoft Toronto and Montreal.

Ubisoft set up a performance capture studio in 2005 at its larger Montreal studio.

Rival Electronic Arts has a similar studio in Burnaby, B.C.

Ubisoft’s Canadian studios have produced such successful video game franchises as “Assassin’s Creed,” “Rainbow Six,” “Far Cry” and “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell.”

Ubisoft Toronto is using the new performance capture studio in developing “Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Blacklist,” which is due for release in the spring.

“I can honestly say this is the best motion capture studio I have ever shot in in the last 10 years,” said David Footman, director of “Splinter Cell Blacklist.”

Footman used the studio recently to capture 11 actors simultaneously moving and talking, “something that would have been unheard of even five years ago.”

The studio space measures 55 by 33 feet, with a height of 15 foot (17 by 10 by five metres). The 80 Vicon T160 cameras ring the space with wireless head-mounted cameras used to capture facial expressions.

Four reference cameras capture HD live footage of what is being shot that is available for immediate playback on two 60-inch screens.

Boom microphones and microphones placed on the actors capture the sound.

Footman put the new studio through its paces, using four actors to perform a scene from “Splinter Cell Blacklist.”

Minutes after the scene was shot, it was shown on a monitor as game footage.

Wearing skintight black outfits with brightly coloured body markers, the actors went through the scene around a bare table.

Mallat also announced a partnership with Sheridan College on research into interactive story-telling and virtual production.

“Virtual production, specifically performance capture, is a critical part if the experience we provide to players around the world,” said Mallat.

“It contributes to story-telling in our games and delivers narrative and interactive game play to maximize immersion for the player.”

Ubisoft Toronto, which has some 260 employees, did not detail cost of the new studio which is attached to its existing space in the city’s west end.

NOTES — Nintendo will launch its new “Wii U” console on Nov. 18. The basic system will retail for $299.99, with a deluxe version at $349.99.