Thursday, January 24th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Epic Games acquires facial capture specialist 3Lateral

Siren, Epic Games’ eye-catching Unreal Engine demo from GDC 2018. Epic has just acquired facial capture firm 3Lateral, its tech partner on the demo, to bolster its work on photorealistic real-time digital humans.

Epic Games has acquired facial rigging and capture specialist 3Lateral, its technology partner on its spectacular Unreal Engine keynote from GDC 2018, with all of 3Lateral’s staff joining Epic.

The Serbian firm will continue as a service bureau for VFX and games industry clients, while “working to advance the state of the art in Unreal Engine’s support for virtual humans and creatures”.

Cutting-edge technologies for volumetric facial capture and facial rigging
Founded by former Image Metrics art lead Vladimir Mastilovic in 2008, 3Lateral provides character scanning, modelling and rigging services for high-end game development work.

The firm’s portfolio includes AAA titles like Grand Theft Auto V, for which it did the facial rigging on all the lead characters, plus Batman: Arkham VR and Until Dawn.

However, to the wider CG community, it is probably best known for its collaborations with Epic Games, beginning with 2015 UE4 demo A Boy and His Kite and culminating in last year’s GDC keynote.

For the Siren demo, in which the performance of actress Alexa Lee was used to drive a photorealistic digital replica of a second actress, China’s Bingjie Jiang, 3Lateral carried out the 3D scanning, and supplied the facial rig, based around its its Rig Logic real-time facial solver.

A second demo showed a CG alien emoting frantically through the ‘Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow’ speech from Macbeth, driven by actor Andy Serkis’s facial performance.

The CG character was created using 3Lateral’s Meta Human framework for volumetric capture, facial reconstruction and data compression, which also provides real-time mocap data cleaning.

Driving Epic’s future work in digital humans
Mastilovic will now “lead Epic’s worldwide digital humans efforts” – a key focus in recent releases of the game engine – while 3Lateral’s Serbian headquarters will serve as the firm’s recruitment base in the region.

We’ve contacted Epic to ask if any of 3Lateral’s technologies will make their way directly into Unreal Engine, and will update if we hear back.

Updated: The answer is ‘yes’, though Epic declined to share details at present.

Read more about Epic Games’ acquisition of 3Lateral in the firm’s blog post