David Bennett, the founder and CEO of Mimic Productions, provided insights into the company's founding story and discussed the artistic nuances and technological processes involved in creating photorealistic digital characters for various industries.
My name is David Bennett. I'm the founder and CEO of Mimic Productions. I have been in the industry for over 30 years, working with renowned companies such as Wētā and Sony, I've contributed to several high-profile projects, including blockbuster films and AAA video games such as James Cameron's Avatar, Batman Arkham Knight, NBA 2K, and The Matrix 4, to name a few.
My journey started as a college student, I was already immersed in the world of VR, a field that was yet to make its mark in the mainstream 25 years later. My early days were filled with exciting gaming projects like Mortal Kombat, Ballers, Slug Fest, Red Card Soccer, and Blitz. It was during this time that I got my experience in games and got into motion capture.
This passion led me to a pivotal moment in my career, a job at Sony ImageWorks, where I had the opportunity to work on movies like Beowulf, Monster House, and The Polar Express. My work in the last mentioned was particularly groundbreaking; As a pioneer in the field, I developed a tool that revolutionized facial motion capture and enabled this blockbuster movie to be made. My expertise in facial motion capture led me to work on iconic films like Avatar, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Tintin in New Zealand.
David Bennett, CEO of Mimic Productions
Mimic Productions is a leading company in the field of digital character creation, specializing in photorealistic characters for various industries. Our team comprises industry veterans with diverse backgrounds in film, animation, and game development.
After many years in New Zealand, I moved to Berlin in 2012 and started Mimic out of my house. I was driven to bring high-quality animated characters into a variety of different industries since at that time the technology was available only to big blockbuster films.
Mimic has grown from a dream nurtured in my house to a renowned name in the 3D world. Driven by the company`s unwavering commitment to creating the highest quality of photorealistic characters, we have accomplished over 500 projects across many different industries.
The Artistic Nuances of Creating Digital Characters at Mimic Productions
The art and craft of making a product – in our case, digital characters – involve more than just technical prowess. It's about understanding the subtleties of human expressions, emotions, and the essence of character. We focus on capturing the soul of the character, ensuring that every nuance, from the twinkle in the eye to the quirks of a smile, is conveyed authentically. This attention to detail and artistic sensitivity sets our digital characters apart from mere replicas as they have the ability to look and move the same way as the original but in the digital world.
The Initial Stages of Creating Digital Characters
The first step in creating digital characters typically involves scanning the subject, whether it's a human actor or a physical maquette. We utilize state-of-the-art 3D scanning technology and photogrammetry to capture the initial data. This data is then processed using software like 3ds Max, Maya, or ZBrush, where we start building the digital model.
Integration of New Tools and Technologies
We're constantly integrating cutting-edge tools and technologies into our pipeline. One of the most significant advancements has been the development of AI tools that are speeding up our pipeline and allowing us to imagine new use cases for our avatars. The constant upgrades in Unreal Engine are also allowing us to achieve great real-time renderings and interactivity, enhancing our efficiency and enabling us to deliver real-time experiences with high visual fidelity.
Modeling and Texturing High-Quality Digital Characters
We use industry-standard tools like Substance 3D Painter and Maya for texturing and rely on a combination of manual artistry and procedural techniques to achieve high-quality textures. For rigging, we often use Maya and incorporate advanced rigging solutions for realistic character movement.
Motion Capture Pipeline
We use industry-leading motion capture suits from Xsens or OptiTrack for body motion. For facial data, we employ high-fidelity facial capture technology, which ensures we capture the subtleties of facial expressions accurately.
Cleaning the Mocap Data
Cleaning mocap data is a crucial step. It involves removing noise, correcting any anomalies, and ensuring the motion is realistic and coherent. The challenge lies in making the character movements feel natural and lifelike.
Integrating Digital Characters into Game Engines
To seamlessly integrate our characters into game engines like Unreal and Unity, we optimize the character models, textures, and animations for real-time performance while maintaining visual fidelity. This sometimes involves LOD (Level of Detail) systems, texture streaming, and shader optimization.
Collaborating with Game Developers and Film Studios
Our collaboration with game developers and film studios is a synergistic process. We work closely with their creative teams to ensure our digital characters fit seamlessly into their narratives. By combining our expertise in character creation with their storytelling prowess, we create unforgettable experiences that push the boundaries of realism.
The Future of Mimic Productions
In the future, you can anticipate further advancements in real-time character rendering, expanded collaborations with industry leaders, and a continued pursuit of pushing the limits of digital realism. We aim to be at the forefront of character technology and AI-powered tools in this area. We have just launched our new brand Supersonic 3D which is a 3D asset outsourcing company for games where we make not just only characters, but environments, garments, and NPC AI-driven Avatars for video games at an affordable price.