Realistic Character Facial Animation in The Last of Us Part II

Keith Paciello shared the production details of creating realistic facial expressions of all character in the new title from Naughty Dog as well as discussed the team cooperation for achieving such results.

The Last of Us Part II can get players in their feelings quite fast. While playing, the players can see the emotions of characters through their facial expressions and build an emotional connection with them.  Keith Paciello, the studio animator, shared how the team achieved such expressions in the gameplay.

You as a player are aiming with the controller for Ellie to look at the painting, which is triggering a ‘look at target’ placed by a designer. On top of that, I animated small eye darts (saccades) within the character’s facial idles to try and indicate an overall thought process. So animated eye saccades sitting on top of the eye-aim, work together to create what looks like focus and thought process.

Keith Paciello via PlayStation blog

The emotional context of the game is made by the close collaboration of all development teams as well as the Emotional Systematic Facial Animation system by Paciello. The system captures around 20 various emotional states of all characters in the game and works together with eye movements and body language.  Animators also teamed up with the dialogue team to put it the triggers to show off a specific emotion that will fit in the exact scene.

In the interview, Keith pays attention to the camera work, too, highlighting the smooth transition from cinematic to gameplay and vice versa.

Flip the camera [after the cinematic ends] and you see that she’s still devastated. I talked to the character team to see if we could get the textures and make sure it looks like she was just crying, so everything blends together nicely.

Keith Paciello via PlayStation blog

Read the whole interview on the PlayStation blog. 

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