Hitman Absolution - Storytelling [EU]

Uploaded by hitman on 10.10.2012

The ambition with the cutscenes is to make every single scene interesting enough in itself as something that the player would want to see.
You can watch them and you get an introduction to the level, you understand the characters a little bit more and then you go on with the game.
In a game like Hitman where there is so much gameplay and so much within the game mechanics to challenge the players, the cutscenes also become a break between those challenging gameplay moments.
I think cutscenes are getting better and better. They are actually much much better at using the language of cinematography like movie-storytelling and making compelling stories and characters.
This is just a natural evolution in games to lean on what we have learned from cinema.
We are actually treating it like a classical movie, always trying to have these really slow dolly moves and shooting from outside the doorway, into the room and trying to have this subtle treatment of it.
It actually works really well. We have an awesome team of animators, environment artists, lighting/composition, composers and sound designers. A lot of people are working really hard on making them.
They convey a sense of motivation to play the game and we have taken a lot of care to add that to Hitman Absolution.
It is all well and good to be given a task to go and take out a certain target but if you can apply an emotional reason or really solid motivation to do that it just makes it more enjoyable and a lot more fun to play.
We started out wanting to do motion capture and then do voice acting separately and combine this which is a classical way, at least for us, to produce cutscenes.
But we were allowed to hire real professional Hollywood actors and do performance capture which is basically doing motion capture, facial capture and voice at the same time.
This definitely reminded me of making, literally, a motion picture and that is very beautiful and very clear and I think that it is a wonderful aspect that they have added to the video game.
The basics of motion capture is that we have a series of cameras placed around the room and they optically record these little markers that are placed on the actors. It triangulates the data in the space and records movement.
We cover the actors with all these and we can tell where their arms, legs and torso are in space and that gets applied to the skeletons of the characters.
Where performance capture comes in is similar but on a far more subtle level. We had helmet mounted cameras and used that as reference for key framing.
We had to mark up the face. There is a lot of micro movements that get captured and that goes through a similar process. It usually requires far more cameras to pick up the smaller dots and the smaller ranges of movement.
Also we required a sound proof studio, which Giant had where we shot, so we could have the actors voices synced up with their movement and just get a more believable performance out of them. That was really important to us.
I would describe motion capture to people as the most natural performance an actor will ever have in the most unnatural environment.
Because you are never having a cheat to a camera, you are never having a cheat to a light, you are never having to worry about a camera over the shoulder, they never have to worry about hair, make up, lighting, wardrobe, nothing.
All they have to worry about is true performance
The only way I can describe it is, yeah, you got the 360 because the cameras are everywhere, but you also have this monkey suit on and this silly hat with a camera sitting in front of your face.
The focus level it takes is unique within itself playing a lot of technology that you pretend is not there, so it is a whole other thing that takes some adjusting to get to. For example just a simple thing like … See this thing right in front of your face?
It is very hard to focus on the other actor if that is there and if this character smokes, technically you can not bring a cigarette up because you smack into that camera, so you have to find a way that looks cool and goes in there and does it. So it was challenging.
The actors did have a lot of good suggestions and they would say "This feels out of character", we would be like "That is true" and we would have a lot of back and forth.
We spend quite a bit of time on working with the voices and getting a little deeper into the characters, giving them some layers to their performances.
The physicality and the origin of it is very much on the actors shoulders, but from that point on the animators involvement should not really be sold short.
They add a huge amount of emotion, physicality and everything to the scene.
There is a convergence where the line between cutscene and gameplay is blurring and it is a major goal for a lot of AAA games to have it as one fluid experience and not take the user out of the gameplay
and really immerse them in the story, the characters and the universe that we have created.