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Quantic Dream’s “Kara” by David Cage

Motion capture can aid good storytelling and good filmmaking. This film is a demo of a new performance-capture technique from David Cage’s Paris-based game studio Quantic Dream. It’s very gripping and gets right to the heart – and doesn’t venture into uncanny valley. Definitely worth a look. Eurogamer has posted an interview with Cage about this test.

(Thanks, Meagan)

  • alan

    One thing you might want to add is that this is a tech demo running on real time computer hardware. While it might not be as slick as some of the standard prerendered animation that comes out, the fact that it’s running in real time is very impressive and could lead to interesting things down the road for performance in games.

  • tonk82

    Good storytelling and good filmaking? It’s just a character talking to camera. Just a tech demo, with too much emo content.

    Doing a film with interaction and good camera movement is a totally diferent matter.

    To me this is the bad kind of motion capture, beacouse what i saw could have been done totally in live action.

    • GhaleonQ

      Yeah, Jerry would do well to avoid complimenting David Cage’s storytelling in future posts.

    • Wait, so someone’s skin can be grown in live-action? o_0

    • M

      This is a video game tech demo. Can you control a live actor in a video game?

    • SpanielDayLewis

      So good storytelling needs loads of characters and exciting camera moves? That must be where I’ve been going wrong.

      • ICanReadBooksToo

        yeah, how could one measely character talking tell a good story, using only one camera? without heavy explosions and 17 rendered perspectives, there can never be a story. that’s the reason, storytelling could never have been invented befor computers.

        to you, michael bay must be the greatest bard ever lived, yes? that explains much of the garbage hollywood produces.

  • Haha you’re welcome! I’ve been replaying this video over and over since last night. Mocap,animation or computer cgi aside its just top notch acting – and there’s a bonus of it not giving me the Zemeckis chills. I’ve never been so emotionally invested in a 7 minute short before.

    • Tak

      That’s because she could be a crude stick figure and this scene could still work emotionally. It’s obviously nice that she’s not though, but there’s far more to it than just the visuals, or the technique & tech behind them. Ghost In The Shell never got this psychologically engaging, and it was very much the same theme, world & ideology. Well done to David Cage & all you darn talented French folks, we love/hate you guys.

  • Might as well make the uncanny valley work for you.

  • Truth be told, I preferred this to every one of the Oscar-nominated animated shorts I saw this year.

    Megan (above) is right. “Top notch acting,” indeed. By the 3/4 mark, when Kara is pleading for her ‘life,’ I was emotionally in synch with the character, fully invested in her fate. I rarely feel that much while watching most FULL-length movies.

    • I think that’s probably because we saw her being assembled from start to finish, and experiencing doing things and living and thinking for the first time. The whole scene itself is sdtill kinda creepy though, especially the greeting text she has to say. Still, it’s pretty nice compared to other earlier cgi shorts and films. I especially like the way it’s played through as if it’s a live game….. here’s to hoping they do something more with this or the tech side of what’s exhibited here. I guess it would be interesting to see this in an actual game one day, though I think it still gives off the vibe of a computer model…. if not for the whole origin here.
      Hm, i wonder how a more stylized animation would work in this way, or how more interesting-looking faces would jump outta the uncanny-ness.

  • On the contrary, it DOES venture into Uncanny Valley territory, but it turns it into an advantage that adds depth to the nature of the character.

    Limitations turned into assets. Just like in Toy Story.

    • Zib Zabzo

      I agree. Still too Uncanny Valley for me.

  • HM

    I liked that it leaves off in a place that could potentially keep going. I know a lot of storytelling in shorts now a days are tempted to seal the ending with something permanent. Like the invisible voice not taking pity on the android and it ends on a ‘what could have been’ tragic note instead of this, with the happy ending.

  • Anb

    This is impressive technically speaking. But emotionaly, it’s rather the mise-en-scene that makes you feel something. The character is wonderfully animated and this is great but… something is STILL missing. Something still is fake. I wish i could say why. Maybe the eyes or maybe the acting.. I dont know… Maybe they need to exagerate the acting, the feelings. After all, real actors dont act “naturally” neither. I definitely feel she is not alive…

    • That’s why I like about the short. the viewer –like the off-set voice of the engineer– is never fully convinced that Kara’s claims that she is alive are valid. But there’s this slight tension in the end, the nagging question begins to arise: what if I’m wrong?

      It is a question I feel humanity will be confronted soon enough, the moment the first of our machines pleads not to be turned off.

      It is a question, that will change everything.

  • What this piece is best at is pacing; with action, music, etc. I put the script and directing ahead of everything else.

  • Albert

    I liked it. The moment she yelled ‘I’m scared’ I was tearing up. And I was on the edge of my seat when the arms started to hesitate as they contemplated if they should dismantle her or not.He made us care about and show concern for a character we knew nothing about until this point and wonder what is in store for her next.

    The only thing that has me annoyed is that this has nothing to do with the next QD game. I wanted to know what happens next and she isn’t even going to be a character in the next game. If he wasn’t going to use her or the concept he shouldn’t have made us so feel so emotionally towards her or the situation.

  • It got me… emotionally.

  • A cool short to be sure. I don’t know if mocap’s quite there yet. I’ve seen similar things done as effectively if not more effectively without it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zl6hNj1uOkY

  • I found it to be very engaging on many levels…frankly, I was surprised by how quickly I was sucked into the story. Plus, I’m a sucker for a happy ending…at least at this point of the story.

    But, who knows what might happen as the conveyor belt moves down the line…

    “Hey girls, I have some thoughts. So we speak like 300 languages and look like this…we may be underachieving.” ;-)

    Seriously, very well done!

  • Very nice stuff. But there is some Uncanny Valley in there in parts. Never seen low poly work like this get me going tho. Shades of Artificial Intelligence…

  • DonaldC

    Ai completely killed this idea for me.
    I feel little for it.

    But -playing- as a sentient android in a robotic world might be interesting.

  • Lib

    This demo is definitely not an example of good storytelling or filmmaking, since all it does in those aspects is to copy rather blatantly stuff we’ve already seen in Steven Spielberg’s AI, Chris Cunningham’s ‘All is Full of Love’ music video for Bjork, and the opening credits of the first Ghost in the Shell.

    It is, however, a wonderful example of what motion capture can achieve in terms of character performance, and that’s probably all David Cage was aiming for.

  • GW

    That was quite an interesting short film. It seems so much good animation’s really coming from the people in charge of video game cinematics. I’ve pondered whether Blur might pattern their theatrical division after them instead of making their farcial comedy shorts.

    Personally, I wouldn’t want an android. I’ve been analyzing the human body and looking for improvements that could be made in a basic sense. Maybe some of these would be impractical or impossible to make. I really don’t know.

    We’ll start with the hands. Give me fingers that rotate and spin fully at every knuckle. I want the hands shaped so that the fingers and thumb work just as well on either side of the hand. Make the wrists spin too. Make the spine bend backwards as well as forwards. Have the elbow and knee joints go in both directions instead of just one.

    I want the posibility of continuous spinning near the hips, ankles, the bottom of the head, and bottom of the neck. The neck would, like the rest of the spine, bend in more directions. The eyes should rotate around the head on a sort of ring system to adjust to different positions on the head for different sorts of sight. The ear-pieces would be moved slightly to accomodate that.

    Considering something like this may be possible, why does science fiction show mostly what are more or less copies of human beings? Has anything like this appeared in science fiction before, like in a book or a comic I haven’t read?

    • If you want to see AI that completely forgoes anthropomorphism, there’s no better example than The Matrix ;)

      There’s also this, which was an inspiration for The Matrix:


  • I see most people ignore the fact or are missing the point that this is a videogame tech demo running in real time.

    The achievement here is being able to create that quality of animation within the time and money constraints of videogame budgets(even AAA games) which usually rule out every other option but MoCap.

    Play Mass Effect, then L.A. Noir and then watch the demo and you’ll notice the difference.

  • Uncanny

    Its *very* Uncanny valley to me… It is impressive that this is all running on realtime hardware….
    But I dont think there’s a single moment where the suspension of disbelief lets you forget that this is a CG object.
    The mo-cap is impressive on the body… But they have a *long* way to go on the facial animation. They eye movements are pretty dead in spots….