SGX in Beyond A Steel Sky

We are delighted to announce that Revolution software has licensed SGX to animate dialgoue in English and several other langauges in the upcoming Beyond a Steel Sky.

The game is a sequel to the 1994 cult game Beneath a Steel Sky will again be written by Charles Cecil and Dave Gibbons.

It was particularly thrilling to see Beyond a Steel Sky announced as a lead title for the upcoming Apple Arcade subscription service. We are very excited to be involved with such a prestigious title and will definitely check it out when it launches later this year.

Speech Graphics creates world’s first high fidelity animation of human speech organs

Specialist audio animation studio, Speech Graphics, announced today the launch of the world’s first high fidelity animation of the human speech organs. Using technology they originally developed for the video games industry, Speech Graphics has created ‘Simone’, a fully computer animated language teacher, seen for the first time on language learning site, Saundz.com.

Communication in today’s global economy is critical and for the approximately 2 billion people learning English as a second language, accent and pronunciation are two of the most difficult aspects to master. With the Asian market increasingly focused on international trade, the adoption of American English and accent reduction is becoming ever more popular.

Gregor Hofer of Speech Graphics explains: “A strong accent can be a major barrier to effective communication. Hearing a language spoken does not tell you what to do inside your own mouth to mimic the sounds made. But what if you could see what to do and how to move your tongue?”

Revealing a hidden world never seen so clearly before, Simone is a fully functioning cutaway of the inside of the mouth, nose and throat. Movie-quality animation reveals the movement of tongue, palate, teeth, jaw and lips so language students can see the mechanics of pronunciation.

Viewed from the front, Simone’s face moves in perfect synchrony with audio recordings of sounds and words. Users can switch between front and side view or watch in slow motion to see the tongue move through a sound. Smoke effects indicate airflow, visualising the invisible elements of speech such as air turbulence and vibration inside the mouth creating the difference between ‘s’ and ‘z’, or passage of air through the nose distinguishing ‘n’ from ‘d’.

Saundz.com provided a learning curriculum and graphical web interface around the Speech Graphics animation. By allowing non-native speakers to visualise how to make speech, Speech Graphics enables Saundz.com to close the gap between native and non-native language speakers and help students improve pronunciation.

Michael Berger, CTO of Speech Graphics and director of the project, continues: “Speech is the most sophisticated voluntary motor activity in the body. The motions are lightning fast and totally fluid, yet deadly accurate.

“People watching the animation are fascinated by the ‘acrobatic’ performance of the tongue which has never been seen so clearly before. We believe the concept behind ‘Simone’ can be a huge aid to language instruction.”

Mark Bruk, Managing Director of Saundz.com comments: “Learning a language is one thing, but learning pronunciation is another altogether. Someone learning a second language has to acquire patterns of behaviour. This is why we enlisted the skills of the Speech Graphics team to create Simone.”

Speech Graphics has an international reputation for extraordinary advances in audio-driven animation and motion technology, providing facial animation for the video games industry and working with companies like Warner Brothers and global artists like Kanye West.
Using acoustic analysis and a computational model of speech, Speech Graphics’ algorithms control 3D models like the strings of a puppet, moving the individual muscles of the face, jaw and tongue that are responsible for sound production. A large amount of data was used to develop Simone, including scans of the outside of the face as well as MRI scans of the inside of the vocal tract.

Saundz.com is aimed at more than 2 billion people learning to speak English as a second language worldwide, including in China, Japan, India and Russia.

Scots team lip-sync Kanye West in experimental Black Skinhead 3D-animated video

Scottish animation startup, Speech Graphics, has collaborated with Kanye West and Nick Knight on the controversial, technology driven video – ‘Black Skinhead’ – which was finally released this week.

Co-written with Daft Punk, the single is from the number one album, Yeezus, released by Def Jam Records. A media firestorm has surrounded this now infamous video, fuelled by the leak earlier this month of an unofficial and unfinished version. This prompted Kanye West to issue a volley of tweets: “Me and Nick Knight have been working on this video for 5 months and for creatives it’s heartbreaking when something like this happens”.

Produced in Berlin, Paris, London, Los Angeles and Edinburgh the video was directed by iconic fashion photographer Nick Knight who has made music videos for the likes of Bjork and Lady Gaga.

The three-minute 3D-animated video for ‘Black Skinhead’ features a mix of animation and film footage of Kanye West as he stalks the floor, screaming raw emotion from the screen. This cutting-edge and experimental project includes technology used for the first time in a music video – including user interaction and audio-driven animation technology. Debuted on the Kanye West website, the video incorporates other technical innovations including interactive speed control and image grabbing.

With an international reputation for extraordinary advances in audio-driven animation and motion technology working with companies like Warner Brothers, Speech Graphics was a natural choice for this video. Michael Berger, co-founder and CTO of Speech Graphics explains: “When we took the call from Hollywood they set us exceptionally tight deadlines. But we just could not say no to this amazing job. We knew that bringing the voice to life would be critical to capturing the intense power and energy of Kanye West.”

Emotional impact comes through very strongly in the lower face. Speech Graphic’s technology captures the intensity of every syllable and animates lips, jaw, cheeks and even tongue. Berger continues: “When we animate speech we actually animate most of the face, because the skin moves, right up to the eyes. We even had his ears moving with the jaw motion. But our biggest challenge was to make Kanye’s face move naturally over the famous gold and diamond grill on his teeth. And – of course – ‘the bling must most definitely stay in the picture’.”

Speech Graphics took the assets – a 3D facial model of Kanye and his voice track – and used their audio-driven animation technology to drive his face up to the eyes. By running audio through acoustic analysis the company replicated the muscle activations to reconstruct what Kanye’s face was doing when he produced the sound.

Gregor Hofer, CEO and co-founder of Speech Graphics, comments: “This has been an extraordinary project to work on. To make the most famous face in Hip Hop rap has been a surreal experience and the media furore has added to the intensity of working on the project. It just doesn’t get any bigger. This project has given us the chance to really show what our technology can do. We are hugely excited about what the future holds for us and proud to work with such an artist.”

Speech Graphics is on track to become the main provider of lip-sync and facial animation – a sector forecast to reach over $500 million (£375m) – to the global video game market.

While Speech Graphics has been expanding rapidly in the global video games market, the company’s versatile technology can be used for any application that needs syncing facial animation with speech and the Kanye West project marks Speech Graphics’ first involvement in the music industry.

Black Skinhead has been used as the soundtrack to the trailer for the new Scorsese and DiCaprio film, The Wolf of Wall Street, due to be released in November.

About Speech Graphics

Speech Graphics Ltd  is an award-winning tech company providing facial animation with next-gen realism driven completely by audio. Founded in 2010 by speech technology experts with two decades of experience in speech animation, the company is expanding rapidly while already providing animation services to several major AAA studios. For more information visit www.speech-graphics.com, call +44 (0) 131 6686 911 or email

How A UK Studio Is Redefining Facial Animation

 

UK company Speech Graphics is gunning for the top-spot in lip-sync technology: mark their words. RedShark contributor David Valjalo reports

How does the adage go? Poorly synced virtual lips sink narrative ships. Well, something like that. The fact is, to create unforgettable characters in the modern landscape of computer generated animation they need to be believable. One of the key tools in the war on audience disbelief, keeping them invested in your world, is to make sure they believe the words being spoken belong to the speaker, whether it’s a Lorax or a layman.

Enter Speech Graphics, which recently appointed one Colin MacDonald as chairman. A game industry veteran and currently the commissioning editor for games at UK broadcasting powerhouse Channel 4, MacDonald is clear about the bold, raw ambition of the studio: “We’re aiming to be the standard facial animation solution for the AAA games [and] essentially anywhere realistic speech-synchronised facial animation is required”, he tells me. A bold ambition for a studio set up just three years ago, but with decades of experience in the field across the team – not least MacDonald’s time overseeing videogame developer Realtime Worlds – it’s certainly not impossible and the technology is striking…

Speech Graphics to pioneer facial animation for mobile gaming

Speech Graphics Ltd, the award-winning provider of high-fidelity facial animation and lip sync, has received a £25k grant from the University of Abertay Prototype fund to develop facial animation technology for mobile devices. The software will be integrated in games and apps to automatically animate the faces of 3D characters in precise synchrony with natural or synthetic voice.

Mobile games have seen unprecedented growth in recent years, not at least due to substantial increases in graphics power, which allows for near-console experiences on mobile devices. This places pressure on content providers to produce more realistic animation. Now is a critical time for developers to spin out high-end animation solutions for mobile platforms.

While consumers are keen on high-fidelity devices, compelling facial animation is still missing from mobile apps. Using the Prototype funding, Speech Graphics will bring its technology to iOS and Android devices, allowing developers to harness advanced speech processing and muscle-dynamic algorithms to animate speech and other facial behaviour realistically and with little effort.

Dr Gregor Hofer, co-founder and CEO of Speech Graphics is quoted as saying: “Mobile platforms are playing an increasing role for the video game industry and we believe that in many ways the future will be in mobile. It is important as a supplier to stay ahead of the curve and making this R&D investment will cement our reputation in the industry as the leader in speech animation.“

Michael Berger, co-founder and CTO of Speech Graphics says: “This development is about bringing our high-fidelity spoken facial animation to mobile gaming platforms, but we also believe it foretells a whole new way of interacting with mobile devices—face to face. This is a movement that we are uniquely well-positioned to lead.”

About Speech Graphics
Speech Graphics Ltd (www.speech-graphics.com) is an award-winning tech company providing facial animation with next-gen realism driven completely by audio. Founded in 2010 by speech technology experts with two decades of experience in speech animation, the company is expanding rapidly while already providing animation services to several major AAA studios. For more information visit www.speech-graphics.com, call +44 (0) 131 6686 911 or contact us here.

Speech Graphics Appoints Colin Macdonald Chairman

Company marks rapid growth and expansion into AAA market.

Speech Graphics Ltd, the award-winning provider of high-fidelity facial animation and lip sync, recently named game industry veteran Colin Macdonald as non-executive director and Chairman of the Board. Macdonald’s appointment reflects the company’s rapid expansion into the games industry. He plays a decisive role in identifying and exploiting key markets.

The company is also filling several new staff positions as it expands its service operations and its long-running R&D program. New staff include: programmers, experts in speech technology and linguistics, technical artists, marketing personnel and a quality control team.

Macdonald, whose primary role remains his current position as Commissioning Editor for Games at Channel 4, started his own games studio in the early 1990s, and published a number of licenced titles from franchises such as Lemmings and Prince of Persia. He then joined Grand Theft Auto developer DMA Design in 1997 as producer on the series, before helping found Crackdown developer Realtime Worlds. One of Macdonald’s most recent commissions at Channel 4 was the number one Christmas hit game The Snowman and The Snowdog.

Dr Gregor Hofer, co-founder and CEO of Speech Graphics is quoted as saying: “We’re thrilled to have someone of Colin’s knowledge and stature on board as Chairman of Speech Graphics. His previous experience in both games and wider technology is unparalleled, and we could not imagine anyone better suited to working with our team.”

Michael Berger, co-founder and CTO of Speech Graphics added: “The appointment of Colin is a fantastic milestone in the growth of the company. We’re looking forward to making full use of the invaluable knowledge and expertise Colin has accumulated in his lengthy and impressive career.”

Macdonald said: “I couldn’t be happier accepting the position as Chairman of Speech Graphics. The advances they are making in animation and motion technology are truly astounding, and working with such an impressive array of talent is an absolute honour.” He added: “This appointment is incredibly exciting for me. We look forward to dazzling the industry with our future projects.”

About Speech Graphics
Speech Graphics Ltd is an award-winning tech company providing facial animation with next-gen realism driven completely by audio. Founded in 2010 by speech technology experts with two decades of combined experience in speech animation, the company is expanding rapidly while already providing animation services to several major AAA studios. For more information visit www.speech-graphics.com, call +44 (0) 131 290 2157 or email info@speech-graphics.com.

Evolving facial animation

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Develop uncovers the inner workings of Speech Graphics’ new lip-syncing tool for devs.

Scottish technology outfit Speech Graphics exists as a thriving service company specialising in audio-driven lip syncing.

A relative newcomer in the global games industry, it has already built quite a name for itself with a run of award nominations and wins, and now it has bold plans to repackage its eponymous technology as a tool.

“We feel a software company is more scalable and ultimately it’s where we want to go,” confirms Speech Graphics CEO Dr Gregor Hofer.

“By offering a tool we can reach more customers with our solution. As to what developers prefer, some say they are happy to outsource to animation services while others prefer the control offered by a tool that can be integrated directly into their production pipeline. We feel there is a place for both models.

“Starting with the service model simply allows us to use interactions with game developers to inform our development program, to ultimately produce a technology that will provide exactly what they want.”

Audiomotion Studios and Speech Graphics Team Up to Create One-Stop Service for Mocap and Audio-Driven Animation

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Speech Graphics Ltd, an awarding-winning lip sync technology provider, and Audiomotion Studios Ltd, Europe’s leading motion capture service provider, today announced they are working together to combine audio-driven lip sync with full performance motion capture to offer a new, high-quality character animation service. The result could change the way character animation is executed in the future.

For their first combined demo, the team brought to life a 3D character based on a well-known celebrity, proving that the two technologies work well together. To do this, they simultaneously recorded audio and full performance, face, body and finger optical marker capture from a live actor. The motion capture drove the character’s body and upper face with the natural detail of the actor’s performance. Speech Graphics then used their audio-driven animation technology to procedurally drive the lower face, including the lips, jaw, cheeks, and even the tongue.

Michael Berger, co-founder and CTO of Speech Graphics, comments “Speech is challenging to capture due to occlusions of the lips and tongue, and the soft nature of the mouth. Our system fills the gap with highly accurate lip sync, and even conveys emotion through syllable intensity. Combining our audio-driven technology with Audiomotion’s performance capture gives a complete solution with emotional impact that is scalable to large amounts of facial animation.”

Creative Director at Audiomotion, Tim Doubleday, adds “Performance Capture allows us to create incredibly believable animations from our actor’s performance. There are always going to be elements that aren’t picked up by markers, such as the tongue. By using a hybrid system we’re able to fill those missing gaps and take the animation to a new level.

The Speech Graphics technology works using a universal physical model and will work across all languages, saving game development time and resource.

About Audiomotion Studios
Audiomotion Studios is the multi-award winning, UK motion capture studio. For almost 15 years Audiomotion has specialised in the provision of motion capture services to the game development, film and television industries. Their state of the art facility is equipped with 140 MX40 cameras, enabling the largest in-house capture area in Europe.

Full Performance Capture is Audiomotion’s solution to capturing facial performance, fingers, full body and final audio simultaneously. The solution is being employed by many studios across Europe. For more information visit www.audiomotion.com or call +44 (0) 870 1600 504 or email info@audiomotion.com.

About Speech Graphics
Speech Graphics Ltd is an award-winning spinoff from the University of Edinburgh’s world-renowned School of Informatics and the Centre for Speech Technology Research. Its founders Michael Berger and Dr. Gregor Hofer are speech technology experts with 20 years of combined experience in speech animation. The company has received a development grant from the Scottish Government, and other awards in the UK including a John Logie Baird Award for innovation and a Santander Entrepreneurial Award.

At the upcoming Game Developers Conference in San Francisco (March 7-9, booth #1843) the company will demo their technology producing lip sync in seven different languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Russian. For more information visit www.speech-graphics.com or call +44 (0) 131 6686 911 or email info@speech-graphics.com.

 

Leading-Edge Lip Sync Service Set to Transform In-Game Speech Development

(Edinburgh, February 9, 2012) – Speech Graphics Ltd, an award-winning UK-based start-up company, today announces it will be showcasing a new leading-edge lip-sync solution at the Game Developers Conference Expo in San Francisco (March 7-9). The multilingual solution, which will initially be offered as a service, uniquely predicts how the muscles of the human face move to produce speech sounds.

In response to the rising quantity and cost of speech and dialogue in today’s story-driven games, Speech Graphics’ technology uses just audio input to automatically drive a 3D character to speak. Put into context, Bioware’s recently released Star Wars: The Old Republic, contains 260,000 lines of dialogue, all of which had to be animated—not just once but in three languages.

As the technology works using a universal physical model, it will work across all languages, saving game development time and resources. At GDC, the company will demo the lip sync production software in seven languages: English, German, French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean and Russian.

Michael Berger, CTO and co-founder of Speech Graphics says, “Speech is one of the most difficult things to animate convincingly, as the combination of fluidity and accuracy in natural speech is just so hard to capture in facial animation. People are very sensitive to this when you get it wrong because we are all focused on faces.

“With our technology we’re aiming for robust high quality, even better than what you can achieve with motion capture. And because it’s audio-driven, it’s at a price point that makes it scalable to huge amounts of speech.”

Speech Graphics is also on a development track to release a software product in the future which will enable customers to do this entirely by themselves.

About Speech Graphics
Speech Graphics Ltd is an award-winning spinoff from the University of Edinburgh’s world-renowned School of Informatics and the Centre for Speech Technology Research. Its founders Michael Berger and Dr. Gregor Hofer are speech technology experts with 20 years of combined experience in speech animation. The company has received a development grant from the Scottish Government, and other awards in the UK including a John Logie Baird Award for innovation and a Santander Entrepreneurial Award.

Speech Graphics at GDC
At the GDC Expo (March 7-9, booth #1843) the company will demo their technology producing lip sync in seven different languages. For more information visit www.speech-graphics.com or call +44 (0) 131 6686 911 or email info@speech-graphics.com.

Edinburgh Uni forms 35 firms despite economic downturn

Edinburgh University has formed 35 companies in the 2010-2011 academic year – down five from the previous year. Companies created include Speech Graphics, which develops software that realistically creates speech-synchronisation for video games. This recently won a John Logie Baird award for innovation. Another new firm – DestiNA Genomics – has developed a chemical test that detects genetic mutations.

Derek Waddell, chief executive of the university’s commercialisation arm ERI, said: “The strong number of companies formed in 2010/11 is further testament to the university’s expertise in creating businesses, even in difficult economic times.” He added: “These firms have real potential to contribute to the economy of Scotland and the UK, creating growth as well as new jobs.”

In the past five years the university has formed 143 companies. Around 75% of the companies are still in operation and employ more than 300 staff.