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…