Why Uncharted 3 Isn't Using Facial Motion Capture

With some big-budget games with strong narratives—L.A. Noire, Resistance 3—now using facial motion capture to add depth to their characters and dramatic impact to their scenes, it's somewhat noteworthy that Uncharted 3 isn't. There's a reason for that, though.

"It gives us more flexibility to pick the best physical performances and the best audio performances and put them together," Naughty Dog's Josh Scherr told a packed audience at Comic-Con's Uncharted 3 panel yesterday.

Following the filming of a sequence, the crew then would sometimes call for "isolation" audio recording of lines or other voice work. For example, "exertion," in which the cast took turns supplying grunts for a sequence in which all three remove a well covering. Without facial capture, this can be matched to the action more fluidly in post-production.

Scenes still are filmed with all cast members present and acting together, using props that, in a behind-the-scenes video shown at the panel, look downright silly. Richard McGonagle (greeted by the audience with hearty a "goddamn!") chews on a highlighter when he plays the cigar-chomping (and goddamn-saying) Sully. A couple of orange sticks served as shotguns. A piece of plastic that looked like a film reel canister was a precious artifact.

"But it's not a piece of plastic in here," McGonagle said, tapping his chest. He and cast members Nolan North (Nathan Drake) and Emily Rose (Elena Fisher) said that filming the scenes together not only built camaraderie and enabled more authentic interactions, they allowed writer Amy Hennig and the producers to tinker with the scenes and offer rewrites on the spot.