UNCHARTED 3: A Peek Behind the Digital Curtain

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UNCHARTED 3: A Peek Behind the Digital Curtain

The blockbuster success of James Cameron’s Avatar proved what many gamers and game developers already knew: Motion capture is the future of performance. The film’s groundbreaking use of mocap technology caught the attention of Hollywood and the game industry, raising interest in perfecting the nascent craft with a combination of new technology, refined processes, and good old-fashioned acting chops.

”We’ve developed a unique process for motion capture and performance capture for games,” UNCHARTED 3 Creative Director Amy Hennig explained during a recent tour of Naughty Dog’s cutting-edge new mocap studio in Culver City, California. “We’re kind of ahead of the pack.” Hennig described the evolution of the UNCHARTED series’ motion capture technology, beginning with the humble stage used to record UNCHARTED: Drake’s Fortune. It was an outdated, uncomfortable place to perform, equipped with a camera array that painted the room with eye-searing red light. And its poor acoustics made dialog recording impossible, so in-game speech had to be added later.

UNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception - Motion Capture Scene

“We cast very carefully, that’s step one in any project. If you cast hastily or badly, you’re screwed forever. If you cast well, you can write any piece of crap and they’ll make it sound wonderful. Trust me, I’ve done it!”
— Amy Hennig, Creative Director, UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception

Following UNCHARTED’s breakout success, Naughty Dog upgraded to the vastly more sophisticated facilities at the House of Moves for UNCHARTED 2: Among Thieves, a game that further strained the boundaries of cinematic game storytelling. The House of Moves facilities featured an integrated sound stage that enabled Naughty Dog’s team to record dialog while simultaneously capturing the actor’s physical performances — a then-unheard of process that is quickly becoming the gold standard for video-game performances.

UNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception - Motion Capture SceneUNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception - Motion Capture Scene

An array of 86 infra-red cameras capture the actors’ physical performances with eerie precision. The studio’s integrated soundstage lets the actors deliver their lines seamlessly along with their movements.

Now, with UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception, the team is shooting on its very own cutting-edge mocap set, the culmination of years of pioneering experimentation in game storytelling. Though the sets and props are largely virtual, Hennig and her team make frequent comparisons to shooting for television. “We don’t have the luxury of writing a big script in an ivory tower,” she explained. “We have an outline that we work from and we write the scenes as we go.” That looser approach gives Hennig and her storytelling team the flexibility to adapt to script changes or make tweaks based on a performer’s strengths. “As the writer, I get to learn the actor’s voices — their cadences, their idiosyncrasies, and I write them right in,” Hennig said. “Their characters become infused with their personalities.”

UNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception - Motion Capture Scene

UNCHARTED 3’s high-tech motion capture process converts the actor’s movements into 3D datam which displays in real time over a simple approximation of the game environment. Later, animators and artists adjust the mocap data and drop it into the final game.

Actor Nolan North — who performs as series frontman Nathan Drake but also boasts an impressive resume of film, TV, animation and game performance work — raved about working with Hennig’s team on the UNCHARTED series. “I find that movie stars aren’t that interested in doing games, but actors are. There is a freedom and a beauty of doing this that’s like going back to the roots of black-box theater. It’s collaborative; it’s the true actor experience.” North also pointed out a rapid shift in the perception of video game performances among actors. “It’s changed. I know people who used to do video games and told me, ‘oh, eventually you’ll move on to animation.’ And now they’re trying to get back into games!”

UNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception - Motion Capture Scene

“This might surprise some people, but we don’t just play Drake and Sully. Sometimes I’m mocapping the guy whose neck I’m breaking! Sometimes we play as the bad guys…in UNCHARTED 2’s train sequence, you’ll notice that one soldier runs with a bit of a limp. That’s me, chasing me, and getting blown up by propane tanks.”
— Nolan North (as Nathan Drake)

UNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception - Motion Capture SceneUNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception - Motion Capture Scene

This humble array of sandbags and carpentry will be transformed into a realistic vehicle in the digital world of UNCHARTED 3. (Right) Naughty Dog pioneered the process of capturing motion and dialog simultaneously for video game performances, eliminating the disjointed feel found in some other game performances.

UNCHARTED 3: Drake's Deception - Motion Capture Scene

“Amy writes a great script. It’s like a strong tree, and we just branch from it,” Nolan North says. “If you let actors go too much with ad-libbing, when you don’t have a strong story structure, it becomes a mess. We do our thing, and then Naughty Dog takes it and makes magic.”

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15 Author Replies

  • UNCHARTED, L.A. Noire, and Heavenly Sword lead the pack when it comes to motion capture. I can’t wait to play UNCHARTED 3: Drake’s Deception. The future of video game development is looking bright!

  • I cant wait for Uncharted 3. I pre-ordered it from Game Stop 2 weeks ago all with Battlefield 3. I also picked up some PSP games and some PSN cards. The network outage did not stop me from buying games for the best gaming console.

    I know Uncharted is in the works for NGP but what the Xperia Play? I am going to get this phone and it would be cool if one of my favorite game series is available on it.

  • Uncharted 3 is going to set the bar once again! Can’t wait to play this! Naughty Dog rules!

  • I cant wait for his game! If I had the money i’d pre-order it and pay it off in full now. But that can be a good thing if they end up anouncing a collectors eddition so I can put money on that :D If its anything like the GT5 collectors eddition then im getting it. Oh please please please make a collectors eddition!!

  • uncharted 3= eyegasim

  • Naughty dog,

    I loved Uncharted 1 but Uncharted 2 was a disappointment for me for the following reasons:

    1) I was expecting Uncharted 2 to fix the hand holding logic for the platform/jumping parts. It is a complete shame because there is no challenge in those parts since you jump and the CPU fixes any mistakes the user makes which makes all those parts completely unnecessary. You might as well just make them CGI cutscenes to be honest.

    2) Uncharted 2 left the awesome lush jungles for mundane scenery (Although some levels were awesome, they were not as beautiful as in the first Uncharted).

    3) The second game decided to make the bullets slower for some reason maybe because they wanted to get the same feeling as Gears of War 2, which is a complete shame. Stop imitating other games and create something unique.

    Uncharted 2 had no real innovations in terms of gameplay whatsoever. Yes, you added the stealth kills but to be honest that was all about it.

    There is a reason why I got only 45% of trophies on Uncharted 2 compared to 100% on Uncharted 1, and that was because I lost interest. Please innovate on the gameplay department first and then focus on cinematics and motion capture second!


    • Thanks for the feedback! Most people I know vastly prefer U2 to U1, but it’s nice to see some well thought-out counterpoints!

  • Can’t wait!!!

  • this is nice and all but there are ppl out there that are fans of other genres,ya know…like i dont know rpgs? :0

  • ok you done Uncharted 3 so why not give us a jak and daxter game for the ps3 or give us an hd collection. what do you say Sid think you can do that for us

  • Cant wait for this game.

    Does ND plan on releaseing a collector edition for U3?


  • Very, very cool video and tech. Can’t wait for this game.

  • Man…this is really damn hollywoodian…..Can’t wait for it!!!

  • Wish the video was longer. It was more of a musical montage.

  • I agree with coment 54

  • If I had to pay another 60 bucks for a documentary of Uncharted 3’s production, I totally would.

  • Man I’m reading through these comments and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the bloggers on here are actually kind enough to go through and talk to us. Thanks guys for caring about the players.

  • Sweet

  • Sometimes I like to see videos like this rather than a new trailer or gameplay footage. It gives us a different way of looking at something so many of don’t realize is there. The people who make the game.

    • Glad you like it. We try to showcase many different kinds of content on the PlayStation.Blog, from the latest game trailer to raw gameplay footage to an intimate interview. Nothing’s off limits! Well, mostly… :)

  • i cant wait

  • Without any doubts, this is gonna be an amzing game !

  • Hope its not encrypted with the 3.60 sdk :)

  • Would Cloie(if I spell the name rite) and Ellana will be taking part in Uncharted 3

  • I can’t wait.
    The new villainess has me very interested. Such a witch!

  • Hey Sid!

    Thanks for answering my question yesterday over the Resistance 3 post.
    Much appreciated!!!

  • EPIC!!!!!!!!!!

  • I can foresee “Uncharted 3 is The Game of the Year with 40+ awards”

  • omg i got just what i asked for.some uncharted 3 news!w00t thnx sony

  • sorry to toll guys, but according to reports PSN in Japan got hacked, go to gamepro.com for more details!

  • Add me if you like uncharted 3 and uncharted 2 multiplayer :)

  • I hope the next episode of the documentary from 2-player productions will come soon! What they showed off at PAX East was awesome.

  • your already know this going to be the game of the year, can’t wait for the game

  • sorry to troll guys but PSN got hacked in Japan. Go to gamepro.com for more details!

  • The game looks dumb as hell.

  • I loved U2 so much. I’m mostly an RPG’er but U1& U2 had something for nearly everyone. The only thing I’m mad @ is Mark whatis cast as movie Drake. Not good enough! But Naughty Dog, you people are the pinnacle! Even with the recent ahem problems, isn’t it an awesome time to be a PS3’er?!!!

  • Sharingan_itachi

    What camera is that?

  • This is why I love you guys…you give the fans what they want…you proved it through every series from Crash to Jak to Uncharted…can’t wait and also can’t wait to see what you guys do next…do you think this will be the last Uncharted…I’d be happy either way as long as you guys are still making games.

  • Can’t wait for U3, I absolutely loved Uncharted 1 and 2 and U2 is still one of the best looking games I have ever seen. Have they upgraded the engine for U3? Or it is just going to be the same one they used for U2? Cause while U2’s engine still trumps any game out now, it still would be nice to see it get even better.

  • SerialKiler4Life

    this one is going to be so good

  • add me FeirceCombat77

  • gonna be a rich and nasty game indeed lol

  • November will be a long wait but i can handle it i think!


    Reuters reports that So-Net, the Japanese Internet service provider part of Sony, has been attacked by an intruder who stole virtual points from account holders worth 100,000 yen, or approximately $1,225.

    “At this point in our investigations, we have not confirmed any data leakage,” the company said in a statement to customers on its website. “We have not found any sign of a possibility that a third party has obtained members’ names, addresses, birth dates and phone numbers.”

    So-Net has suspended all So-Net points transactions pending investigation of the intrusion, and has encouraged all its customers to change their passwords to something new — and more secure. Meanwhile, PSN and Sony Online Entertainment services are well on the way to being fully restored after the recent outages.-Gamepro


    Well my question is doe’s Uncharted 3 has more graphics than Crisis 2


  • i have played uncharted 1 and 2. but i do not own them once uncharted 3 comes out ill buy 3 then back part 1 and 2

  • A Whole lot of time and money seems to be going in this game I have not always been a fan of uncharted do to being only single player campaign and no local co-op but I might check this game out

  • im buying uncharted 3 when it comes out !

  • Hot damn, I cannot wait for this game to release. Only game all year I’m pre ordering instead of just walking in day of release. I want more uncharted!

  • ChuckMorningwood

    Uncharted is the greatest of the greatest! I can’t wait to see an in-depth look at the multi-player.

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