Ninja Theory’s Senua Studio ‘Has the tech to drive live VR concerts and social experiences’

Virtual reality (VR) has been championed by videogames since the inception of the modern head-mounted displays (HMDs), however there’s much more to the medium than interactive experiences. Healthcare, education, industrial and enterprise sectors have all shown interest, but there’s also other areas of entertainment that could benefit; UK development studio Ninja Theory are clearly aware of this.

Ninja Theory recently announced the opening of a new studio specialising in the creation of virtual characters through real-time motion-capture and rendering services, known as Senua Studio. The first implementation of this technology was showcased with Unreal Engine 4’s Sequencer software at this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC), San Francisco, and subsequently at SIGGRAPH, Anaheim, this summer. However, while the technology has been impressive for modern videogame experiences, that’s not where the upper limit lies.

Tameem Antoniades Chief Creative Director

“We wanted to find out [what the limitations are] for ourselves which is why we recreated the Senua GDC scene in VR,” stated Tameem Antoniades, co-founder of Ninja Theory. “We had it running at 90 frames per second back in the office and we released a 60 fps 360 video of it to the public. We also had Senua track your head position as you move around which gives you an amazing feeling of presence.”

Videogame engines, such as Unity and Ninja Theory’s collaborator, Unreal Engine, have struggled to categorise themselves in recent years. No longer are these development suites limited solely to videogame production, with partners such as McLaren Automotive, Audi, Airbus, IKEA and NASA all using the technology for showcase projects. Senua Studio’s performance capture technology can reach out beyond videogames, too.

“We also have the tech to live drive a performance and broadcast it into VR right now opening up possibilities for VR concerts or social experiences in the future,” added Antoniades.

“I can imagine concerts like those of Gorillaz or Hatsune Miku but where the digital avatars on stage are driven live by the performer instead of precanned videos. Or a theme park where actors play creatures that interactively chase around punters.”

Many VR pioneers have strived for live music performances in the medium, but these have mostly been limited to pre-recorded 360 degree videos, such as Jaunt’s Paul McCartney concert or Samsung’s Gear VR reveal featuring Coldplay. Bringing live performances streamed in real-time to VR HMDs would be a significant step forward, and doing so with virtual characters even more so.

Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice

“We’ve created demos for stage, VR and film but to really take it to the next level we want to work with visionary partners to bring it into a commercial setting and develop it further. I wouldn’t say it’s an off-the-shelf solution. Every step has to be perfect, from the actor scanning, to the art and modelling, shader work, facial rigs, facial solving, motion capturing, and so on and so on. It’s very complex and precise and so we set up Senua Studio to basically take that complexity away so that the focus is on the creative where the magic happens.”

Senua Studio is now open for business, but which clientele or projects the company is working on are not currently known. Ninja Theory has recently released its first VR videogame, DEXED, as a product of an internally hosted Game Jam and the 360 degree trailer for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is available here. VRFocus will bring you the full interview with Antoniades soon, as well as keeping you updated with all the latest details on Ninja Theory and Senua Studios’ works in VR.

Ninja Theory Releases Full SIGGRAPH Hellblade Presentation

At several leading events this year British developer Ninja Theory in collaboration with Epic Games, Cubic Motion, 3Lateral, House of Moves, Ikinema, Technoprops and NVIDIA, has been demonstrating real-time motion capture (mo-cap) for its upcoming title Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. First shown at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2016 in March, the demonstration was then tweaked for the SIGGRAPH Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques Conference and Exhibition 2016 in July. Ninja Theory has now released the full presentation for viewers to see their technology at work.

Parts of the Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice demo have previously been unveiled, with a 360-degree video released in May and last month Epic Games and Ninja Theory released a short behind-the-scenes documentary on the ‘making-of’ of the SIGGRAPH demo. This new video is the full presentation given to SIGGRAPH attendees.

Titled From Previs to Final in Five Minutes: A Breakthrough in Live Performance Capture, Dominic Matthews, Product Development Ninja, Ninja Theory, introduces the video for the real-time cinematography presentation. The experimental technology allows content creators to motion capture actors in real-time then process and render the data in Unreal Engine 4 using the Sequencer Tool. The whole process impressed those at SIGGRAPH that the Ninja Theory team won the Best Real-Time Graphics & Interactivity Award SIGGRAPH 2016.

For all the latest VR related Ninja Theory news, keep reading VRFocus.

Ninja Theory Launches Virtual Character Company Senua Studio

Back in March at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2016, Ninja Theory in collaboration with several other companies held a technical showcase of live performance capture for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Today the UK-based developer has announced Senua Studio, a new division offering specialised services to bring real-time virtual characters to life for stage, film, broadcast, videogames and virtual reality (VR).

With Senua Studio offering solutions for live capturing and rendering of realistic digital characters in virtual worlds, companies working with the studio will be able to rely on an entire technical pipeline. From the creation of realistic digital characters to making virtual sets, the Senua team allow cutting edge animation technologies to be accessible without the need for internal expertise.

Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice

Speaking of the announcement, Tameem Antoniades, co-founder of Ninja Theory said “We have demonstrated working solutions today, and want to push forward the future of real-time entertainment, be it live performances of digital characters for stage or broadcast, shooting fully-rendered CG scenes in real-time for previs, or interacting with believable characters in VR.”

While Nina Kristensen, co-founder of Ninja Theory and CEO added “With Senua Studio we are offering our considerable technological, artistic and production expertise to visionary partners excited about the impact real-time technology could have for their business”.

There are four key areas that Senua Studio can now cater for: Live Performance; Realtime Cinematography; Pre-Visualization and VR Experiences. With the studio’s real-time tech the team can capture actors, music artists and performers straight on to digital characters for stage or broadcast. Its real-time cinematography expertise allows shooting, editing and rendering final or near-final quality cinematics quickly, rather than the weeks or months it takes with traditional methods. While VR will be a key area for Senua Studio as the real-time virtual human technology will help deliver richer more immersive experiences.

For all the latest VR related news from Ninja Theory, keep reading VRFocus.