It turns out the key to realistic kissing in video games lies within an actor's ability to kiss the air convincingly while a camera is mounted mere inches from their head. At least that's how Ashley Johnson, the actress behind The Last Of Us Part II's Ellie, explains it.
With the help of more advanced motion-capture, Naughty Dog was able to animate a tender kiss between Ellie and her partner Dina, shown during a trailer of The Last Of Us Part II at Sony's E3 conference last week.
As The Verge reports, orchestrating the kiss took a lot of work. The mo-cap studio couldn't accommodate a lot of people, and so the scene had to be shot in sequences over the span of a few days, says director Neil Druckmann.
To capture Ellie's expression, Naughty Dog needed to develop more advanced facial capture, which in turn created more complicated facial rigs.
These advances resulted in better motion capture, but the rigs themselves made it harder for the actresses to get close to each other. Because of that, they needed to go cheek to cheek and pretend to kiss the air, resulting in an akward, but convincing template for animators to work with.