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Baldur's Gate 3's mocap director goes into the full performance process

For the actors of Baldur's Gate 3, it wasn't just what they said, it was how they said it.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

August 29, 2023

2 Min Read
Key art for Larian Studios' Baldur's Gate 3 showing the game's playable characters/companions.

In a recent Twitter thread, Larian Studios' mocap director Aliona Baranova dug into the motion capture performances for the game's plethora of characters. She revealed that in addition to recording dialogue, the studio also elected to record the actors' physical performance data as well. 

Different games use motion capture in different ways, and some games have actors do both the motion capture and voice work. Facial capture can often be expensive (and time-consuming) all on its own, and that likely rises when full body capture is taken into account.

In her thread, Baranova added the near 250-person cast of Baldur's Gate 3, including NPC actors, did the mocap for their specific role. Characters are so "alive," in her words, because actors made physical choices while recording, which were sent with the audio files over to the animation team.

She continued by saying that for her, things truly clicked when she and the voice director "helped the actor connect to the text on a deeper, more physical level. When you could see what they were saying affect their bodies."

Dramatic flair

"The iconic head wiggles Jen [English] did as Shadowheart were Jen’s actual head wiggles," she added. Similarly, the "militaristic & alien like movements of Lae'zel" and "theatrical flare" of Asterion were owed to their respective actors, Devora Wilde and Neil Newbon.

For the most part, this was standard operating procedure during the game's development. However, she acknowledged that exceptions were made, such as during particular cinematics, when a character talks as the camera shifts to a top-down perspective, or when an actor voiced an animal.

But overall, Baranova said it was a team effort to make performances come together as they did for the game. For her, those performances work "because the actors weren’t simply speaking the lines, they were feeling the emotions & meaning of what they were communicating with their entire bodies."

"When you watch the in-game dialogue, you’re not only hearing the actors voices but you’re also seeing their physical performances." 

More of Baranova's thoughts on performance capture for Baldur's Gate 3 can be read here.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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