The Beatles: Rock Band -- A New Revolution in Gaming
RL: Using Maya was fine. It's a good tool but there have been some regrets in introducing more and more software. We're trying to pare down a little bit, but we would never do it to the detriment of the project. There is a tax with every tool you add to the pipeline.
BD: So, how did the new facial system work?
RL: It was a mixture of MoCap and keyframe and had a unique skeleton that allowed us to deal with the whole face and entire set of emotions.
BD: Tell me about working on some of the more imaginative sequences.
RL: As far as sequences and spaces and environments and such, we split them into two general groups: historical venues and dreamscapes. And historical venues are really fun because we get to riff on places that exist in the world and don't anymore that The Beatles actually performed in. This is really fun doing recreations and again putting it through our style filter.
BD: And what kind of input did you have from Paul and Ringo and the surviving family members of John and George?
RL: They were there and we weren't, so it was really great to get input from them about, for example, The Cavern Club. We have very limited media available. But to be able to hear from people at Apple and the folks in the band about atmosphere, that it was very smoky and dark and very close quarters, was [essential] because when we first started, we didn't have that.
And then the second group is the dreamscapes where we really got to experiment and spread out with imagery that hasn't existed before. And we went in a lot of different directions, like "Walrus," for example. It was very trippy and embraced the psychedelic nature of the later recordings, whereas "U.S.S.R." is very graphic with simplified color schemes related to propaganda art back then but also modernized and fluid. This is sort of a modern interpretation of their work.
BD: What kind of feedback did you get from The Beatles when they saw it?
RL: This one went pretty smoothly. They really liked it. We didn't get a lot of feedback on this one for changes, as far as I recall. They were pretty happy with what they saw, for the most part, and would only ask for subtle changes.
BD: What was some of the more interesting feedback you received from The Beatles or surviving family members?
RL: I guess the two that I recall are when Josh Randall, Chris Foster (the lead designer) and I went to Apple for the first time with images of George. And the style at that moment was very heroic, and I love George Harrison and the striking way he looks, and we made him very superheroesque, and dug in his cheek bones and chin and jaw line. And those guys at Apple were very critical in a very positive way. A lot of us have gone to art school and are used to having strong critiques, and these guys did an excellent job of honing in on the things that make these faces right. We came back really knowing we had to dig in again.
And then Yoko made a visit at one point here at the office to check out everything we were working on, and one of our favorite sequences was The Rooftop. And, again, just like The Cavern Club comments I made earlier, we weren't at The Rooftop, and there were all these subtle things that Yoko was amazing at picking up on, like the way the way the wind was blowing and how John had a very specific way of standing and how strong and bigger than life he was. It was kind of mind blowing for someone of her experience to sit down with my animator or my modeler and work one on one, artist to artist.
BD: And Paul, who is a big animation fan?