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Passion Pictures Creates Trailer for Harmonix's New Rock Band Game

Passion Pictures has just completed a cinematic trailer for the opening of the music videogame ROCK BAND. Created by Harmonix, a leading developer of music-based games, ROCK BAND is a new platform for music fans and gamers to interact with music as never before, challenging users to master the lead/bass guitar, drums and vocals as solo artists or cooperatively as part of their own band.

Passion Pictures worked on the ROCK BAND cinematic with Harmonix Art Director Ryan Lesser, who reviews 3ds Max for VFXWORLD.

Directed by Pete Candeland and with music by the legendary Deep Purple, the trailer pays tribute to the classic rock music video genre. The animated band thunders through the American desert landscape in a battered old car. The lead singer casually climbs onto the windscreen to give his performance and the rest of the band follow. As they progress toward rock stardom they are thrown onto their souped-up tour van. The van speeds up a narrow mountain road, they take a hairpin bend too fast and both band and van are catapulted into the air....

Said exec producer Hugo Sands, "We were delighted to be a creative partner with Ryan and Harmonix and work on the new ROCK BAND venture. We are finding more exciting new opportunities for our directors in games and online applications, and this is a good example."

The fully CG film was animated in XSI by an international team at Passion. It was rendered in mental ray and composited in After Effects. The characters were modeled with modo. Passion collaborated with Image Metrics to provide facial motion capture data for the lead singer, which was a first for the Passion team.

Added director Candeland, "With every new project we test new technology and new ways of working which is why we decided to experiment with motion capture."

As the facial animation needed to be very extreme and expressive in keeping with the music track used for the sequence, Passion and Candeland wanted to achieve a very stylistic animation, even though Image Metrics was animating a human character. The expressions needed to be exaggerated beyond what most people could achieve, so Image Metrics worked with Passion to do animation tests and iterations of the facial rig Passion produced to ensure it was up to the challenge.

The shoot was then completed in half a day with just one standard camera at the Passion Pictures studio. An actor lip-synced over the music track while giving an excellent facial performance. Image Metrics' technology then converted the movements of the actor's face into animation data and applied it to the lead character in the ROCK BAND trailer.

"We were very happy to add the facial animation to what was already a great piece of work by Passion Pictures," said David Barton, head of production at Image Metrics. "Everyone on the project was delighted with how the trailer looks, which is the real test in the end."

To view the cinematic and learn more about ROCK BAND, visit