Fine Art: A Man Who Makes Video Games Move

No disrespect to concept artists, but it's always great when I get to run a Fine Art on something other than traditional 2D work, if only because that's what we end up running most of the time. Today's a great day, then, because we're looking at one of the animators who has brought series like Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed to life.

Jonathan Cooper is an animation director at Ubisoft Montreal, but has previously done work with Eidos and BioWare. Among his credits are Mass Effect 2's cutscenes, the never-released Mass Effect multiplayer shooter, the original pitch for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Jade Empire and, more recently, Assassin's Creed III.

You can see examples of his work in the videos here, with more at his portfolio site.

Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists, showcasing the best of both their professional and personal portfolios.


    Beautiful stuff. But I do want to differentiate between being an animator and being an animation director. I'm not trying to put this man's work down, the skill and artistry involved in his work is very high, and he very probably is a decent animator as well, but this is all animation direction using motion capture, and not actual animation. Animation is a rich, subtle and immensely beautiful art form, and I'd be great to see some real animation highlighted in Fine Art.

    Also, if I sound bitter, it's because motion capture is a sore point and has taken a lot of the artistry (and money) out of animation. I feel like a portrait painter on the day photography is invented, sitting in my little studio and grumbling about how the camera does all the work.

      Great work indeed.

      However, is it confirmed that this is mo-cap? Is it in a 'making of' video somewhere? Talented individuals could create this animation without mo-cap, some can even sit down and smash out this kind of quality work without drawing sketches and planning the work before hand.

      I hope this isn't mo-cap, because then it would show a great understanding of balance/weight, and polish, which takes time to master, therefore this would be a nice technical demo reel. Compare that with the robotic animation you often see in games from time-poor animators creating hand-keyed animation to a budget and deadline.

      Last edited 31/08/13 6:27 pm

        The Assassins Creed and Mass Effect work is definitely mocap. You can see him giving the mocap actors direction at the end of his reel. Things like the walk cycles would have a lot of hand keyed work in them, but they were built off motion capture walks. The lip syncing and finger animation is probably also hand keyed. But the vast majority of the body animation, especially all the really impressive Assassins Creed fighting and movement is all just cleaned up motion capture data. It's still not easy to do, getting the impacts and contacts correct and smoothing out all the motion to make it flow, but compared to the skill and artistry involved in creating that level of animation from scratch... it's not even in the same ball park.

        It's definitely doable without mocap, there are heaps of talented animators making work of this quality by hand, but they usually choose to make more stylised motions as mocap is already very good at making believable human movement (and so much cheaper!). I'd compare it to artists who have the talent to paint what they see photo-realistically, but most of them choose not to because otherwise they'd just be "meat cameras", photography already does that faster and better. Which leaves them painting photo-realistic renderings of things that don't actually exist, or painting things that exist but stylising it in some artistic way, such as emphasising or simplifying certain visual qualities.

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