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Steven Ma’s Digital Double Is Only The Beginning

NExT Studios’ groundbreaking digital creation could lead to even greater things

The Tencent Games Annual Spark Conference 2022 unveiled more than games.

This year’s installment debuted a high-fidelity digital double of Tencent Senior Vice President Steven Ma. Six months in the making, it was the brainchild of NExT Studios and a result of intense development using next-gen technology, with the result setting a new bar for visual precision and functional capacity.

NExT’s ambitious endeavor required mastery of technical processes and plenty of design acumen, with the team harnessing photogrammetry and other technologies to bring a convincing digital human to life so that it could anchor an entire conference.

A key challenge for the team was the melding of both the digital recreation and real-life environments, which required them to build up to quality levels seen in blockbuster films and high-budget productions on television.

Add to that the human skin’s quality of absorbing light differently due to varying subcutaneous layers, the way hair is seen, and the complexities involved in facial expressions, it all meant that there was little room for error for NExT Studios, especially when multiple camera angles are used.

Capturing over 700 facial expressions and leveraging an algorithm to produce lifelike facial animations, the additional manual adjustments and robust animation works led to a lifelike creation, which could have been even more impressive with more development time.

Furthermore, the clothes must match the man. The use of both software solutions Marvelous Designer and actual reference clothing saw millimeter-level production to enhance realism. The way the clothing folded and moved is all recreated to a high degree of accuracy.

This digital double of Ma represents yet another step toward convergence and parity when it comes to digital creations for both the gaming industry and the traditional entertainment industry. As technology continues to improve, breakthroughs on both ends will lead to benefits that could change how consumers view content.

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