Novedge: Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do
Florin Stanculescu: My name is Florin Stanculescu, I am the Project Lead and Technical Artist on FaceRig. Together with a few friends and colleagues we hope to build something fun and fresh that would both entertain and spark creativity in many people around the world. :)
I have been involved in the game development industry wearing many different hats for almost 13 years and even though FaceRig is not a game per se, the technology used for the real time render and animation is pretty much identical. So there's a lot of know-how accumulated over the course of many years that fuels the FaceRig project.
Novedge: How did you come up with the idea for FaceRig?
Florin Stanculescu: Hmm, well that depends if you mean the basic idea of FaceRig (becoming any character by making faces at your webcam) , or the expanded FaceRig vision (a full high quality framework for virtual puppeteering and actors in a simulated digital environment, with an expandable/configurable sensor setup, and potentially haptic feedback as well).
The basic idea itself is not new, because at its core is just expression mocap coupled with real time visualization. It has been used in the game industry (and movie industry) for a long time, it's just never been brought to home use at a decent level of quality, at an affordable price, and as an open creation/expression platform. So I guess this is what we bring to the table: low cost, openness and commitment to quality. Maybe also the fact that we plan to make it very very easy to use.
The expanded vision is well... the expanded vision and what it can lead to is a bit nuts to be honest, and it comes from the sci-fi movies of our childhood... the expanded vision is our way of taking part in the worldwide effort of building the kind of entertainment platform that sci-fi movies have always tantalized us with.
We realized we had to try this on our own because it seems not many big companies are truly investing in it and researching this as a priority. The Oculus Rift after all came from a small start-up and not a big company, and that's only the most notable example. There's always a distinct need for passionate people working diligently in small companies if we are to have the Star Trek Holodeck, or the Matrix brain jack within our life time.
We do not delude ourselves that we will crack this problem on our own in the near future, but if FaceRig gains traction, we're determined to reinvest what we make into research (hardware and software) and to push hard in that direction, and hopefully others will try and do that too, and together we'll get somewhere. That's why our start-up company is called Holotech Studios :).
Novedge: What has been most important in developing and growing a successful team?
Florin Stanculescu: I wouldn't rush to call us successful already, we have a product to deliver first and we really are not the type to count the chickens before they are hatched :).
Let's see FaceRig in the hands of everyone, let's see them having fun with it, then we'll make the call if the team was successful or not :)
Sure we had a good campaign, but is that truly our merit alone? At least half of the credit goes to our enthusiastic backers, who have spread the news far and wide.
To put things in perspective: our marketing budget was a grand 300 US dollars (because really that was about all the money we could spare for the project at that point in time).
Most of it was spent on commissioning voice and translation services from Fiverr for the unveiling movie, and writing and distributing a proper press release. That's about it.
Everything else was our awesome audience, and genuine people who have resonated with what we are trying to do.
True, so far we've been successful at getting folks excited and willing to help :). We got discounts from anyone we've worked with, because everyone gets really excited when they see what we are trying to build. Technology licensing, web development, even our office space costs, we got good deals on all of that after we showed people what we are trying to build, so yeah I suppose we are doing something right. Probably it stems from the fact that all the team members are passionate about this and have a long history together in the game development trenches.
Novedge: How many characters are going to be available on FaceRig? Will it be possible for users to create their own characters?
Florin Stanculescu: FaceRig is going to be an open creation platform, we will try to train everyone to build their dream character.
We're hoping to get fast to a virtually infinite crowd-sourced character library.
What characters we build won't be that important in the larger picture... what we will build will probably be just the springboard for everyone else to jump in.
If you want cold hard numbers about what the team is going to build, we'll probably start with at least ten characters, and each expansion pack will probably add ten more (or more with the funds for outsourcing).
Novedge: You received great support on Indiegogo. What advice would you give to anyone looking into financing their project using that platform?
Florin Stanculescu: Learn from those who have done it before you, but also make sure you filter what won't work in your particular case.
Be honest about what you are trying to do, and make sure that it is something that matters to a lot of people.
Treat your backers with respect, and do whatever it takes to answers all their questions and concerns as honestly and as quickly as possible.
Novedge: What's next for FaceRig?
Florin Stanculescu: Right now? Finalizing the campaign and development. Tons and tons of development for the core features, and for the stretch goals, and all of it with community updates of course.
We are just at alpha, we'll have to pull apart our avatar system, put it back together again, and we'll have to do this many times, each time learning something new, each time a bit better. Then extra sensor support. Audio engine. Streaming engine. Virtual devices. The list is very long.
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