The Marvel Cinematic Universe. James Cameron’s “Avatar.” “Call of Duty.”
Logansport Junior High seventh and eighth graders in Karina Fauble’s Computer Science Discoveries class were taken into a multiverse of possibilities Thursday morning during a virtual conversation with Marc Morisseau, a Hollywood motion capture editor, animator and indie video game developer.
Morisseau includes among his many credits “Ant-Man,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” His video game credits include “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare,” “Resident Evil 6,” “Titanfall” and “Battlefield 4.”
He is currently working on the upcoming “Avatar” sequels as part of James Cameron’s production company Lightstorm Entertainment. He also used downtime during the COVID pandemic to work on his own video game, a survival horror game called “Cold Fortune.”
Fauble led a discussion with Morisseau over Google Meet using questions composed by her students, who study HTML and web page design in the class.
“There are a lot of similarities between computer programming and the technical side of mo-cap (motion capturing),” he said. “I didn’t get back into programming until I was working in mo-cap. You learn programming to get your task done a little faster.”
Motion capture is the process of a human actor performing in a special suit that records the character movement and allows the animator to replace the actor with a digital creation. Perhaps the most famous example is Gollum from the “Lord of the Rings” films.
“I only fell into motion capture because I was in animation,” he said. “I wanted to work in games but I thought I wanted to be a character modeler or animate weapons and spaceships. I ended up falling into motion capture because I wanted to do a 3-D project with a lot of characters. My advisor told me that if I wanted to do so many characters in a short amount of time I should look into motion capture.”
Morisseau has been both behind the camera and in front of it when it comes to motion capture. He recalled playing a litany of monsters in a “Call of Duty” zombies mode in 2016.
“I was a giant crab, a werewolf thing, a Jason-style slasher,” he said. “It’s fun. You get to go crazy and destroy stuff.”
Morisseau answered questions from his California home, an Ant-Man suit on display behind him and a Luigi (from Super Mario Bros.) doll peeking out from behind a monitor to his side.
He explained he built the Ant-Man suit himself after his boss refused to steal a suit from the Marvel movie set for him
He advised the students to take initiative and be a helper when they are old enough to be in a work setting.
“You will go far,” he said. “People will say ‘I remember working with that person and we are going to hire them because we know that person is right for our team and we’ve had a successful experience with them.'”
His video game, “Cold Fortune,” grew out of a COVID project and he took the story from a comic book he wrote in. He started by doing a six minute cinematic movie in Unreal Engine, one of the leading video game design platforms in the industry, that showed how the game would play as a means to show off his idea and find funding that would allow him to hire people to help him work on the game.
“Cold Fortune” takes place in a snow apocalypse set in Morisseau’s home city of Detroit. He described the game of being reminiscent of old “Resident Evil” games, “Metal Gear Solid” and “The Last of Us.” He plans to release the game on PC but also hopes the Nintendo Switch, X-Box and Playstation are possibilities.
He made the video game with grants from Humble Games Black Game Developer Fund, a development fund for people of color or companies run by people of color, and an Epic Mega Grant from Epic Games.
As the 40 minute class came to a close, Fauble asked the artist what was like leading his video game development team.
“Everything is hard about being the boss,” he said. “But I’ve had good teachers. Before COVID happened I was using James Cameron as my teacher. I would go down as much as I could be on set just to watch him work, listen to him work, see what kind of things he was paying attention to and what things he is prioritizing. I try to understand as much as possible how to delegate and how to manage so much. I couldn’t imagine shooting four films at once to the scale that he is doing.”
The students in the class were treated to an announcement that the trailer for “Avatar 2” would debut on May 6 before “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.”
Fauble met Morisseau 15 years ago when her 10-year-old daughter worked with him on a film at the University of Michigan. They remained acquaintances and she asked if he would speak to her students.