Carmel grad turns love of animation into video game career • Current Publishing


Tori Campbell admitted that she wasn’t much of a video game fan growing up.

“I really like board games,” she says.

However, she was a fan of animation.

“I was a Disney nerd growing up,” she said. “You couldn’t get me away from ‘The Little Mermaid’. It was more that (animation style) or Pixar or ‘Finding Nemo’ or that type of animation.

Today, the 2013 Carmel High School graduate is well immersed in the world of video games as a full-time stage technician employee at 2K Games in Petaluma, California. She is working on titles such as “NBA 2K22”, “WWE 2K22” and other unreleased projects. She started at the company in June 2020, a month after graduating from Ohio State University with a master’s degree.

“I’m working on the 3D animation process, combined with live performances from athletes or actors who come in for different types of projects,” Campbell said.

Campbell’s father, Tim Campbell, is an editorial cartoonist who started working for Current Publishing when Current in Carmel launched in 2006.

“I always had this artistic training growing up,” said Campbell. “From there I decided how I could fit this into the entertainment industry, sort of geared towards cinema and movies. But it’s a very difficult industry to break into, and you have to get your foot in the door.

Campbell had two internships where she worked on different types of video games. The first was a month-long internship in 2018 at House of Moves in El Segundo, Calif., Where she worked on “Mortal Kombat 11” and “Crucible”.

“The project was to have me work on stage with the talent, the developers and the director to create the dance sequence used,” she said.

Then, she interned at Activision Central Tech for three months in the summer of 2019 in Santa Monica, California, where she worked on “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare”, “Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War” and “Tony Hawk’s Professional Skater 1 & 2.

Campbell received a bachelor’s degree in animation from Savannah College of Art and Design, followed by a master’s degree in design, specifically digital animation and interactive media, from Ohio State. Ohio State Instructor Vita Berezina-Blackburn, an animation and motion capture specialist, said Campbell came to Ohio state well prepared.

“Motion capture is a strange field in that it combines the need to constantly evolve one’s technical knowledge and to work with people, artists and observers, coming from different disciplinary backgrounds and technical knowledge”, said Berezina-Blackburn. “During the many demonstrations, workshops and tours of our Motion Lab, Tori did a fantastic job communicating complex ideas and instructions, guiding participants in a thoughtful and friendly manner.”

Berezina-Blackburn said Campbell’s greatest personal achievement was her own collaborative project, based on the life of Ruby Bridges.

“This truly massive and timely effort resulted in a virtual reality experience with many characters played by OSU student actors,” said Berezina-Blackburn. “Tori, with his collaborator, conceptualized the project, carried out basic research, identified and hired several sensitivity / culture experts, recruited the actors, worked with a movement coach to lead the capture sessions, all in addition to the technical work required for processing. and edit the motion data.

2K Games director Alexandra Cristiani, left, pauses after placing a head-mounted camera on Tori Campbell for facial animation. (Photo courtesy of Tori Campbell)

Put it in motion

To start a project, Tori Campbell said that the game designer creates what he wants to do with the game or the storyline and the sketch.

“When it comes to our role in the process, that’s when we act with the actual human beings who are going to play the characters that are played for the script,” she said.

The actors or athletes are dressed in a costume with gray reflective balls, called markers. The camera correlates the image into a skeleton, which captures their movement.

“So in NBA2K, when somebody wants to select (Dallas Mavericks star) Luka Doncic, we can do the exact moves he’s making,” Campbell said. “We don’t invent it as we go along. In fact, we have the talent to do these moves. We’re trying to find out who’s on the cover. We don’t always have our cover athlete, but this year we got lucky and we got him.

Doncic, who is on the cover of NBA2K22, came to shoot right after the Mavericks’ playoff season ended in June.

There are 18 members on his team, and Campbell said members alternate between different positions.

“My favorite part is being able to form a really good relationship with our talents because we are there to put them at ease,” she said. “Whether it’s an actor or an athlete, we get to know them as human beings and not just another co-worker for the day. Seeing how their performances translate into our animation is really fascinating. When people play a game, they don’t think about the person impersonating the character.

There are seven different stations and stage technicians can alternate between them.

“With Luka I was marking him, making sure he had the right number of markers on his body, no less and no more,” said Campbell. “We were also in the process of determining what helmet size would be most comfortable for him to capture his facial data on set. We have to watch his face in the shot.

Campbell said there were probably less than 500 people with jobs like hers.

“It’s a very small industry,” she says.

She was able to embrace some video games.

“I like playing games that I haven’t worked on,” she said. “If I’m working on a game here, I know the story because I’ve been working on it for two months. I like ‘Cuphead’, which has ‘Steamboat Willie’ type animation (older style).

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