July 27, 2017

Q&A with Mocap Alumni Erik Link

Erik Link working on Call of Duty Black Ops 3

This year we are excited to welcome alumni Erik Link, a freelance motion capture specialist and animator, back to UAT for a presentation at Tech Forum. We decided to get him warmed up with a Q&A sesh about how he got into motion capture and why networking is so important in the competitive world of game development.

Learn more about Erik in his bio and read our Q&A with him below!

Erik’s bio:

Erik began learning motion capture animation in 2008 through THQ as a mocap intern and kept focusing his craft of mocap animation on various indie films and games through the years. Erik’s most recent indie project was Kitaru, where he provided various mocap animation for the game. There he was able to work with Dedeker Winston and Christopher Emerson, whose work in various films and video games have inspired him. From that opportunity, Erik was picked by the Activision Capture studio to help with motion capture work on Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, which releases November 2015. Currently Erik is in the process of bringing a motion capture facility to Arizona, which will hopefully be fully operational by January 2016.

What was your first video game/ console? Golden Axe for the arcade

How old were you when you decided you wanted to create video games as a career? 13

What was your major at UAT? Game Design

Who was your favorite professor at UAT? Lynn Understiller

Did you have any internships while at UAT? Yes at THQ, as a mocap intern.

What is your current job? I’m a freelance motion capture specialist and animator.

What well-known video games have you helped create? Call of Duty: Black OPS 3 – watch the trailer! (Mature audiences only)

What was your role in game development for Call of Duty: BO3? I helped in various ways in recording motion capture data and helped clean the data to be processed onto respective characters.

Do you play the games you have helped to create? How does it feel knowing you had a hand in making this game cooler, faster, better? Yes, it feels very shocking knowing that you actually helped create this property when you are used to seeing just dots and basic mesh models all day and then you finally get to see the end product.

What is the most valuable skill you have learned since graduation and having spent time working in the industry? The most valuable skill would be patience and persistence, as it took a while for me to get hired working on big property doing mocap.

What was your favorite class at UAT? Motion capture class.

Erik Link in motion capture suit.

On the set of Call of Duty: Black Ops 3, Erik Link in a motion capture suit.

Who are your idols? Who do you look up to in the industry? Andy Serkis, Walt Disney, John Lasseter, Pete Docter and James Cameron.

How does Motion Capture play a role in game design? Motion capture, in essence, is the capture of motion requiring technical knowledge from various animation software knowledge to game engine, but at the same time allows for huge creativity in creating a scene with actors. You have the ability to capture any human performance and emotion for games and videos, but requires a huge understanding of technology to help create the final end product. Game design helped me learn the technical side to every software being used in the industry and also how to be creative with what you are working with.

What is Motion Capture used for primarily? It is known for use in video games and in movies where actors wear a suit that helps create a digital character. However, it’s most popular use is in biomedicine, helping patients measure the motion they produce for various procedures.

How did you get noticed within the industry – how did you get your first AAA job? After my internship with THQ, I focused my skills on motion capture where I worked on various indie games in Arizona. I applied for a position at Activision and they asked me for an interview. During the interview, I recognized that the person interviewing me was Mike Sanders, who had interviewed me a year prior for a job at ILM. Once he recognized me, we ended up having an hour long discussion about mocap, where the interview was only supposed to last twenty minutes. Three hours later, Activision sent me an email saying that I was hired!

Erik speaking to Game Design students at Tech Forum

Erik speaking to Game Design students at Tech Forum

What advice do you have for other game students to find their dream job? Find what you love to do and hone that skill. Never give up and keep on pushing forward. I went through many interviews with no success, but I kept pushing forward and ended up working on one of the biggest games of this year, actually helping them to meet their deadline.

If you had to go back, would you do anything differently in college? I would have spent more time on keyframe animation.

What excites you about your career? The ability to work with actors and help invoke life to a digital character.

We hear you are looking to bring a Motion Capture studio to Arizona. Can you tell us about your future plans? So far, it’s still in the beginning stages, but I have acquired my own facial capture equipment and body equipment which it’s able to help out any clients in need of animation even its big budget or indie.

You can follow in Erik’s footsteps with a degree in Game Design or Game Art and Animation.

www.uat.edu

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