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Sights and Sounds Presentation
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Hello NCAA Nation,

I’m Jeff Ostergaard the Art Director for NCAA Football 13. It’s been a pleasure to direct the visuals for this year’s product, as we celebrate our 20th Anniversary. This cycle we’ve made some unprecedented choices when looking back over the 20 year history of the product. I can’t wait to share with you some of the new additions and improvements specifically to our graphics.

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I’ve been with Electronic Arts- Tiburon for more than 7 years. Before I joined the NCAA Football Development Team this cycle, I previously directed the development of the lighting and effects for Madden, NCAA Football, and many other products at our studio. As a devout fan of our video game and as a huge college football fan, working with the NCAA Football Development Team has been a dream. Not only am I passionate about visually recreating the sights and sounds of college football for you, I also bring a strong love of the game and the traditions that surround it, stemming from my roots at The Shoe, and my home away from home, on the Olentangy River, the campus of The Ohio State University. OH…IO!

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That’s a little about me. Let me give you an exclusive behind the scenes tour and share some of what’s new in NCAA Football 13! It’s been an exciting year of development!

Greater Authenticity!

I’d like to jump in by introducing some of the new stadium improvements we’ve added this cycle. This year you’ll see we’ve added the newly constructed stadiums of Florida Atlantic University, in Boca Raton, and North Texas University’s new Apogee Stadium, in Denton, among many other stadium renovations. These are examples of what’s to come for representing greater accuracy in our game. For the first time in any of our sports products, this cycle we traveled to South Florida and Texas to introduce our new physically-based workflow. This consisted of a hyper-accurate laser scan of the architecture and the use of a SpheroCam HDR, which has re-defined how we use full spherical HDR photography. We’re leveraging the similar technology recently adopted by ILM and SONY and used in films like Martin Campbell’s “Green Lantern” and Raja Gosnell’s “The Smurf’s”. What makes this technology so nice to work with is that it provides us with the opportunity to collect the ideal combination of reference to author stadiums to the highest accuracy the console will allow. The laser scanner is moved to several locations throughout the stadium, always staying within the line of sight of the previous position. A scan is performed capturing millions of points in space, representing the architecture, contributing to one large point cloud of data that looked like this. Below is a visual representation of all of the point cloud data that was collected at our FAU reference capturing session.

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These new stadiums are beautiful and hyper-accurate. The increased accuracy not only improves how the stadium reacts to the lighting, but also how the stadiums are more accurately presented through our cameras. We no longer rely on a multiplitude of photographs, representing varying focal lengths and color temperatures or outdated blueprints, to understand and place every nook and cranny of a stadium.

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In addition to our new stadiums this year, it will also be the debut of our new multi-dimensional practice facility. The new facility offers both an offensive and defensive outdoor practice field nestled right up next to our indoor practice facility on our virtual college campus. You can now also start your two or three-a-day practices just as the sun is rising, on a cool brisk spring morning.

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For lighting and rendering this year innovation did not take its foot off the gas. First, I’d like to introduce progressive lighting, as pictured below in this concept piece.

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In our previous versions of the game you may have noticed big changes in the lighting at the change of the quarter or the half. With progressive lighting you’ll experience a natural progression of the sun and the stadium shadows as they traverse across the sky and field during game play. In addition, we’ve completely re-authored our sky technology, having done away with the old static cloud textures; we now animate the highlights, shadows, and the positions of the clouds, constantly adding variety to the environment. When you pick up your copy of the game I recommend super siming a few plays, as this new lighting feature has made the super sim and gameplay a more stimulating.

As many of you know we added HDR lighting last cycle. This time around we focused on tuning it to higher level leveraging the SpheroCam HDR to capture lighting reference far superior to anything we’ve had in the past. This new camera allows us to capture HDR images of our stadiums containing 26 F-Stops, with zero distortion, up to 50 megapixels, and the process is all automated with the push of a button. The image below is an example of a small portion of a much larger image representing on-field exposure throughout the day. Having sampled the lighting during multiple weather states and from sunrise to sunset, we are able to identify the minimum, maximum, and ideal exposures to more accurately represent the ideal range in game.

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The full potential of this new tool in our new physically-based workflow is only just starting to be tapped. The opportunity it provides for faster capture and higher fidelity HDR images will allow us to visit more campuses to collect unique data verses leveraging one set of generalized data to rule them all. This system will continue to make a great impact on the accuracy of our lighting and balancing of stadium and uniform materials for several years to come.

The last surprise for lighting and rendering that I have for you is motion blur. This is a feature that we’ve wanted to develop for several cycles, and now we’ve finally been able to include it for you. The addition of motion blur has helped the representation of the animation feel more natural, in addition to the new animations and hard work the team has put into game play. As our players or cameras move through space rapidly, you’ll notice the edge of the player softens as well as the surrounding textures.

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New traditional and non-traditional uniforms designs from Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour have exploded onto the college football scene the last few years. This last college football season was no exception, and we’ve got them all to share. This year we’ve added even more uniform pieces to our product than last year. You’ll see 233 new uniform pieces including the blindingly reflective Oregon and Notre Dame Helmets, the ProCombats, the unforgettable Maryland pride uniforms, and so much more!

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We also leveraged our new physically-based workflow to better tune our uniforms. The reference image below is as small portion of an image representing a large range of different uniforms, under many different lighting conditions. We captured multiple exposures, just as we did for the on-the-field reference; identifying how the material characteristics respond to a range of exposures. For example, this helps us to accurately identify at what point a white uniform can start to appear gray, when under exposed, and when it conversely blows out, when over-exposed.

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NEW Traditions!

What is college football without traditions? This year we’ve added 80+ more from across the collegiate landscape large and small. To begin, this year you’ll see the University of Southern California Song Girl squad and the University of Texas cheerleaders in chaps. The following images below briefly walk you through the many stages our character artists and animators go through to get these new characters into game. The images below represent when these characters were being sculpted. This initial process can take several weeks, with multiple iterations in-between, as we re-evaluate and scrutinize every detail until the sculpts match our key reference images perfectly.

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In the following image, we see the USC Song Girl next during the texturing stage. This process also goes through multiple reviews and iterations. From the stitching patterns, to how the material feels, as we finalize the textures, we often will make additional adjustments to the sculpt to finalize this stage in the process.

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Only after a technical artist has successfully imported the props and the animators have rigged, weighted, and animated the dance routine, we finally represent the USC Song Girl squad in game.

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Accompanying the cheerleaders are new mascot additions. Representing the spirit of Western Kentucky University you’ll see the addition of Big Red, and Texas A&M University’s Reveille during her sculpting stage. As with all of our mascots, they each have unique challenges. We’ve spent weeks making certain this First Lady of Texas A&M and her long mane look wonderful. Of course, we’d do nothing less for the highest ranking member in the Corps of Cadets.

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Beyond these additions you’ll see the Army, Navy, Air Force cadets and mascots parachuting into the stadiums. You’ll experience player celebrations, with all of the major rivalry and bowl game trophies, the Victorian-era Purdue University Boilermaker Special, and much more!

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I apologize because there is so much more to share. We haven’t even gotten started, but I have to return to help put the final touches on the game. I look forward to sharing more of what is to come in NCAA Football 13 with you in the near future. I appreciate you taking the time to hear about what we’ve been meticulously working on. Please continue to hit the boards and let us know how we can better represent your team, campus, and their many traditions. I look forward to hearing from all of you!

OH… IO! Go Buckeyes
Posted by Jeff Ostergaard at 03:14PM on Monday, April, 02, 2012

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