A group of actors wearing MoCap Suits pose for a photo

Adult Education Students: Making their Mark in Video Games

“The core focus and purpose of our education department for adults is to provide a place for people to develop and hone their craft no matter what level they are at.”

The Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ Education program offers a wide range of classes from introduction to acting, scene study, stage combat, and more. A unique part of the program is that teaching artists largely continue to work within the theatre community, providing students a rich learning opportunity.

Headshot of actress Erika Mori

Erika Mori

One such teaching artist, Sylvia Gregory, occasionally teaches general audition prep and on-camera classes and owns a casting agency. Recently, Gregory worked with a local video game developer, Deck Nine Games, as their Casting Director for the “Life is Strange: True Colors” video game, starring local actress and DCPA education student Erika Mori.

Mori began taking classes at the Denver Center in 2017 to infuse more creativity into her day-to-day life. She met Gregory during “Get Ready for the Generals,” a class Gregory and her husband and local actor Sam Gregory taught together.

“We both remember Erika starting in the back,” Gregory shared. “By the end of the eight-week class, she was totally into it. She came alive in that class.” After receiving the specs for the video game, Gregory reached out to Mori and encouraged her to audition.

“Life is Strange” is an award-winning and critically acclaimed narrative video game series where everyday heroes wield supernatural powers. Regardless of your choices, the experience will stay with you forever.

A group of actors wearing MoCap Suits pose for a photo

Photo courtesy of Deck Nine

In their most recent game, “Life is Strange: True Colors,” Mori provided motion capture, facial capture, and voice-over for protagonist Alex Chen. Before “Life is Strange,” Mori had only participated in traditionally staged shows. “Video games are produced more like TV and film,” she mentioned. “You capture sections of scenes and smaller moments, often doing several takes to get it just right. Only the best version ends up making it into the game.”

Some video game developers hire several actors when animating games. One actor will do the bodywork, another the face capturing, and a third the voice-over. For “True Colors,” Deck Nine wanted the actors to own these characters, so Mori suited up. Computers tracked and recorded her movements and then transferred that data to virtual 3D imaging.

“It’s filmic acting,” Gregory explained, “but what you’re adding to it is the physical awareness of the suit and its markers and how the computers are capturing everything.”

Artwork for Life is Strange Remastered featuring the faces of two women

Artwork courtesy of Deck Nine

Gregory was also the Casting and Performance Director for “Life is Strange: Remastered Collection.” Remastering consists of updating the technical elements from the original content. In this instance, they captured the actors’ real emotions as they lived through the scenes, which the animators then referenced for their animations. Gregory hired ten actors for the project, including another DCPA education student, Ryan Stack.

Headshot of actor Ryan Omar Stack

Ryan Stack

“These actors had to lip-sync perfectly, have the same emotional journey the original actors had, and tell the story the original actors told,” Gregory explained. “It’s a very specific job, I needed someone versatile, and I knew Ryan could do it.”

Stack stumbled upon the DCPA Education program in 2016 while searching for somewhere to continue working on his craft. After several intro classes and a part in McCracken’s one-act, Stack received a two-year scholarship from the Education Department and shifted to more advanced level classes.

“I first met Sylvia in her ‘Advanced Auditioning’ course,” Stack shared. “She’s been casting in the Denver area for a long time and is incredibly knowledgeable about the business. Acting is such a collaborative process, and it’s great to have someone like her giving you hints on how to improve.”

Stack and his fellow actors played over 50 characters and studied the dialogue and scenes from the original game. They wore facial motion capture helmets on shoot days and played through the scenes they prepared. “The camera captured our faces, and the team compared our takes to the original,” Stack explained. “It was challenging because we had to redo the take if our lines weren’t timed perfectly with the dialogue.”

Stack and Mori are just two of the many success stories from the adult education program.

As summer registration opens, consider taking a class and joining fellow students as they learn and grow as actors and use those skills to onboard into the Denver theater community.