Troy: Enhanced Battles

Tens of thousands of men clash on the battlefields of Troy. Even the legions of extras, stuntmen and actors assembled and trained for the film weren’t enough to convey the enormity of the collision of the two fabled armies. For that, the filmmakers relied upon the visionary magic of a new breed of revolutionary visual effects.

Troy features the debut of “virtual stuntmen,” provided by leading visual effects houses The Moving Picture Company and Framestore CFC, employing technology pioneered by NaturalMotion. The software, called “endorphin,” was developed from research into the neurobiology of human motion conducted by Oxford University’s Department of Zoology. The ingenious program creates virtual characters whose bodies react exactly like real humans to whatever forces are applied to them ‘ unlike most computerized characters, which depend on fixed databases containing animated clips, endorphin’s virtual actors move independently, sensing and reacting to their environment in the same way humans do.

The process behind the artificial stuntmen’s ability to move and think, called “active character technology,” is centered around an artificial intelligence simulation of the human brain, body and nervous system. The virtual stuntmen learn how to move and react using artificial evolution, building up their store of knowledge over time. Muscle models within each character are identical to properties in actual human muscles, and information programmed into the AI nervous system sends impulses to the body’s muscles to achieve a given movement, such as maintaining balance or jumping.

Once programmed, the characters react on their own, providing an infinite variety of realistic reactions to action within a scene. For instance, neural networks responsible for self-preservation compel the soldiers in Troy to react to blows from their opponent with movements such as shielding themselves, attempting to maintain their balance, or breaking their fall. The ground-breaking technology allowed the vision of colossal armies engaged in furious combat to be realized in unprecedented detail and dimension.