You just knew this was going to happen…

“Oh, look kids, there’s an old abandoned Skyrim up there on the hill! Let’s put on a show!”

It might sound ambitious, but they’ve already completed all the Lord of the Rings landscapes as a huge quest-free landscape mod for Skyrim‘s predecessor Oblivion. If you’re making Lord of the Rings machinima, and need the landscape video-backdrops, that sound like the mod to have. Controllable weather, lighting, wind-blown trees, moving skies, and more… but you might want to wait until they’ve ported it to Skyrim, which it seems they’re planning now we have the Creation Kit.

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Real-time “webcam to facial animation” tech to plug into games and software in 2012

Image Metrics today released the Windows software development kit (SDK) for its new Live Driver, an interesting-looking markerless real-time “webcam to facial animation” technology.

Live Driver is not standalone software. Rather it’s technology that a game or software developer can licence, customise via the SDK, and then offer as a plug-in. If this works as advertised, then multi-player games and Second Life seem likely to take this up quite quickly in 2012. iClone, I guess, would also be a natural home — bringing markerless real-time facial motion-capture to the masses, in recordable and replayable form. The webcam can be a normal consumer-grade video camera, or so Image Metrics say, and…

“The software tracks in real-time key features of the face on every frame, and instantly analyzes the most nuanced facial expressions, which allows the character to replicate a user’s precise facial movement and, even more importantly, to convey their actual emotions. Live Driver is a lightweight client application with minimal hardware requirements.”