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It's in the game

by Derek Jory / Vancouver Canucks
Getting Eddie Lack to sit still can be a tall task.

The boisterous 26-year-old Vancouver Canucks goaltender recently made a visit to the EA Sports campus in Burnaby, BC; the adventurous afternoon began with a tour of the facility, home to approximately 1,500 employees belonging to the EA Sports, EA Games, PopCap, and Central Technology and Services teams.

The studio, which opened in 1999, is EA’s largest at over 400,000 square feet. As explained on our tour by Susanne Pengelley, manager of events and employee communications, the campus consists of a motion-capture studio, rooms for composing, video editing suites, and production studios.

That stuff was cool and all, but what really caught Lack’s attention – and had him ready to move in – was the fitness center, theatre, soccer field, basketball court, video games room and of course the doggy day care service, for Bella, Lack's dog.

“When can I move in?” joked Lack, seriously.

Turns out sleeping quarters are all that EA doesn’t offer, otherwise Lack might actually move in.

“Not really. But maybe.”

The reason for Lack’s visit, on top of testing out a few games, was to get his head photographed for use in NHL14 and NHL15, the latter set for release this fall in North America and Europe.

The process was quick and painless, all Lack needed to do was sit statuesque while countless blinding lights beamed and 14 hi-res cameras simultaneously took photos from every angle.

“We then merge these images together and it creates a 3D image out of it – the quality is amazing, it’s photo realistic,” explained Nigel Nunn, digital imaging lead and mastermind of the Capture Lab. “We get every angle possible and the detail is amazing, gets right down to behind someone’s ear.”

It’s a good thing Lack cleaned his ears before visiting.

“We do have that type of resolution, we could find out if he didn’t,” laughed Nunn.

The Head Scanning Thingamajig, as no one has ever referred to it before, is one of two photo Head Scanning Thingamabobs used by EA Sports to capture headshots. The second, which Lack posed for next, also has 14 cameras, but twice as many lights, it’s filtered and it takes twice as many photos.

It’s also top secret?

“This one is sort of a super secret system and Eddie was the first one to be exposed to it. It’s taking our first machine to the next level; I’m not sure how much we’re allowed to talk about it, but really it’s just taking shots that allow us to measure the reflectance of someone’s skin. In game when we light the rink and ice, the skin actually reflects like their real skin does. We’re trying to make every character as realistic as possible.”

Lack’s freshly scanned head will be in an upcoming update to NHL14 and NHL15, which Lack had a chance to test.

Sean Ramjagsingh, producer of the EA Sports NHL series, sat Lack down in his office and showed him precisely how much detail has gone in to revamping the game to make NHL15 the best yet and a must own for hockey fans and gamers alike.

Zooming in on the jersey of a Detroit Red Wings player, Ramjagsingh revealed the precise stitching on the sweater, the way it moves independent from the player and how the lighting changes depending on angles.

It wasn’t long ago players in NHL games were giant blobs clumsily stuttering their way down the ice on cheese graters, "now it almost looks more real than real life,” said Lack. “It’s amazing to see how much work goes into these games, I’m happy me coming in helped out. I’ll gladly come back anytime.”

Lack wasn’t in the running for the NHL15 cover vote, but NHL16 should watch its back.

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