Brittany Goodwin Interview – The Motion Capture Actor Behind Samantha Byrne in Gears of War

My all-time favourite game series is Gears of War and recently, I was fortunate enough to have the chance to ask Brittany Goodwin some questions about her time working on the game series as the motion capture actor behind the beloved Samantha Bryne.
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Brittany Goodwin is a screenwriter, director, actor and author known who is behind some very recognisable projects such as “Secrets in the Snow”, “Secrets in the Fall” and “If You’re Gone”, a feature filmed based on Goodwin’s best-selling novel of the same name. Brittany has also formed her own production company, Every New Day Pictures, alongside her husband in 2010.

How did you get into Motion Capture work?
I sort of fell into it! My agent set me up with an audition and I showed up to Epic Games not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I distinctly remember wearing knee-high boots with my hair hanging in my face instead of dressing athletically as I assume is typically expected. But as soon as they handed me a prop lancer I started running around and shooting at imaginary creatures and just had a blast. I was beyond excited when my agent called and told me I got the role. I ultimately learned that the director liked the way I flipped my hair out of my eyes during my audition, which became a bit of a character trait for Sam!
How did you get involved with Gears of War?
Gears of War was actually my first ever Motion Capture gig. I had experience as a stage and film actress prior to becoming involved in Mocap, but I can easily say Motion Capture is one of my all-time favourite gigs to book. Gears definitely opened the door for me, and I have since played characters in several other games including Epic’s Paragon (Gadget).
What are some of your thoughts on Sam as a character?
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I always felt like Sam was very bad ass while still being a relatable, normal girl. Her snarky comebacks weren’t far from things I could see myself saying, so being able to put some”attitude” into her motions was always fun.
What are some of your fondest memories of your time recording the games?
Getting to know and bond with the other actors and the team was amazing, I am still close with many of them to this day. We shot pretty consistently over several months and became like a little lancer wielding family.
What was your reaction when Sam made a cameo in Gears of War 4?
I was giddy when a grown-up version of Sam showed up!! Not to mention “Baird’s special lady friend.” Glad to see she is ageing well.
What are some of your favourite Sam moments?
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I loved the on-going “relationship” between Sam & Baird. We had so much fun acting out the scene when Sam and Baird are struggling to hang on to the demolished edge of the ship and as she saves him from falling he says “I suppose you want me to say I’ve always loved you… but I don’t… I really, really don’t.” I remember the actor who played Baird and I would be sliding down the mat, losing some of our suit sensors during every take because we were squirming around so much!
What are some of your overall favourite moments from the game series?
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I honestly love the camaraderie between Marcus, Cole, Baird, Sam, and the others. They get under each other’s skin but at the end of the day they stick together and are a great team. The scene with Sam’s cameo in GOW4 was a great example of what we love about that group!
Who are your favourite characters from the games and why?
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Assuming I can’t say Sam (I’m a bit bias!) I would have to go with Cole Train. I love the flashback sequence when he is back on the football field in GOW3, he just always seemed to have a lot of heart under his tough exterior.
When you first started working on the games, did you ever think they would be as huge as they are now?
 
I had heard of the Gears of War franchise when I landed the gig, but I had no idea how big they were and would become! As a side gig, I worked briefly at Best Buy around the release of the game and the store was going crazy with merchandise and people coming in looking to purchase the game. I loved seeing the look of disbelief on people’s faces when I threw out “Oh yeah, this is a great game… I actually did motion capture for the character of Sam.” I don’t think many people actually believed me, or perhaps they just had no idea what I was talking about!
How would you describe Sam’s relationship with Baird?
Definitely love/hate. They can’t tolerate each other yet they seem to enjoy each others company in a twisted way. I think some of the best relationships are built on a little turmoil and that’s why I think their’s will last!
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Did you have much interaction with Rod Ferguson?
Rod stopped by set occasionally when we filmed, but for the most part, my interaction was with the cinematic team and the other actors. (Also possibly a good time to include my disclaimer that I am in no way a representative of Epic Games or Microsoft. I’m just a super lucky independent Motion Capture artist who got to brush elbows with some incredibly talented game designers!)
What sort of things would you have to do during the creation of the games? 
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Here’s a quick day in the life of a motion capture actor! We arrive to set usually an hour-two before we are expected to shoot because there is a lot of calibrating that has to take place. After dressing in our black suits we are donned with “markers” which are small silver dots that are placed all over the body, focusing on areas with joints. I believe this can be anywhere from 40-50+ markers, depending on the system. After the markers are applied we will step into the “volume”, which is essentially the stage that the many cameras are pointed at, to do a Range of Motion or ROM. This consists of specific movements for every moving part of the body, starting with touching toes and bending knees, working all the way up to rolling the neck and looking side to side, etc. This is recorded and used to calibrate our bodies with the character’s bodies. The beginning and end of every shot we T-pose with feet together and arms out, and at the end of the day, we will complete another ROM, shorter this time, to capture more data of the placement of each marker that assists the animators. The suits are tight and can be a little itchy, and there is LOTS of velcro involved so you may find yourself getting stuck to anything and everything, but I wouldn’t trade that spandex suit for anything!
Sam is such a loveable character, what do you think makes her stand out?
I just love her attitude and spunk. There are a lot of awesome female game characters but her personality really stands out to me. She can hold her own along with the guys while still cracking jokes and dripping sarcasm, and that makes her own cool chick in my book!
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Brittany for allowing me the time to interview her and I hope everyone enjoys the interview.

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