Last June, DJ Green Lantern thought a more suitable superhero name for himself might be Hip-Hop Aquaman.
Why? Because that's the kind of thought that goes through a DJ's mind when he's decked out in a skintight black-and-turquoise suit with 100 sensors attached to his face and body. Forget traditional hip-hop garb: The scuba-style getup was the only wardrobe required to record authentic Green Lantern moves for "And 1 Streetball," a basketball video game coming out this week from developer Black Ops Entertainment and publisher Ubisoft.
Typically, video game makers squeeze superstar basketball players, pro wrestlers or Tiger Woods into a motion-capture suit to accurately replicate their moves for games. White sensors shaped like ping-pong balls are attached by Velcro to the dark, form-fitting suit from neckline to toe (and on a decidedly un-stylish beanie cap). Cameras track the sensors' movements, record the data and apply them to video game dummies. If motion-captured facial movements are needed, the test subject gets more than two dozen pinhead sensors glued to their lips, eyelids, cheeks and jaw.
DJ Green Lantern — star record-spinner, sometimes-producer and former DJ for Eminem (see "DJ Green Lantern Explains Eminem Split") — was brought to Los Angeles' House of Moves motion-capture studio last June not for his basketball prowess, but for his DJ skills; his digital form will be featured courtside during many of the basketball games in "And 1 Streetball." Although he may also be featured as a bonus player in the game, he told MTV News he hasn't set foot on a basketball court in 16 years. "I got the late-night DJ physique going on now," he admitted. "I'd be really out of breath if I tried to D up."
Instead, Green Lantern had his DJing motion-captured so the game can include his finger-work on the turntables and cross-fader, as well as a series of gestures designed to pump up the crowd. Center stage at the House of Moves, he spent an hour working two turntables that were partially covered in blue tape so as not to interfere with the recording. The tape ended up gumming up the works, so he did most of his DJing for the session without even playing records — he was mostly acting.
After a few minutes in the suit, the DJ was, well, a bit embarrassed. "It's Green Lantern, the Evil Genius," he said, somewhat self-mockingly, on a tape of the session. "I don't feel really evil right now. They've got me looking really crazy out here. They just said, 'Listen, here's a bag of money, put this crazy suit on.' I said, 'I need a bigger bag.' So they sent me a suitcase. I said, 'I'll be right there.' So here I am."
According to the game's developers, skipping the mo-cap and simply animating a digital Green Lantern by hand wasn't an option. "We motion-captured DJ Green Lantern for the same reasons why we motion-captured the players: realism and authenticity," said Matt Leunig, an associate producer on the game. "Just as the 'And 1' streetballers have their unique styles on the court, Lantern has his own style of shout-outs, record flipping and scratching, which would be tough to reproduce by other means."
Because the authenticity of hip-hop-flavored video games is often questioned, the masterminds behind the "And 1" franchise opted to go as legit as possible for this release. The game features renowned streetballers including Baby Shaq, Professor and Helicopter, as well as 13 exclusive songs from the likes of Bun B, Clipse and Kool G Rap, with region-specific styles like crunk or hyphy playing when gamers reach different courts across the game's virtual America.
Green Lantern was hired to work on the soundtrack and produce a mixtape that will be released with the game. But the DJ was also brought in for his moves, which resulted in a few awkward moments during the mo-cap session when Black Ops president John Botti tried to convince Lantern to get a bit more animated. The wrinkle in the plan, it turned out, was that Green Lantern doesn't have a very physical DJ style.
Botti called out a plain scratch. Lantern did it. Botti needed him to do a transform. Not a problem. "Do you scratch with your elbow at all?" Botti asked.
"It's a little extra," Green Lantern replied.
"That's a little extra for the kid."
Green Lantern, the comic book hero, is said to be a man with no fear, just a weakness to the color yellow — DJ Green Lantern is a man with no fear of compromise. Botti explained that the DJ would be featured on the game's courtside perimeter, so he'd need to make bigger gestures to attract attention to his mo-capped moves. And so, as Green Lantern later explained to MTV News, he relented. "I did the little elbow joint," he said. "I did the little turnaround. I haven't really done any of the tricks in years."
The developers also captured Lantern pulling records from his crates, flipping LPs onto the turntables, answering his phone, acting like he spotted a hot girl in the crowd and pretending to be bored by players stinking up the joint. They also made him deliver a barrage of shout-outs, dropping slang and praising And 1, Black Ops and Ubisoft ("Shout out to Ubisoft, in control of this whole gaming thing").
In the end, Green Lantern said he was glad to be of service, and happy to return to some aspect of gaming after giving it up for a different pursuit — girls, he said — back in the age of the Atari 2600.
"And 1 Streetball" launches on PS2 and Xbox this week.
Track list for "And 1 Streetball":
- Clipse (featuring DMP) - "VA Streetz"
- Smitty - "Set the City on Fire"
- Bun B & the Middle Fingaz - "Hard in the Paint"
- San Quinn - "Take Money, Make Money"
- Stat Quo - "What's Next"
- Freeway - "Stand Up"
- Rhymefest - "Coming for You"
- Turf Talk - "Put Up or Shut Up"
- BG - "We"
- Devin the Dude - "Give It and Go"
- Peedi Crakk - "It Don't Stop"
- Ray Cash - "E-Room"
- Kool G Rap (featuring Hammerz and Scram Jones) - "This Is How We Do NYC"