Countess Alcina Dimitrescu isn't technically a vampire, but she's definitely an icon.
From the moment she appeared in an early trailer for Resident Evil: Village, Lady Dimitrescu captured the attention of the internet: her towering, sultry frame; her sickly-sweet smile; her massive hat; her proper yet authoritative tone. Viewers were instantly obsessed, labeling her "tall vampire lady" and demanding to know everything about her, which prompted Capcom to reveal her exact height — 9'6" including her hat and heels — months before Village launched in May.
In-game, Lady Dimitrescu commands three fly-infested, murderous daughters, and hunts the main character, Ethan Winters, across the opulent rooms of her castle. She crouches through doorways and slices at Ethan with long, blade-like fingernails, hurling insults like "rat" and "man-thing" at him the entire time, a mutant dominatrix in a flowing white dress.
The intrigue surrounding Lady Dimitrescu has persisted since Village's launch, and fans are betting (or maybe just hoping really hard) that the game's first bit of DLC will focus on her specifically.
Until then, and in the spirit of Spooky Season, we have insight into Lady Dimitrescu's creation from Village presentation director Masato Miyazaki, the person in charge of the game's motion-capture process. Earlier this year, Miyazaki shared details with Engadget about how Lady Dimitrescu came to be, from concept to mocap, including the ways actress Maggie Robertson brought her to legendary life.
Engadget: Did Lady Dimitrescu's design change throughout development?
Masato Miyazaki: Alcina Dimitrescu’s incredible height was conceived from the beginning and was not changed during development. The same goes for her wide brim hat and her white dress as well. However, the characteristic of her long protruding nails was something added part way through the development process. It was an idea that was implemented later as a means of adding physical elements that would make her more terrifying when you encounter her.
Lady Dimitrescu is alluring and seductive — was she always meant to be a sultry character, or did that emerge during mocap?
In the early stages of development, she was described as a bewitching character who would capture and toy with her victims. She was designed to embody equal parts beauty and horror. Based on this, the scenario writer fleshed her characterization out even further with dialogue, but she wasn’t fully realized just yet. It was through Maggie’s performance that the character was finally given life.
As with any character, I believe that the moment the script is handed over to the actor, the character becomes theirs. The character's personality and intentions are very much refined by the actor. The character Lady Dimitrescu was truly realized and came to fruition with each of Maggie’s performances.
What tricks did you use to make Maggie Robertson as tall as possible during mocap sessions?
Although Maggie Robertson is quite tall herself, she still cannot reach the height that we envisioned for Lady Dimitrescu. Utilizing some means of extending out her height would jeopardize her performance, so it wasn’t something we could consider. We asked Maggie to act naturally. However, that still left us with the height difference between Maggie and Lady Dimitrescu that had to be addressed. We devised a few methods to counteract this issue.
First off, we shot with a mixture of backgrounds according to two standards: human scale and Lady Dimitrescu scale. While other characters performed with surroundings that fit human scale, Lady Dimitrescu’s acting was done in front of a background that fit her scale. Everyone performed with one another, but with this mixture of environments. We figured this would be the best means of allowing the actors to give their best performances without any kind of impediment. We made sure the furniture was laid out in a way so that the actors would be facing each other.
The other aspect that we made sure to stay conscious of was making sure the actors’ lines of sight were in the right positions. We set up markers so that the actors could imagine the correct height. These markers show the correct position of the eye lines and where the limbs actually are. It's a simple adjustment, but it makes a big difference in the actors' performances.
How the sausage gets made part 2: This is what we used to mark Lady D's actual size and eye lines. Clearly, she's grumpy after chasing people around the castle all day. 💅 #thegrumpystandin #LadyDimitrescu #ResidentEvilVillage— Maggie Robertson (@maggiethebard) May 10, 2021
(check out that hat tho. It's a look 😏 💁) pic.twitter.com/I7g6f8K2L8
The third adjustment was the rig itself. We carefully set up the rigs of the CG characters to gracefully handle as much of the physical differences between the character and actor as possible. We wanted to make sure that we set things up so that the animators would have a relatively easier time handling any kind of miscalculations that happened along the way.
What was the strangest prop you used throughout the mocap process?
There are several, but there are two that I would like to mention. The first is the cane carried by the old woman we meet at the beginning of the village. When you see it in the game, it’s a strange artifact with a lot of components jingling about. The studio crew crafted a prop that resembles the design.
The second is the goggles that our actor Todd wore as he played the role of Ethan Winters. Since the game is from a first-person perspective through the eyes of Ethan Winters, the camera movements are based on the movements of Todd's head. Todd reprises his role as Ethan from the previous game and his performances are absolutely excellent, but there were moments where the camera would go wild during more heated scenarios. In order to suppress this from happening, the studio engineer created a pair of special goggles by hand.
They actually turned out to look very similar to swimming goggles. The assumption was that the narrower field of vision would result in less head movement. I’m still not entirely sure how effective they ended up being, but the engineer’s enthusiasm and Todd having fun wearing the goggles are one of the many wonderful memories I have from the whole experience.