A Glance at Mocap
by Denise Harrison

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Jack Nicklaus 6: Golden Bear Challenge. Motion capture by House of Moves.
Motion capture for computer character animation started somewhere in the late 1970s, according to David J. Sturman, who once tracked a history of its usage for a SIGGRAPH presentation. Prior to that, animators of Snow White "traced animation over film footage of live actors playing out the scenes" -- in essence, rotoscoping -- then Rebecca Allen at the New York Institute of Technology Computer Graphics Lab "used a half-silvered mirror to superimpose videotapes of real dancers onto the computer screen to pose a computer generated dancer for Twyla Tharp's ‘The Catherine Wheel.''

Then came the ‘80s when he says biomechanics labs began to use computers to analyze human motion and soon the technology piqued the interest of the computer graphics industry. [an error occurred while processing this directive] In the early ‘80s came optical motion trackers using markers, then in 1988 says Sturman, Jim Henson Products, which had been trying to create computer versions of their characters, found a solution in Silicon Graphics 4D computers. “By hooking a custom eight degree of freedom input device (a kind of mechanical arm with upper and lower jaw attachments)," reported Sturman, "through the standard SGI dial box, they were able to control the position and mouth movements of a low resolution character in real-time.

"In 1989, Kleiser-Walczak produced Dozo, a (non-real-time) computer animation of a woman dancing in front of a microphone while singing a song for a music video. To get realistic human motion, they decided to use motion capture techniques. Based on experiments in motion capture from Kleiser's work at Digital Productions and Omnibus (two now-defunct computer animation production houses), they chose an optically-based solution from Motion Analysis that used multiple cameras to triangulate the images of small pieces of reflective tape placed on the body. The resulting output is the 3-D trajectory of each reflector in the space," says Sturman.

By the mid-90s, the technology advanced quickly as computers became more powerful, developers focused on software and markers were refined. Today, it’s a common technique used for film visual effects, animated films, music videos, game character animation and even television series.

Some of the names you might hear tossed around in a game development motion capture discussion include MoCap houses Motion Analysis Studios, House of Moves, and LocoMotion Studios.

Motion Analysis Studios, which was prestigious in its own right, grew this year via a merger by with two well-respected and renowned studios, Performance Capture Studios and Modern Uprising Studios. Game clients include Cryptologic Entertainment, Red Storm Entertainment, Epic Games, Rockstar Games, Ubi Soft and Acclaim. They use a 16-camera system (in fact, Performance Capture Studios was already using Motion Analysis’ system as of two years ago). It’s an optical, tetherless system that can accommodate up to 6 performers at a time, although the Motion Analysis system has a demo of as many as 17. The company has offices in New York and Los Angeles and recently announced a London office that houses Motion Analysis Studios Europe, which they are calling a "Mobile European Studio."

“The idea is to give the European animation and production community of Europe a turnkey full service Motion Capture Studio in their own backyards,” says the company.

LA-based House of Moves is best known for its work in film, including The Patriot and Titanic, but has a nice roster of game clients as well including Sierra, Electronic Arts, Sega, ActiVision, Microsoft and plenty of others. House of Moves has a 3,500 square-foot stage facility, 24-foot ceiling, and a staff of 25. They also boast a mobile unit.
House of Moves, which uses the Vicon 8 optical motion capture solution, an optical, tetherless system that supports up to 24 cameras, recently completed mocap for THQ’s Britney’s Dance Beat game for PlayStation 2, Game Boy Advance and PC. Other recent projects include Star Wars Rogue Squadron and Microsoft’s Asheron’s Call.

Wimberley, Tex.-based LocoMotion has multiple facilities in Texas, including a 1000 sq. ft. sound stage used for smaller motion and face capture. Microsoft, AniVision, Eclipse, DigitalAnvil and id Software are clients. They also use the Vicon 8 optical mocap system.

The stage is fully sound proof with an isolated control booth, baffled heat and air system. They are planning to build what they call the largest motion capture studio available in North America -- a 10,000-square-ft. facility with a ceiling height of over 30 feet, for sports, special riggings, long capture demands, large animal capacity, and real turf options. Also, a client service area comprised of offices, a lounge and T1 connections for clients.

For more information: Motion Analysis Studios www.modernuprising.com

LocoMotion Studios: www.locomotionstudios.com

House of Moves: www.moves.com

Vicon Motion Systems: www.vicon.com

Source: DMN

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