Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Imaginarium Studios / Marker motion capture

The Imaginarium was founded by Andy Serkis and John Cavendish in 2011. With the use of performance capture technology they currently have two productions under way, Animal Farm and most recently (securing the rights to) The Bone Season. Andy Serkis is well known for his performance as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The Imaginarium did a workshop at BAF Game, showing their process when it comes to motion capture and the software they use. When capturing a performance, they will use around 50 Vicon cameras for the body and sometimes another 50 just to capture the face. What's great about motion capture is that it provides realtime results, directors are able to see what is being produced and not have to wait for animation to be completed. It would be a much faster process than the pre-viz stage in animation where characters would be animated in a 3D space according to the storyboards. The 3D cameras is also able to be adjusted and moved around accordingly.

Fig.1 shows the setup at the workshop, there were around 10-12 cameras for this demonstration. Each Vicon camera works by projecting infra-red light which is then bounced back off the reflective markers on the body. Marker motion capture is very accurate, more so than markerless motion capture due to the reflective markers. The markers are placed on the body in relation to where the joints would bend and move. To aid the performance and allow for believable reactions to take place, the use of props can be used, and these can also be captured (Fig.2). It allows for the interaction between actor and prop to be more realistic and believable in terms of contact with the object.

A fairly recent piece of technology that Vicon has produced is the Cara rig. This allows for more accurate facial motion capture. It has been designed for comfort and with the actors performance in mind whilst being able to achieve high quality results. Previously games such as L.A Noire were able to achieve highly realistic performances with the use of MotionScan, however this could only be used on the face. This resulted in the body motion capture to not be of the same standard of the face. With the Cara rig, it attaches to the actors head and with this, fully body motion capture can be achieved. Fig 3 shows the cameras view of the face and the points that it is tracking.




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