The Rise of Motion Capture
Motion capture has come along way since its early stages and can be seen in almost every movie that features computer generated imagery, along with almost every video game. What was once an extremely costly procedure that took a huge amount of preparation can now be accomplished at a much faster and cheaper rate. Even with the amazing capabilities of motion capture it isn't loved by everyone, especially within the animation community. In a sense, motion capture does what the animators are supposed to do. This mentality causes some uneasiness among animators, with the question always looming overhead, "Will motion capture one day take the place of animators?" This is a common misconception that, when examined more closely, is not a realistic possibility.
What is Motion Capture?
Motion capture is the process of recording the movements of real people or animals and mapping the movements onto the CG character. So the digital character moves just like the real actor.
The very early stages of this technique were called rotoscoping, this involved taking the performances of actors in a live action set and basically tracing over their movements with a pencil and paper. While rotoscoping and mocap involve a similar premise motion capture is a much more advanced method.
Motion capture is heavily used in the video game industry and is also utilized in both live action films as well as full feature length animated movies. The film Polar Express was the first full length feature film to use motion capture entirely, and films like Monster House, Tin Tin, and Avatar followed.
Motion capture is used in live action films that utilize a lot of CG elements. For example, Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes was motion capture data performed by Andy Serkis who also did Gollum.
There are several different methods to get the motion capture data. The one you’re probably most familiar with is using the suits with the motion capture markers that are placed on the different areas of the actor.
It’s also possible to be able to utilize motion capture at an even greater level of accessibility with the motion sensing technology in the Xbox’s Kinect system and PlayStation’s Move system. Of course, the data is not nearly as accurate but it’s a popular method among budget tight developers.
What it Means for Traditional Animators
It’s no secret that motion capture has come along way, even in its earlier uses in moves like The Lord of The Rings; the technology is constantly advancing and becoming more accessible for video game developers and VFX houses around the world.
With that being said, there will always be a need for keyframe animators. What mocap does is capture the movements of real actors, so the resulting motion that you see in the computer world is exactly what the actor is performing. This means there can be no movements that don’t obey the laws of physics, because these are real people performing the movements.
The recent Amazing Spider-Man 2 film obviously featured a lot of CG elements. However, Spider-Man was done with traditional keyframe animation to recreate the superhuman movements that is iconic for the character.
Mocap in Games
Motion capture is a vital part of most video game development pipelines and more and more developers are utilizing the technology to add more realism to their games. In the video game The Last of Us all the cutscenes used mocap from the actors to capture their performances.
As games are leaning to the production quality of movies, some developers are going so far as to even incorporate the actor’s facial features into the CG characters. For instance, in InFAMOUS: Second Son the main character looks very similar to the actor who provided his voice and motion capture performances.
However, motion capture though utilized heavily in video games is really just the beginning. Animators must go back and add emphasis on areas and change poses to get the perfect performance. This is commonly referred to as hybrid animation where both motion capture and keyframe animation is combined to create the final shot. This allows the animators to exaggerate and push areas of the mocap data to make it more appealing.
There is always going to be a need for animators and even with the advancements of motion capture and the accessibility it has not erased the need for traditional animators. Motion capture is a great tool that adds a whole new level of realism to CG characters and can be a very cost effective technique.These great details are brought to you by Pluralsight. Click here to read their full article - The Rise of Motion Capture and What it Means for You.