What is Motion Capture – Definition and Features
Motion Capture or MoCap is one of those terms that is used very often, but not many people quite understand what it is. In this article, we would like to give you a motion capture definition but also some of its practical applications and features to provide you with an idea of what this technology is capable of.
What is Motion Capturing Software?
The standard MoCap meaning is using a computer to recorder the motion of an object. Some DVDs have behind the scenes section that shows you how the movie was made. In this section, you are likely to see people in Lycra suits that are covered in, what looks like bright ping-pong balls. This is motion capture in action. You can record the motion of anything that you can attach a sensor to. However, the difficulty will be to apply what you have recorded convincingly.
MoCap is often used in films to allow animated characters to replicate the motions of real people. However, capturing the data is only a small part of the process. In addition to figuring out what you would like to capture and how you plan to do it, you still need to:
- Create move lists
- Arrange shoots
- Rig characters
- Map character data
Keep in mind, this is not a comprehensive list. Due to so many factors that come into play, there are some drawbacks to motion capture technology. Let’s take a look at this closer.
Down Sides to Motion Capture
As you can imagine, motion capture is costly. Not only because of all the processes involved, but also because it requires specialized kits. A lot of times you will have to reshoot a scene instead of merely fixing the data which adds to the cost, and you cannot use it to replicate movements that are against the laws of physics. For example, if you need your character to fly or hang upside down, you will not be able to use motion capture for this. Having said this, cutting-edge motion capture software addresses some of these problems with the help of AI.
Using AI to Cut Costs
One of the new and innovative developments in motion capture is RADiCAL. It takes your 2D videos and turns it into 3D data without having to buy special equipment or creating a dedicated environment. While RADiCAL uses very advanced technology like AI, deep learning, computer vision, and biometrics, it is easy enough to use by beginners as well. It was designed to be a universal solution that can be seamlessly integrated into your current workflow. Since the answer is hardware agnostic, you can use any camera as a capture device, and you can shoot both indoors and outdoors which means that you do not have to worry about the environment.
RADiCAL offers an Android and iOS app which customers can use to shoot and upload 2D video, and they can take advantage of the cloud-based profile that can process content from other cameras. What you get in the end is an FBX file rigged to the Human IK standard which can be downloaded from the cloud and can be used on any 3D software. More rigs and file standards will be added as time goes on.
Challenges of Motion Capture Technology
One of the biggest challenges is facial motion capture. Since people make lots of small facial motions, it can be challenging to track all of them which is why as many as 350 markers may be required to capture all of the movements with high-resolution cameras. This technology has been used in movies such as Beowulf and Polar Express to allow actors, in this case, Tom Hanks, to controls the different expressions the characters make. However, this process is very cumbersome and leads to expressions being overly driven as soon as the smoothing and filtering have been done.
Motion Capture in the Future
What we see right now is a shift towards more practical and accessible motion capture. In the past, there were all kinds of overhead costs that prevented directors and game creators from shooting or creating certain scenes just because of the price, but now more and more options are starting to pop up. This includes even real-time motion capture since subjects are no longer required to wear dozens of sensors. As little as five is now enough. This makes life simpler for the actors and the producers.
Also, motion capture development is continually working to bridge the gap between real human emotions and digitally made ones. Some of the problems are around the eyes and mouth since some of the smallest motions are found in these areas. However, researchers are working to reduce the number of takes necessary for performance capture. It can be frustrating for all parties involved to have to retake shots in order to capture the right motion leading to a decrease in the effectiveness of the entire process.
Real-time facial and body motion capture are some of the technologies that allow us to enjoy our favorite movies such as Avatar and Planet of the Apes. As time goes on, you can expect even more realistic image capturing which beginning filmmakers and video games creators can use. Still, even with the new advancements, the technology is expected to be more accessible and available to a mass audience without having to worry about the budget.