Saturday , December 15 2018
Home / Cameras / This $2,500 Suit Simplifies Motion Capture for Filmmakers | News & Opinion

This $2,500 Suit Simplifies Motion Capture for Filmmakers | News & Opinion

[ad_1]

I’m sitting in the back row of The Arena Stage in Hollywood, which is part of the Theatre of Arts School. A large screen is suspended over the stage, just behind two young performers. They’re wearing nylon, aviator-style flight suits; cables attached to their heads connect to a hub at the base of their spines.

This is the Smartsuit Pro from Rokoko, a motion capture system company headquartered in Copenhagen, which today announced a partnership with Unity Technologies to provide Unity developers access to Rokoko’s Smartsuit Pro and its Motion Library via the Unity Asset Store.

“Developing for character animation has historically been super costly and time-consuming,” Adam Myhill, Creative Director for Made with Unity, told PCMag via email. “Rokoko’s Smartsuit Pro and Motion Library…provide creators with the ability to build motion assets as if they were using a full-scale motion capture studio, but in a much more affordable, easy, and instant way.”

Back at Theatre of Arts, drama students who just finished a combat class enter The Arena Stage. Onstage with the performers in Smartsuits is instructor Henry Layton, who trained at the International Stunt School in Seattle, and is now a lead motion-capture stunt performer.

Layton checks the Rokoko Smartsuit Pro connections and asks his students to go into an “A pose” and “T pose” (making an A and T shape with the body) so the software system can initiate.

Smartsuit Pro from Rokoko

Sitting next to me, in the stalls, is Monica Alderete, VP of Campus Hollywood, the alliance of entertainment industry schools, to which TOA belongs.

“The students are here today for our brand new motion capture performance class,” said Alderete. “We started it because all our teachers are industry professionals and, when they’re out there working, they hear about the latest requirements for performers today. Henry Layton told us about this latest sensor-laden performance capture gear, and how, if our students become proficient in this skill, they could go on to audition for roles on animated video games and movies.”

With the deal between Unity Technologies and Rokoko, TOA grads might find themselves booked to stockpile a wide range of motion capture movement, which is then spliced up, categorized, annotated, and used in future animation products.

“Ready, Big Dave?” says Layton, shielding his eyes from the spotlights and peering up towards the control box high on the far wall.

“Affirmative,” David Mattey, who’s operating the Smartsuit Studio, responds over the theater speaker system. “Ready to roll.”

“Copy that,” Layton replies onstage.

Suddenly, an animated gremlin pops up on the screen behind one of the actors. Whenever she moves, so does the gremlin; they are fused in performance via the $2,500 suit. But here’s the clever bit: this suit has no “optical sensor” markers (those strange tennis ball-type stick-ons) like other motion capture setups, because there’s no camera grid mounted on the ceiling to record dimensions in space. Instead, the Smartsuit has a wireless range of up to 100 meters. It uses sensors built into the fabric itself, tracks 9 degrees of freedom, establishes a baseline skeleton frame, then records all movement, which can be reanimated/reskinned into a chosen character.

This changes everything in the motion capture business—no expensive camera grids to lease, rig up, and maintain. Instead, a Smartsuit enables the actor to deliver a top performance by communicating wirelessly with the Smartsuit Studio. Once a range of motions and scenes are recorded, the software can output to whatever platform the creator requires, as they develop their movie, game, or animated project.

As the students practiced their moves onstage to get used to the Smartsuits, I joined David Mattey and Henry Layton up in the control box to find out more.

“Not long after graduating from the International Stunt School and joining the Society of American Fight Directors, I was booked for my first job—in Sweden on the first Chronicles of Riddick,” said Layton. “My fight master had been playing the lead character and sadly just got injured, so he recommended me.

“I was a kid from Louisiana and suddenly I’m in Sweden—that was eye-opening—and it was the beginning of it all. The stunt world is small, everyone knows each other, and the motion capture world is smaller still. As I say to my students: ‘Once producers know you, and you’re good at your job, you’re in,’—that’s definitely been my experience.”

Smartsuit Pro from Rokoko

Today’s class was all about teaching the students how to work with the Rokoko Smartsuits but for Layton, it was also an opportunity to follow up on R&D calls he’d been having with the team back in Denmark. Rokoko has been using experts like Layton to “kick the tires” on the technology so it can iterate and produce what the industry actually needs.

“Dave [Mattey] and I have had regular Skype calls with Matias Søndergaard, co-founder and chief product officer, telling them about the stress tests, and hacks, we need them to do,” Layton said. “Right now, I’m afraid to break the suits, so we’re avoiding falls, but we do need to go big.

“The first thing I noticed—now I’m seeing the suit in action, off my body, because I’ve been testing it while wearing it myself—is that, as actors, we need to exaggerate movements so the suit picks up that performance at the skeleton level, then makes it zing within the character when animated.”

Smartsuit Pro from Rokoko

Up in the control box, I was surprised to see Mattey using a Dell Windows 10 laptop—no massive GPU, no banks of Nvidia machines churning away processing masses of telemetry data.

“Yes, this is all we need now,” confirmed Mattey. “The suit communicates with the hub affixed to the body, so it knows where all the performer’s limbs are, then sends that information, via the router, to the software up here, essentially creating a network that’s not connected to the internet.”

No, hackers can’t control the performer’s Smartsuit remotely, just in case you were wondering about that.

“Right,” laughed Mattey. “That can’t happen. It’s definitely a closed loop.”

As the actors onstage ran through some moves, Mattey showed how swiftly the software processes each body shape. “Once we do a T Pose it calibrates with the suit, then this program tracks movements at 100 frames per second,” he explained.

So if inspiration strikes you, you’re competent on using Unity, and just need a range of animated motions to embed within your characters, check out the Unity Asset Store soon. You never know, those back flips and gangster struts you purchase might well have been created by Henry Layton and his performance students at the Theatre of Arts School in Hollywood.

[ad_2]
Source link

About admin

Check Also

The Ricoh GR III Is Coming | News & Opinion

[ad_1] The Ricoh GR III is coming, just not in 2018. The sequel to the …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.