Motion capture – technology which allows electronic sensors to track and record movement – is evolving by leaps and bounds. Mocap, short for motion capture, is not just limited to animation movies (as in upcoming Rajnikanth-starrer Sultan), but is also used extensively in games, live action movies and television.
Bollywood Hungama met up with international gaming studio Codemasters’ Senior Games Animator/Group lead, Adam Harvey Batham, at CG Overdrive 2009 to discuss the art and science of motion capture. Excerpts…
You have to know what the motion capture is for and not just do a mocap shoot and say, ‘Oh! That looks cool. That’s what my character’s going to do.’ You need to have an understanding first before you do the motion capture.
In live action films, mocap helps enhance the visual by populating the environments, giving the audience a feel that they are actually in the crowd. Besides, it also enables stunts, which are not possible in real life by using animation keyframing to push the action further. At Codemasters, we have utilized mocap almost as a reference for post race animations like celebrations.
Mocap: a substitute to keyframe animation?
Motion capture not a substitute for keyframe animation. We get to hear that a lot, especially form traditional animators who are of the opinion that mocap is cheating. But if you see motion capture for games that’s been done by someone who doesn’t have the traditional knowledge of true keyframe animation, then the mocap dictates what the animation would be rather than the other way around. It’s a combination of both the worlds.
Mocap for games vs. television
Motion capture for games is different from that for film or TV because for games you have to specifically find small loops within the performance. You need to know exactly what is required within the game, how many animations are required, what sort of animation is required, the number props involved, etc.
While doing mocap for games you have to look for strong silhouettes and poses within a character because they have to make an impact on a much smaller frame range in the game. Simply, normal animation has a singular action, say a guy getting up to cheer, whereas mocap for a game will have various actions all triggered within the game.
In mocap, the acting talent is very important you got to keep the actors focused and happy. Make sure they progress through similar moves so you are not jumping around the studio wasting time. Moreover, always stick to your plan as the technology is really expensive.