Animation & Gaming

Mocap: the future of entertainment?

27 Aug 2020

Thinking about starting a video game studio or an animation house? It may just be the right time. During the course of 2020, Netflix has added 26-million new subscribers to its services, it’s a massive leap compared to 2019’s 28-million user increase. The video game industry – the largest entertainment sector – has an estimated value of $159-billion in 2020. Esports alone will contribute over $1-billion to the market during the course of the year.

Those numbers are truly inspiring, but they have been bolstered due to COVID-19 and social distancing. With the global pandemic in effect, consumers are turning to digital content for their entertainment needs. As more companies adopt a work-from-home mentality to lessen the spread of the virus, production houses are having to figure out how to virtualise their development.

One of the first places to start is a technique that requires a lot of space and planning: motion capture.

What is Motion Capture?

Motion Capture – or mocap, for short – is an elegant technological mishmash of sensors, cameras, and accessories.

Through all of its components, mocap translates the movements of an actor’s face and body to a digital format. This information is then used to map out the movements of a character on-screen for editing and production. If you’ve played a video game with 3D characters, or watched an animated movie in the past few years, chances are you’ve seen mocap in action.

Andy Serkis’s portrayal of Sméagol ‘Gollum’ in the Lord of the Rings is one of the most memorable in cinema. Thanks to advancements in mocap technology, the actor was able to capture the spirit of Tolkien’s character away from a green screen while interacting with fellow actors. Mocap has come a long way since 2001’s cinematic trek to Mordor.

Another example of mocap’s usage is in the award-winning Titanfall 2 video game, developed by Respawn Entertainment, a subsidiary of Electronic Arts (EA). Among its accolades, the game was nominated for Excellence in Visual Achievement at the SXSW Gaming Awards 2017. Respawn used our mocap technology to not only animate its human protagonist, Jack Cooper, but also his titan companion, BT-7274 – BT for short.

Mocap allows animators to capture every intricacy of an actor’s movements, from sprinting colossal mechanised machines to war, to a simple conversation between a detective and suspect.

Virtualised mocap in a post-COVID age

The Covid-19 halt on production has given Hollywood an opportunity to rethink the scale of VFX. Traditional VFX can be costly, sometimes accounting for 10% of a production’s total budget. That’s assuming you don’t have to do major edits, or a complete redesign of a character, like with the recent Sonic the Hedgehog movie. 

Mocap is helping to reduce the overall costs of VFX production and streamline traditional effects, like key frames, where artists had to animate each frame by hand. Mocap eliminates this tiresome process by capturing every aspect of an actor’s movement in real-time. 

Though the transition away from traditional techniques may seem daunting at first, with the right mocap and production partner, the payoffs are astounding.

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