03 Mar 2023
A man on a horse, then rotoscoping, then Gollum: trends do not so much come and go within motion capture, but continue on an upward trajectory. Movie magic, owed to the growing capability of visual effects since last century, was just the start for 3D animation and mocap’s rapid advancement.
Since then, high-quality cameras, expansive analytical software, and lightweight autonomous vehicles have all contributed towards innovation in the space; the global 3D motion capture market hit an impressive US$193.1 million in 2022. And now, accurate motion mapping not only helps to craft otherworldly characters and worlds for movies and gaming experiences. Healthcare, sport performance, product development, and the military are all sectors growing their mocap abilities to better our understanding of movement through AI and robotics.
Here are prevalent motion capture trends putting cutting-edge technology into practice, looking to spark creative endeavors and boost scientific discovery this year and beyond.
Drones are not just remote-controlled airborne crafts. While reliable for filming footage over rugged landscapes, or above sports stadiums, drones are instead autonomous vehicles able to traverse ground level (or subterranean) environments. Currently used mainly by private researchers, among other critical use cases, drones’ location accuracy needs to be precise during the operations that researchers and other professionals conduct.
To ensure this precision, mocap can be used in the testing phases of drone tracking, allowing the vehicles to perform remotely via GPS. An operator can follow the movements of their attached emitters using advanced motion cameras, even when obscured by surfaces or objects. This is essential when carrying out dangerous safety checks, including disaster relief, identifying leaked gas dispersion, or inspecting faulty equipment, which pose great risks of injury. Already used by energy companies, drones and their tracking components are also fast becoming more lightweight and flexible for different engineering needs and maximum performance.
Deepfake is often mistaken as a form of motion capture, a machine learning tool rather than mocap’s visual effect technology able to track real-time movement. But despite being under fire for its nefarious uses of superimposing different identities onto real people, deepfake’s positives for the film industry and biometrics can thrive with increasing regulation, and generative adversarial networks (GANs) able to detect fake images, taking it far beyond a facial-mapping trick.
Deepfaking has already been used for deaging special effects (The Irishman), or replicating characters performed by late actors (Star Wars). But its future relies on collaborating with motion capture technology, which can enhance these continuity efforts by recording actors’ movements to make whole deepfaked entities more realistic, besides just facial expression. Hollywood may adopt this ‘meeting in the middle’ approach, an innovation in motion capture backed by famed bodysuit artist Andy Serkis.
Motion capture wearables are by no means limited to acting use. In landmark studies, researchers across University College London and Imperial College London are instead combining data collected by bodysuits with AI algorithms to help understand movement-related conditions, including dementia, muscular dystrophy, stroke, and Parkinson’s.
Mocap systems help researchers to monitor the tendencies and patterns of biomechanical movements as the software can create digitally-mapped ‘twins’, rendered representations of patients, for further data analysis. Resulting insights assist in tracking the progress of rehabilitation techniques, or predict any future detrimental effects across a variety of conditions associated with bodily motion.
FIlmmaking was rife with problems caused by the pandemic; namely the lack of production equipment supplies and mass crew shortages for shoots worldwide. But the knock-on effect has seen further investment in virtual production: ‘LED volumetric’ capabilities can take mocap-suit actors to any conceivable virtual location using large-scale screens.
Live action can be shot in real time against these high-definition backdrops superimposed with limitless computer generated graphics. Artists are able to craft stunning worlds (on earth or otherwise) in a remote studio for smaller teams, all while curbing logistical issues and reducing carbon emissions associated with the movie industry.
Not only is cloud technology seeing 3D character animators working collaboratively and remotely online, but mocap is being used to further virtual and augmented reality. The metaverse marks the next digital frontier, where captured movements of singers, dancers or actors, and other entertainers can populate an interactive virtual platform where avatars (representations of ourselves) work together, shop, or experience live music and dramatic events. It’s a reality beyond our current lived reality, and an exciting prospect to see come to life through mocap.
Considering the immense motion capture advances above, the technology has to similarly thrive among a host of use cases; whether for character animation, drone tracking, or otherwise, accurate motion capture relies on robust cameras and marker kits. Our expanded range of upgradable BaSix mocap cameras provides advantages for various locations and services, integrating with Cortex software. As these mocap trends kick into gear, we’re looking forward to seeing how we can assist our customers to revolutionize mocap use across the globe.
See how Bournemouth University puts Motion Analysis’ future-ready mocap into action or get in touch with our team to discover our range of solutions for animation, gaming, broadcasting, industrial work, and more.