How to build a career in motion capture for animation

Written by

24 March 2021

USD 266 million by 2025.

That’s how much the 3D motion capture system market is projected to be worth, according to a recent report by MarketsandMarkets™. But becoming a mocap specialist in an industry that’s booming is not an easy feat, as it’s guaranteed to be highly competitive. However, if you’re willing to put in the work, you could land yourself a very lucrative career, and not just as a mocap animator.

What professions does a career in motion capture include?

There is this misconception about the industry, that it only requires someone to move around in a lycra suit while someone else records the movement on some mocap software. But, whether it’s being used to animate a performance, or conduct a gait analysis on a pair of basketball shoes, motion capture requires a number of professionals to be involved, whose job roles could be any of the following:

  • Producer
  • Editor
  • Mocap Operator
  • Computer Animator
  • Developer
  • Capture Technician
  • Motion Capture Actor
  • Visual Effects Artist
  • Video Game Creator
  • Texture Artist
  • Game Art Designer

A motion capture career has endless possibilities

Because motion capture is a growing and constantly evolving industry, it’s the perfect space to learn on the job and acquire new skills as you go. You may enter the industry working in pre-production, and within a few years find yourself in a post-production role.

From working with actors, operating digital 3D cameras, or developing new software, to creating visual texture for the scenes, editing footage or even being in front of the camera in one of those lycra suits, there are plenty of opportunities for vertical and horizontal growth in a motion capture career.

Building up your mocap skill set

In terms of specific skills, if you’re interested in the creative side of motion capture, it’s beneficial to enter the industry with some formal training and competence in animation, editing, or character rigging. Computer skills, interpersonal skills, design skills and experience with camera equipment would also work in your favour. Many Motion Capture companies will seek out candidates who have degrees in Computer Animation, Media Arts and Animation, Graphic Design, Visual Communications.

But if you dream of becoming a motion capture actor, you’d be more likely to land the job if you could show formal training and experience with acting, dancing or movement.

And for those who love the more technical side of the mocap industry, a degree or experience in software engineering, computer science, biomechanics, or film production will go a long way in helping you to kickstart your motion capture career.

A motion capture career isn’t just for animation

You may have all the skills needed to take on the competitive motion capture industry, but perhaps you have no interest in working in broadcast or animation. Thankfully, motion capture is not limited to just working with actors on a film set, or animators in a video studio.

You also have the opportunity to apply your skills to the sport and medical fields. In medicine, motion capture is being used in a variety of specialties to help medical professionals more accurately assess and treat their patients. And in the sports world, motion capture tech is used to analyse a variety of movement factors of an athlete – from their physical condition to their athletic performance and identify how the athlete can improve their technique, posture, accuracy, speed and balance.

The best place to start building your mocap career

If you feel overwhelmed by all the possibilities and options available to you in the exciting world of motion capture, start small, and grow as you go. Seek out opportunities to work as an assistant – whether technical, or creative – and learn as much as you can about the various job roles involved before pursuing the one of your choice. No matter which direction you choose to go in, having a foot in the door will be a lucrative career move in a fast-growing industry that has no intent of slowing down.