Why Bournemouth University uses Motion Analysis to nurture animation’s next generation

The Customer

Bournemouth University is recognized as one of the foremost animation institutions in the United Kingdom. Under the leadership of Zhidong Xiao, Deputy Head of Department at the National Centre for Computer Animation, their animation focus applies to three main practice areas: teaching the full pipeline of motion capture technology to inspire student animation projects; exploring new mocap usage for research councils; and helping creative filmmakers and artists through studio space and advanced equipment.

The Problem

Having experimented with motion capture systems since 2003, the university’s original fixed capture space was an ample-sized classroom primarily used for teaching character animation, utilizing Motion Analysis’ Raptor 2 active optical motion system. By 2010, however, the team was developing a new, larger studio facility. Able to accommodate a greater number of cameras, there was an increasing need for advanced data processing and motion retargeting to suit larger-scale projects.

The Solution

There is a growing expectation for advanced detail in 3D character animation, which has spurred mocap technology to similarly scale in precision and sophistication. Whether it’s creating robots, mythical creatures or cartoon figures in games, films or television shows, facial and bodily movements are becoming increasingly lifelike to make visual experiences like never before.

To track these actors’ movements (fitted in bodysuits complete with markers), passive optical systems are one option to accurately capture motion data. Able to track the simultaneous motions of objects and humans alongside video footage, the marker movements synchronize with Motion Analysis’ Cortex software, which helps to map the skeleton that will later become a 3D animated character brought to vivid life. The tracked real-time data makes completing re-dos or small edits in post-production far simpler, keeping a record of the actor’s motions before the computer graphics have been superimposed.

For animation educators like Zhidong’s team, that cross-collaboration between software and equipment provides a greater advantage to teaching the full scale of animation methods to students. Now utilizing 16 of our fixed 4K Kestrel cameras for accurate data capture, student classes remain a focus, but the newer space was also designed to better craft virtual reality sets for television shows, film music videos, and to develop special effects for the silver screen. 

The interoperable mocap system opens the doors to create brand new experiences in the studio, to benefit community projects, student work and artistic expression. Bournemouth University’s media department is set to carry on their work in these areas, using their animation studio space and Motion Analysis system to develop machine learning and training techniques for industries choosing to adopt mocap technology’s many advantages. 
Want to discover more about Bournemouth University’s collaboration with Motion Analysis? Catch up on the full story in our case study.

Creativity on show – top animation, gaming, graphics, and film conferences to attend in 2022

It has been two very long years since a lot of folks last attended an in-person conference and, quite frankly, we’re keeping our fingers and toes crossed that 2022 will be different. While some conferences will still be held online, other organizers hope to get the chance to bring the best minds in the animation, film, gaming and graphics industries together to network, learn, share their experiences and collaborate.

Here are a few of the festivals and conferences taking place this year that we think are worth attending (whether in person or online):

Tricky Women/Tricky Realities 2022
When: March 9th – 13th
Where: Vienna, Austria

Tricky Women/Tricky Realities is typically held around International Women’s Day, which is fitting because the event focuses on animated films made by women. This year, the festival will take place in a hybrid form, with film programs, lectures, and artist talks presented in the cinema, as well as online. As part of the event, there is an international competition with prizes worth €21 000 up for grabs.

Game Developers Conference (GDC)
When: March 21st – 25th
Where: San Francisco, USA 

After two years of being hosted exclusively online, GDC is hoping to drag us away from our computers by returning to its regular format and schedule in 2022. GDC celebrates every aspect of game development, bringing the global game development community together to share ideas, solve problems, and shape the future of the industry. At the GDC Expo, attendees can discover disruptive technologies and novel development tools, like BaSix

We’ll be hosting a booth at GDC this year so be sure to come say “hi” if you’re attending! Keep an eye out on LinkedIn or Twitter for more from us on the conference.

NAB Show
When: April 23rd – 27th
Where: Las Vegas, USA

Described as an event where content comes to life, NAB Show is back this year after the event was cancelled in 2020 and 2021. In April, content creators, streamers, and podcasters will assemble in Las Vegas to learn, network, and find out what they need to do to entertain modern audiences. With more than 90,000 media professionals expected to attend, the opportunities to discover new technologies, gain knowledge, and make new connections are endless at NAB Show. 

Annecy
When: June 13th – 18th
Where: Annecy, France 

The Annecy International Animation Film Festival has been around since the 1960s and, every year, this event seeks to inspire the world of animation by highlighting the industry’s creative talent and showcasing the richness this sector has to offer. From exclusive sessions showcasing the latest animated works to presentations of current and future trends. One highlight of the festival is the Mifa market, which serves as a professional meeting place and learning space for everyone and anyone working in the animation industry.

Develop:Brighton
When: July 12th – 14th
Where: Brighton, England

Develop:Brighton has been running since 2006 and it is the only event in the UK that brings the entire game-making industry together. In 2022, the event will look at some “hot topics” in the industry like monetization, funding, ethical working practices, and the Metaverse. The conference will also offer deep-dives into successful games and studios, case studies, as well as practical, vocational content so that attendees have the chance to “skill-up”.

We attended Develop:Brighton in 2021, where we got the opportunity to interact with developers and animators and find out what they thought of our BaSix system. Read this blog post to find out more about our experience. 

SIGGRAPH 2022
When: August 8th -11th
Where: Vancouver, Canada

SIGGRAPH 2022 is a premier computer graphics and interactive techniques conference. This year, the event will take place in person in Vancouver but it will also be streamed virtually. The event content, which includes both invited or submitted work, is selected by industry experts who aim to bring together a diverse, global community of innovators to showcase the latest and greatest technologies and applications. 

International Broadcast Conference (IBC)
When: September 9th – 12th
Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands

We’ve attended this event for a few years, and it’s one you don’t want to miss. A media, entertainment and technology show, the conference demonstrates the most state-of-the-art media technology and provides great networking opportunities for media professionals involved in content creation, management, and delivery.

SIGGRAPH ASIA
When: December 6th – 9th
Where: Daegu, Korea

This annual event rotates around the Asian region and attracts some of the most respected technical and creative talent from across the globe with a passion for research, science, art, animation, gaming, interactivity, education, and emerging technologies. Attendees are invited to submit their best works and creative innovations to be featured as part of the event’s various conference programs.

Will you be attending any of these conferences in 2022? Any others you think we should add to the list? Let us know via LinkedIn or Twitter.

Get the guide to motion capture in a post-COVID-era

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that companies need to rethink the way they work. Operating in tight-knit offices and on sound stages with crowds of people may have had their benefits, but they’re not feasible in 2020 and beyond.

Because of this, we have put together a new ebook to help animation production and development companies transform and adapt their motion capture efforts.

The opportunity is (virtually) huge

The ebook, titled “Motion capture in the post-COVID era,” starts off with a foreword by our own Vice President of Global Sales at Motion Analysis, Lucy Keighly. Lucy explains how living in a post (and current) pandemic world is the ‘new normal,’ but that companies are continuing to grow and expand under all of these new constraints.

In fact, Netflix added 26-million new subscribers by July 2020, while the games industry is expected to reach $283.53 million by 2025. With the buzz around the launch of the Sony PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Series S|X consoles, there isn’t a better time to get involved in motion capture.

The experienced contributors

In the motion capture-centric ebook, we interview Goodbye Kansas Studios’ Executive Producer, Anton Söderhäll, and Philip Stilgoe, the CEO of Centroid Motion Capture Studios. Söderhäll has worked with companies like Electronic Arts (EA) and Square Enix over the years, while Stilgoe was part of the production team that worked on the 1998 adaptation of ‘Lost in Space,’ among other projects. Both of these industry veterans bring with them a wealth of information and production experience.

The contributors talk about how work-from-home and social-distancing policies have changed the way they operate, as well as the implementation of working remotely.

Download the ebook and more resources

To read the full insight from both of these leaders, download the ‘Motion capture in the post-COVID era‘ ebook here.

Our new lightweight BaSix Go motion capture software, along with our world-renowned BaSix suitless markers, are a must for any production or creative studio. Visit the Motion Analysis website to find out more about our Animation and Virtual Reality solutions.

Motion capture eBook pop up

Mocap: the future of entertainment?

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.