Ones to watch: the leading motion capture trends to follow in 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.

Enhanced drone tracking to enable safe work

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

The rise of deepfake in entertainment

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.

AI and mocap revolutionizing healthcare

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.  

Crafting more efficient virtual productions

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. 

Mocap to enter the metaverse

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.

From fruit flies to elephants, and everything in between. We’re celebrating 40 years of mocap!

This October, we’re celebrating our 40th birthday. Over the course of our four decade history, we’ve made a concerted effort to keep innovation at the heart of everything we do, which may explain why we’ve managed to achieve so much during this time. Using motion capture in settings that you wouldn’t expect, our software has traveled from a ballet studio to an ice rink and has even scaled the hills of Mount Doom

This means that we’ve had the incredible opportunity to collaborate with clients who are using our mocap software in their cutting-edge research and incredible creative projects across a wide range of industries

From intern to VP, Phil Hagerman shares interesting insights over a 20+ year tenure

Just ask Phil Hagerman, who started out as an intern at Motion Analysis in the late ‘90s and has spent most of his career learning, growing and excelling as part of our team. 

Today, Phil is our VP of Operations. He has worked across all aspects of the business – employed as everything from an electronics technician to a support engineer, sales and director of customer service. He has helped us to build prototypes, trained our resellers, and improved and refined our processes. Phil has played an integral role in expediting issue resolution for our customers and making sure that everyone has the information they need at their fingertips. 

Over more than 20 years, Phil has also served as a trusted advisor to the business, particularly around how we plan and develop our strategies for the future. 

Thinking ahead to stay ahead

“Recently, with the supply chain shortages, I started to monitor the individual components that go into our products,” says Phil. “I actually spent an absurd amount of time tracking the lifecycles and availability of these components to make sure that we buy the parts we need before they are unavailable.”

We’ve also seen the industry change dramatically over the years. When you think about the fact that things like the iPhone or Google didn’t exist 40 years ago – technologies that have become staples in our everyday lives – you realize just how much progress has been made in recent years. 

A six-camera Motion Analysis VP320 system photographed in the late 80’s

At Motion Analysis, we’re proud to say that we’ve been able to translate this progress into success, not only for our business but also for our customers. From analyzing the movement of dancers, and developing an improved basketball shoe to rehabilitating wounded soldiers, we’ve done a lot.

Pre-realtime labeling: The six-camera Motion Analysis VP320 system Using Motion Analysis’s ExpertVision (EV) software to record and track a gymnast in the late 80’s

Navigating the peaks and valleys 

It’s been great to see the business adapt and thrive through various peaks and valleys, adds Phil. “I was there after 9/11 when some people were moved to part time roles because we just didn’t have enough orders coming in.” 

And on the converse, we had one December where we had to revamp our manufacturing system just to get out all the systems that had been ordered, he continues. “Watching the business go through periods where we’ve struggled and then excelled, I can see how we’ve used periods of downtime to look at how we can make things better.” 

Celebrating the weird and wonderful

For Phil, there isn’t only one standout experience or highlight because, “Motion Analysis has great relationships with all of our customers and we love all the motion capture projects we get to work on.”

“Some of the projects we’ve worked on over the years are just mind blowing. We’ve done motion capture projects where we’ve tracked something as small as a fruit fly to something as large as an elephant. It’s really interesting to see how things move. Yes, this is enabled by innovation in motion capture and the flexibility of our systems, but it’s also about our clients’ creativity.”

Speeding up processes with the introduction of custom designed VPAT cards to record the camera data to memory: The MIDAS based system running ExpertVision Advanced (EVa) in the early-mid 90’s

Acknowledging that customer needs have changed a lot over the years, Phil notes that Motion Analysis has consistently updated its mocap hardware and software to cater to these needs. For example, while we have always been known for developing high-end passive marker systems, we recently launched the BaSix camera family, which consists of three “light” camera models. BaSix was launched in an effort to make mocap more accessible and affordable for smaller studios. 

Looking to the future

Lucy Keighley, president of Motion Analysis, believes that our success comes down to all the people who make the company what it is today. “Most of our team have been working here for many years and that’s because, despite being smaller and spread across the world, our values align and that keeps us connected,” she says. “I would say that our greatest value is the relationship we have with our customers. Whether it’s our developers or sales staff, we all make an effort to get to know and to prioritize the needs of our customers above everything.” 

Looking ahead, we’re excited about the next 40 years of innovation in motion capture. 

“We want to evolve with and stay on top of new technology as it comes out. Our software is a core component that makes us stand out. And so we will continue to ensure that our software evolves with our clients’ needs, so that it can continue to be used in things like industrial design and ergonomics, animation, drone tracking, animal/human biomechanics, and so much more,” Phil says. “When you think about future applications, the possibilities are endless.”