Why Motion Capture Isn’t The Best Choice for Your 3D Business

clock November 9, 2015 07:31 by author EliciaT

 

Even the greatest 3D animators struggle with mastering realistic facial animations. This is because the complex muscle system that controls numerous, subtle facial expressions is hard to capture using traditional 3D animation methods.  

Methods like rigging and morphing are often time-consuming and inefficient. As a result, some animators have tried to use motion capture, also called mocap. Motion capture for facial animation uses a system of wires, cameras, and sensors to capture the motions of real people and transfer them onto a 3D character model.

Major, renowned 3D animated productions like Avatar and characters like Gollum from Lord of the Rings were created using motion capture technology. Furthermore, the technique has transformed computer animation, primarily by making it possible to transfer human emotions onto a 3D character. However, motion capture has its own set of challenges and is not suitable for every situation.  

Why Isn’t Motion Capture The Best Choice?

There is a reason that major films have used motion capture in their animation process━they have huge budgets. To accomplish the highest quality, accurate video footage, it usually requires many cameras and an environment conducive to collecting motion data. The well-known 3D characters created by motion capture were made possible in a studio, fully equipped with hundreds of expensive, high resolution cameras.

The total setup and hardware costs can range from $200,000 to a million dollars. Animators can try to minimize the costs of motion capture by using cheaper and fewer cameras, however, the price is still high and the results can be lackluster.  

Furthermore, motion capture may make it easier by automating the process of transferring video of human movements into a 3D animation. However, it does not mean the entire process is automated. In order to make the animation flow smoothly, it still requires skilled 3D animators to manually clean up the animation. For animators that want high quality 3D animations while minimizing the cost and work time, there is another option━Curve Controlled Modelling.

What is Curve Controlled Modeling?

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Curve Controlled Modeling or CCM is a type of 3D animation that is completely software based, meaning that it doesn’t require the expensive hardware costs of motion capture. It uses a tool called NURBs or Non-uniform rational B-spline curve to simulate the movement of muscles, making it ideal for facial animation.

NURBs curves are equations that allow animation software programs to animate the muscles of a 3D object. This allows for astonishingly complex movements to be generated very quickly, which is crucial to successfully animate facial muscles.

With CCM, all you need is a software program, and the knowledge of how to use it. It is relatively easy to get both of these things, while it usually more difficult to obtain the tools to correctly use motion capture. With the complex and feature rich software that is available on the market for CCM animation, you’ll be able to animate complex facial muscles without spending an arm and a leg on hardware and studio space.



Why Motion Capture Isn’t The Best Bet for Your 3D Business

clock October 11, 2013 23:18 by author MattW

Facial Animation is one of the hardest things to do when dealing in 3D animation. Capturing the exact expression of a face and then translating that into a 3D program is very difficult. Many animators turn to a technology called Motion Capture to successfully animate the face, but it isn’t always necessary to do so. There is a better alternative, called Curve Controlled modeling which could be better for facial animators.

Why Isn’t Motion Capture Best Bet?

So basically the way motion capture works is by placing cameras and markers (in many cases)  around the subject, capturing the motion of the specific parts and then applying that movement to the 3D model piece by piece. This includes expensive software and equally expensive hardware. The cameras that are used can be very pricey, especially when you get up into the higher resolutions.

Motion capture also needs to happen in an environment conducive to collecting motion data, in other words, a studio. The lighting and space needs to be perfect in order for the motion capture to be as accurate as possible.

What is Curve Controlled Modeling?

Curve Controlled Modeling or CCM is a type of 3D animation that is completely software based, meaning that it doesn’t require the expensive hardware costs of motion capture. It uses software tool called a NURBs or Non-uniform rational B-spline curve to simulate the movement of muscles, making it ideal for facial animation.

Without getting into the complex equations that make it work, NURBs curves are equations that allow animation software programs to animate the muscles of a 3D object. Changing a part of the equation correlates to a specific movement around a control point (or more than one). This allows for astonishingly complex movements to be generated very quickly, which is something you will need in order to successfully animate the facial muscles. 

Why is it Better?

There is no denying that motion capture has its uses. In fact, it is one of the most used technologies in the animation industry. The biggest problem, at least for most animators, is that it requires expensive equipment to pull off, and also requires the right environment to get it right. That means that unless you have a huge budget or a corporation backing you, large scale motion capture is probably out of your price range.

With CCM, all you need is a software program, and the knowledge of how to use it. It is relatively easy to get both of these things, while it might be relatively hard to obtain the tools to correctly use motion capture.

Conclusion

Curve Controlled Modeling is not simple to grasp but it IS simple to use once you start. CCM is also much cheaper since it is a software-only solution. It will allow even the most modest animator to pull off facial animation without spending thousands of dollars on expensive camera and sensor equipment. With the complex and feature rich software that is available on the market for CCM animation, you’ll be able to animate complex facial muscles without spending an arm and a leg and without setting up a studio.




What is Motion Capture?

clock October 11, 2013 23:16 by author MattW

3D Animation is one of the fastest growing niches of software development. One of the areas that is most interesting inside that niche is motion capture. Motion capture is one of the best ways to translate living and moving objects into 3D projects. The question is what is it really; what is it used for; and what are some examples of its uses. That will be our quest in this article.

First Off What is Motion Capture?

To put it simply, motion capture is the act or process of recording a moving object. The object can be anything from your mom doing dishes to a rock rolling down a hillside. Sensors and cameras catch the motion of the real world object and then translate that movement on to a digital oriented object. So, for example, if you were capturing a rock rolling down a hill, the movement of that rock would be translated into the computer and projected on to a similar digital object, like a rock on a hillside.

To get more technical, at least for a minute, motion capture takes snapshots at a certain rate of the real world motion. This is done by using sensors attached to the object (in many cases), and by pointing precision cameras at the object as it moves. The rate at which the motion is captured determines the accuracy of the digital transformation. The data that comes out of the cameras and sensors is then fed into a computer running 3D animation software, which coordinates the real world movement with the digital object.

What is it Good For?

So motion capture has many uses, and in many ways the technology is still evolving. As cameras get better at capturing small movements, motion capture technology also gets better. Motion capture is used in many places that you see animations such as movies (particularly 3D movies), television shows, and more entertainment-style uses. It is also used in universities and laboratories to study human movement for medical purposes and user interface study.

Examples of its Uses

So the most obvious use of motion capture is in moves. Films like Happy Feet (which portrayed a group of penguins) and Cars(which was a story about cars) both used motion capture to assist in the animation of the movie elements.

Other, more obscure, uses of motion capture exist. As we mentioned above, it is used in medicine to study the effects of motion on the human body. It is also used to study the way humans interact with both digital and real world user interfaces. The data collected from both of these uses is used to better medical equipment in the former, and to improve how we use machines and digital interfaces in the latter.

Motion capture is also used in virtual reality and augmented reality. Both of these fields have uses outside of the university. Virtual reality uses it for gaming, and augmented reality uses it to overlay information on the real world.

Conclusion

In an upcoming piece, we’ll talk about the disadvantages of using motion capture in certain 3D animated situations. Until then, the best thing to know about it is that it is widely used, especially by moviemakers. You should also know that the technology is still advancing. Devices like Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect use similar technologies to advance gaming and fitness, as well as controlling user interface. Like most technology, it isn’t over until it’s over.



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