The question I was trying to answer for my Motion Capture project was: Can I use motion capture to successfully animate a non-human character?
The answer, much to my surprise, is YES!
It’s safe to say this motion capture final render won’t work its way into any award shows, however, I realise that I shouldn’t be so hard on my self. I took a risk and tried to achieve something that was outside my comfort zone, so it’s also safe to say I actually managed to pull it off, if not somewhat awkwardly.
This is one project that I will be spending more time on though, so check back later and hopefully, Vardo will be doing some pretty inspiring things.
What I have learned throughout this experience is, that I have managed to create a solution that will work for previs, I have a way to go before I can call this avenue of research finessed enough to satisfy me. I need to create a solution that will keep the wheels reliably on the ground, and also have them move more easily with the body, I need to figure out how to add doors, and windows to Vardo that are able to be keyframed and move seamlessly with the Vardo’s body.
I have concluded that the best, and a somewhat easiest way to achieve a good result to have the motion capture actor stand with their feet together. This way, when weighting the skin to the foot controls it is easier to maintain an equal distance from the wheelbase.
While running my tests I compared both methods, and although I do love the way Vardo jumps all about in the version where the entire mesh is parented to the rig, I much prefer the usability of having the wheels and base separate. Going forward, I will consider trialing a blendshape, or ncloth simulation.
Overall, I am happy that I made it work to a satisfactory level, but I would love to see this through to a more usable and versatile solution.
Below is a comparison of the two different models I trialed.
I have a tendency to overdo things, so after my first few trials, I realized I had to pull it back to be able to test my mocap without taking HOURS repainting skin weights. Below is a super sped up video of the modeling process.
I do have footage of how terrible this model worked out and will include it in my making of the video, one thing I soon realized what I wasn’t going to be able to make the wheels, doors, and window shutters move independently of the while ensuring the travel with it in a seamless manner.
Below is a schematic of how I finally managed to put Vardo together. But parenting the wheelbase to the foot controls I could move the entire vehicle with the main character controller, and by parenting the wheels to the base I could place keyframes on them.
UPDATE I just had a brainwave about how I could make this better!
I am quite fortunate to have a friend named Jenny who was happy put on the mocap suit not once but twice. For some reason we had technical difficulties with the first capture session so had to go back. In preparation for my trails, I asked her to do a series of basic moves: Happy, sad, angry, etc, as well as a hip bend and turn.
Here is a photo of what such a good sport she is.
Then after collecting the data off, I take it to the cortex suit. Fixing the data is something that does actually get easier in time, so I managed to clean all my data in a few hours. If anything can be said about it, it’s tedious and requires high attention to detail. I can’t record the screen so you will have to settle for this low budget cellphone footage. however, it does the job.
Then it’s off to motion builder where you retarget all the motion points to a character. Which led to some interesting results to start with.
Somewhere between my last post and this one my experimental motion capture project took a bit of a left turn. In part because of time constraints, but also because another avenue took my interest.
I decided to combine my Animation Capstone Vardo with my Motion Capture in an effort to create a way I could use motion capture technology to create a pre-vis in preparation for creating the keyframed animation.
I wasn’t entirely sure I could achieve this, which worried me. I don’t take failure well, especially when I am sure that I can figure something out so I doggedly started my research into how I could proceed.
After casting a google net I realized that there isn’t that much research into this practice yet, and although plenty of people are making arms longer to create an ape, or applying the data to a monster character there hasn’t been too much experimentation using it with vehicles.
The anthropomorphized Vardo of my Capstone is inspired in part by the Pixar animation Cars, but you can learn more about my project by watching my video essay on the subject of using an anthropomorphized non-human character.
Below is the video that inspired my own search for a solution to my problem, and although they are using methods that outweigh my current knowledge with time and practice I believe I will be able to come up with an appropriate solution.
I have no idea what I should be calling these titles, so this one has WHP as a shorthand for Words Have Power, which is what I think my sequence is starting to be called, it’s like my sequence is starting to take on a life of its own, it’s one of my art babies. One I am hoping is cultivated and grown, not the kind you have to retire to the place all your old files go to collect dust.
I have scoured the internet in search of inspiration for what my character is going to look like, and although I still haven’t got it nutted out entirely here are some images that have inspired me.
So many images here are leaving me feeling inspired, in particular, the one on the top right. I like the combination of lines of the face, hair, arms and legs, and the text making up the dress. Although the one on the bottom right appeals to me too. These are both options I intend to explore while creating my sequence.
the second set was supposed to focus more on what the area my character is going to dance in will look like, but I was also drawn to a mixture of ink lines and font used for clothing. I rather like the 2nd to top image on the left of the 3d words jutting out of the walls. In the video, Dr Angelou talks about how words get into your things, into your walls, your carpet, your floor, so I intend on incorporating words either I this manner, or by using a texture map.
This is just a small collection of the images I have collected during my research. Stay tuned for my next post which will show you some of the concept art works I have been working on.
The first half of my Motion Capture Minor for the 2nd year of uni is dedicated to creating a 30-second sequence which explores alternative, non-figurative, abstract and/or experimental visualisations of movement and the body in motion.
This project is leaving me excited and nervous in equal measures, and the possibilities I could explore are seemingly endless. The first idea that popped into my head was to use a combination of live action and motion capture to create a bubble man, that would float up and away from the Trouble Monsters (my twin girls) and start a dance sequence in the sky that would end with the bubble man popping. A quirky funny idea that I’d love to create and the first few weeks were devoted to coming up with ideas on how I could accomplish that.
Then, a few days before we were due to film in the motion capture lab I spied a poster on the wall behind the bus shelter and a new idea took place. This idea was so strong that it eclipsed all thoughts of bubble men and compelled me to change direction completely. I hadn’t actually spoken to Greg, our MoCap teacher before our filming session, so I wasn’t even sure if it was possible, so for prudence’s sake, I took footage for both ideas, so I could always come back to my dancing bubble man later if I wanted too.
Thankfully my dancer could understand what I want to communicate in my piece and I got my footage in one take. The idea that I have in my head has been a bit tricky for me to draw out, concept art is a skill I am still developing. However, I have the words spoken by Dr Maya Angelou called “Words have power” in an interview with Oprah as the backdrop of the sound, and my figure dancing is made from words, the words on her body will either by Dr Angelou’s poetry, or perhaps (and I’m just thinking this right now as I glance over at the bus stop poster) words that empower people, in particular woman. to create not exactly the bus stop poster, but a form that looks like a person in form only, but it’s words.
I still haven’t quite figured out how I am going to build my figure yet, currently I am still completing tutorials, however, I am thinking I could use a combination of the Toon Shader in Maya, the ink outlines, and the text builder.
See my next blog post for more on the development of my idea. Below is the Dr Maya Angelou video that I am using to base my sequence on. I am using the powerful words of Dr Maya Angelou, the human form, and words themselves to create a sequence that show that words really are things.
(Skip to the bottom if you just want to watch the movie.)
After hours and hours working on this assignment, it’s finally done. I’m not going to say it’s perfect by any stretch, there are quite a few things I”d love to spend some more time on fixing but due to time constraints, two other assignments and an essay I have due in three weeks I am calling it a day on this. (Unless I have time to revisit before it’s finally due on the 25th October)
Here is the title I create for it, I feel like it sets the tone rather well.
I have learned A LOT over the last semester, this being my first introduction to Motion Capture it’s been a steep learning curve, but an exciting and enjoyable one. From my first class until now I am left enthused about the next two years and can’t wait to integrate the knowledge I have gained into my next project.
Overall I am pleased with what I have created, I just wish I didn’t zero in on the imperfections. That being said I will probably continue to work on this when time permits.
The process of MoCap wasn’t as complicated as I first expected it to be, the pipeline is mostly straightforward providing you follow the steps correctly and take the time to ensure each step is carried out correctly as each steps measure of success depends on the one that goes before it.
Having the previous knowledge of how Maya works has been helpful, and I have found that the skills I have learned in both Animation and Motion Capture have beneficial to both subjects, and hopefully means I will continue to deliver better work as I progress my learning.
I have found that taking responsibility for my own learning vital while doing this assignment, which has required watching other tutorials to also expand my understanding of the subject.
I have learned the importance of creating a strong story line from the start so when you are capturing your data you ensure a good end product that follows your script and storyline. I hope to improve these skills also. I believe that I have created an end product that kept in mind my original storyboard and also keeping in mind how this story will unfold in a 3D space.
When I undertake my next project I believe I will take greater care to film the live action from the camera angles I intend on using inside Maya, as it will help when animating characters expressions and finger placement. I will also take create care when capturing the data and fixing it. I have this strange issue with my male leads neck which I was unable to solve in every instance, taking greater care at the first steps should ensure I do not have this issue again.
Anyhow, below is my final edit. I’ll update it here if I make any more changes. Feel free to leave feedback. All constructive criticism is appreciated.
After spending the afternoon in AUT’s amazing motion capture room we have to fix our data in a program called Cortex. It’s not exactly hard, but it’s time-consuming and tedious and takes high attention to detail. At this point, I think our entire group started to realise the importance of capturing good data while recording.
Here is a screenshot of what cortex looks like, I actually forgot to take a screenshot, that’s how focused I was.
After fixing the motion capture data you import into Autodesk and the real fun can begin. To cut a longish story short this where you tell the character which part of the body belongs to which dot, so the motion can be transferred to it. I felt very Dr Frankinstine as is saw my inert characters suddenly spring to life.
You repeat this process for each character, and THEN you can import them into your Autodesk Maya scene.
After that comes the tricky process of making sure their hands don’t go weird, or pass through something that should be solid. I found this part tricky trying to handle all the different animation layers and the graphs. I had quite a few times where one of their arms would bend into a totally inhuman shape.
Then when you have it playing out the way you like you position the cameras. We were given specific cameras to work with.
Then it’s just a matter of creating playblasts and assembling in Premier Pro and editing your audio. I can assure you this took a lot more time than I am implying here.
This is my first edit. In my next post, I will post my final Godzilla Previs. Which I loving refer to as Ohmygodzilla.