Blog

On this page you can find blog entries which follow the research, teaching and projects that I am currently running.


Real time capture, virtual cameras & virtual sets
 

Real time capture has more or less become expected in today’s creative industries. We have been using real time capture for some time with our setup and in our short video below you can see our new studio as well as the implementation of a virtual camera and virtual set. You can even see how much fun this is and may even spot our little trip to buy lunch! The use of such features can greatly enhance both performance as it gives the actor something to work with and as an aid for director and crew to ensure quality data is captured. This kind of technique has become famous through James Cameron and his use of virtual cameras on Avatar.

In next semesters module we will pay particular interest to real time capture including the use of multiple machines to screen capture real time reference from motion builder as well as using time code to capture and sync video reference data. It is hoped that we can look at problems associated with using real time on a smallish system and ways to deal with them.


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Bradford Animation Festival
 

The university is once again busy with the start of term. Last week I met with my new first years and I am really looking forward to teaching them. Welcome to Bradford :)

All preparation is now just about complete and my attention is shifting towards preparing for the workshop I will be running at the Bradford Animation Festival. The festival is a national festival and more details can be found via the following link: http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/baf/ The workshop will focus on using motion capture in games and animation with a focus on real time motion capture. The images below give a little away in regards to what the participants will get to use. More information will follow in coming weeks.



New assignments and module content
 

Every module from motion capture through to animation and special effects has undergone numerous updates. New content including assignments which put the student in an industry emulated environment and promote specialisation have been created through analysis of external and internal feedback. These should help students focus on areas where they have been lacking in the past and have a much larger advantage than before.

One such assignment has just undergone final testing before its first run. Below the new mocap props which will be used by masters students can be seen in use. From the test shoot the sword and shield perform just as hoped and do not obstruct the markers on the subject behind them. I look forward to applying my research and these new teaching resources over the coming months.


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New industrial focus
 

Most of these past two weeks has been concentrated firmly on my teaching qualification. This is proving to be very beneficial as the research coming out of this is directly being applied to my teaching. New module content, delivery and assessment is currently being produced to implement a very new teaching strategy which can be seen as very industrial focused but also academic. Students will work as a team from start to finish in a module which emulates how industry works. It is hoped that this will give students more than raw practical skills but also experience of how to work in a company in industry with team based, communication and research skills. Below you can see pictures from a shoot testing out the new props that the students will use in this module.



Prop Build
 

This week has seen the completion of the prop build for next semester’s forthcoming master’s module. The masters students will get to use these in their team based production which I am currently planning as part of my teaching qualification. Props are very necessary in order for actors to be able to give a good performance. Using props in motion capture however can come with complications as optical systems must be able to see markers on subjects and props can block their line of sight. Prop building itself is to be including much more in this year’s modules to enable students with this very necessary skill. These props will serve of an example of good practice and give ideas of how to overcome many of the problems we face.



Ecoversity Project
 

In this day and age, when people think of technology they almost always associate it with entertainment in one way or another. When it comes to motion capture indeed people link this with video games as well as movies such as Avatar. This is all well and good as these applications have driven the technology forward, advancing the techniques we use. They are not however the original or the only use of the technology. Motion capture was originally designed to be used in the medical industry and is still used to this day as a major tool used in gait analysis. Motion capture is also used to create architectural visualizations and in 3D walkthroughs for example to give an impression of the end result.

As part of next semester’s module preparation I am currently producing a visualization project for ecoversity. This project aims to show what the new student village will look like upon completion to give both publicity for the university and inform future users of how it could be used. The main aim is to show the benefits of such projects and inspire students by giving them a real life example of how motion capture can be used in areas other than the creative sector. It is then hoped that they will research and work in one of these areas.

The potential for using this technology in ways that benefit the world and the human race are quite obvious. However even masters level students fail to think of these unique and positive projects that can truly be called a masters project. Staff in higher education work in a many number of areas which could benefit from this technology including both technical and artistic areas such as engineering, science, and archaeology and through the creation of visualizations and simulations. When it comes to sustainability we are reminded on a daily basis of our impact on our planet and our home.



Dog Data Samples
 

On the side we have continued to work on developing techniques suitable for working with animals. We have achieved successful dog capture and as the video below shows the mapping of this data onto a computerised model. This research will be implemented into my master’s module where I hope students will take an interest in this application of motion capture. The use of motion capture on animals is an area where study is very much needed. The rewards of studying in this area can be very lucrative with jobs including gait analysis on race horses up for grabs.

I look forward to carrying on this project and producing the full advert in September.


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Centroid 3D - Pinewood Studios Visit
 

Summer term is showing no signs of slowing down! This week a group of students along with my assistant and I visited one of my contacts at Pinewood Studios. Centroid 3D is a world leader in Motion Capture and character animation and provide services to the film, television and games industries. Based at Pinewood Studios in Hertfordshire, their fully equipped studio can use up to 150 Motion Capture Cameras with an impressive ability to pre-visualise all motion capture.

Centroid recently visited the university to give both a motion capture talk and a workshop following my staff placement last summer. Kindly they agreed a follow up visit where students were able to use Centroids’ impressive suite, take part in a tour of their facility and parts of Pinewood.



As part of the visit students learned how companies in industry run motion capture shoots through participating in a shoot planned by both myself and Sabrina Steinert. The day proved to be very useful for all in both terms of focusing students on the future and providing necessary experience needed to start work in the real world. Both Centroid and I are keen to take this relationship further and we look forward to the next time.



Dog suit implementation
 

The dog project is now fully in production. This week has seen the successful implementation of the "dog suit" on one dog and partial implementation on another. The video below shows the exploits of getting dog subjects used to performing in the capture studio. All in all very exciting. Future shoots should prove to be very successful.

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New Capture Setup
 

This week has been quite slow due to time issues but regardless planning for the next set of projects is now complete. A new camera setup has been put in place comprising of both low and high cameras. These cameras give coverage of a good 5 x 5 meter capture volume which will give good data for both a human actor and for a small dog to be captured simultaneously. With test shoots completed next week’s shoots will be used to capture the data that will actually be used in the project.



New Markersets & Templates
 

Last week was quite important in terms of a number of big developments going through. The main development of which is the creation of unique marker sets / templates for both a human actor and a small dog. Both marker sets auto label well and produce excellent skeletons which can be brought into motion builder to control target characters.

Next week will see the first of a small number of capture shoots. These shoots will be used to capture the data required for an advert commissioned by a popular pet food brand!!

This advert will be in production over the coming months and once finished will be released along with a series of tutorials and movies showing how the advert was made. The advert is set to feature the use of both Motion Capture along with many other special effects including Syflex, the cloth plug-in. The tutorials will cover many of the production points along the way moving from Blade to Motion Builder and finally to Maya.

In other news, this week will involve quiet a lot of time sat at the old desk cleaning up data of last week’s fencing shot. The university fencing team (a small number of my students) along with my help are producing an advert to promote their team. The advert promises to be a very exciting feature for fresher’s fairer featuring a many number of moves performed with sabres and foils.



Quadruped Motion Capture - Pre-Production
 

During the past term both Sabrina Steinert and I have conducted research into capturing the movement of animals, in particular dogs via an optical motion capture system.

After a small number of tests a dog marker set which gives good movement was produced. By working with dogs suitable locations for markers can be found quite easily. The major problem is trying to attach them. Anyone who has worked with animals or children will tell you that it can be quite an interested challenge. In the case of motion capture making sure markers don't ping off or the dogs don't play with the markers are the major problems.

To over come the above problems we created a MoCap suit which Holly, our test subject is happy to wear. I am now in the final stages of maping test movement to a 3D model using motion builder. Once this is complete the production stage of the project will start.




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