Bucks and Centroid are pioneering a partnership that will offer Centroid opportunities for research and development, and also give the students a chance to use a leading industry facility for their student films. It's just the kind of thing that universities should be doing - partnering with industry to create a mutually beneficial relationship.
|Pinewood Studios - home of 007|
As for me, I couldn't wait to visit Pinewood Studios, home to Centroid and one of Britain's largest and most historic movie studios. And, of course, the home of James Bond himself. I wasn't disappointed. Just like at Disney in Burbank where you get to stroll down Dopey Drive and Goofy Lane, so at Pinewood I was delighted to find that I had to walk along Goldfinger Avenue to get to work.
|Bond villains live on at Pinewood|
I was particularly delighted to learn that the room in which the motion performance would be captured was the very same sound stage in which Ripley, the character played by Sigourney Weaver, shot up the alien Queen in James Cameron's 1986 classic Aliens. I tried to imagine the room filled with giant plastic eggs and latex insects.
|Ripley -v- Aliens. Shootout in the MoCap corral|
Two students, Fiona and Umar, were the first to get suited up for a martial arts performance - acting out scenes from Fiona's final year film project. But were we properly prepared? asked the guys from Centroid. Had we brought storyboards? Had we planned exactly what we wanted in advance? Had we brought some dirty old trainers like we were told to? The MoCap markers get attached to your shoes with gaffer tape - and this is not kind to expensive shoes. I got the feeling we were not the most organised clients they had ever had.
|Fiona and Umar get suited|
|The Gun Room - a boy's paradise|
|The "T Pose" - Stuart and Umar calibrate the system|
The software used is called Cortex, and comes built into the Motion Analysis System. This then can be used to export an "HTR" (hierarchy Translation Rotation) to Motion Builder, which is what we will use to animate with.
|Umar gets turned into Cortex data|
|Umar and Fiona get turned into Plastic Man and Plastic Girl|
Atmospheric change matters too. It was a freezing cold day and, as the room warmed up, the cameras changed. Every now and again Stuart would jog around the room with what looked like a three-pointed magic wand, recalibrating the cameras to keep them in perfect alignment.
In the afternoon we recorded some dance moves. Laura and Naomi, two students from the Dance Department, performed a 2 minute performance piece that we will use as a teaching exercise, training animators to use MoCap data to create a performance. The raw MoCap data tends to be a bit soft and floaty and a good animator can do a lot to make it crisper, snappier and more compelling.
|Laura and Naomi from the Dance Department|
At the end of the day, I could see why directors love the process of shooting MoCap. If you can capture 60 seconds of action a day then you can shoot an entire movie in a few months - much, much faster than a traditionally keyframed animated film. Motion Capture is a process which is getting better all the time, and as animators we need to embrace it, and make it work for us.
All of this of course is today's technology. But what really gets Centroid excited is what tomorrow will bring - live motion capture. Think Jessica Rabbit, on the red carpet, as a live projection, performing in front of a live crowd. Now that would be worth seeing.