If you thought VHS vs. Betamax or DVD vs. Blu-ray was confusing, finding out about all the different methods of motion capture (or MoCap) is a real eye-opener. At an interactive information session as part of the Festival of Learning, BU Media School’s Lecturer in the National Centre for Computer Animation, Dr Zhidong Xiao talked members of the public through the amazing world of motion capture.
He explained the many methods of using motion capture currently available and their relative pros and cons in terms of accuracy, space, cost and time.
At BU’s state of the art motion capture studio Passive Optical is used, but even this state-of-the-art system still has its disadvantages in terms of cost, heavy data usage and set up time.
However, one advantage it does have is that it allows for multiple actors to move and be digitally captured in a convenient space.
The most obvious uses of this technology are in the entertainment industry through films, computer games and advertising. Many have seen film actors use MoCap technology to bring their physical performances to life in CGI forms, such as Andy’s Serkis’ portrayal of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy or the incredibly detailed work seen in James Cameron’s Avatar. A film many BU Computer Animation alumni were involved in.
But motion capture has also found invaluable applications in the life sciences for sports’ performance analysis, injury prevention and rehabilitation. The technology can be used to map athlete’s movements and assess injuries and progress. Motion capture is also finding interesting and varied uses in performance art, image heritage preservation, robotics and 3D visualisation.
The interactive session ended with one of the attendees bravely donning the motion capture suit and seeing their ‘stick-man’ image appear instantly on screen. A hilarious and impressively rendered ‘YMCA’ dance ended a very technical – but highly enjoyable – introduction to this fascinating technique.