Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Motion Capture and Animation with Year 10 Students

Over recent weeks some of my students have been exploring the realms of motion capture and animation - the sort of stuff that makes some of the special effects in Avatar so cool. If you are not too sure what motion capture (or MoCap) is - then this might try and explain it a little.

And while the clip above talks about the facial capture - we haven't worried about that aspect. We have focussed on the animation of the character. As another example of the type of animation that MoCap "captures", this is another short view

We are fortunate to have a good working relationship with the Auckland University of Technology and the department of Digital Design. John Piper, the Head of Digital Design has been a guiding hand for us in our quest to provide our students with a real life application of advanced animation techniques. AUT have the only MoCap studio outside of WETA Workshops in Wellington, and so our students have been very lucky to get access.

So - what is their project all about?

Everyone knows the wild success of Pixar and Dreamworks animated movies. From Toy Story to Cars to Madagascar to TinTin. What we are attempting is to bring the "very" short story concept to animation. Our students have no experience with animation software, but by exploring concepts in short animated stories they have worked in pairs to create a 30 - 60 second animated story.

As a lofty goal we set our sights on this type of thing ... Pixar's Knick Knack ..

After spending time understanding that there is a story board behind the movie - with everything from character development to conflict to theme - students set about creating their own story lines and characters. During the process they also had to create original art work to be the background prop for their animated story and the audio to accompany the story.

At the moment we are at the stage where the background images, audio has been created. The motion capture has been done and the students are now trying to get to grips with the animation process.

This series of short videos shows the start of the journey from motion capture to animation. We'll follow this one as it develops. 

The Story Line: Stickman
Basically "Stickman" is so thin that when he goes to the closet to get a T-shirt to put on - it falls straight to the floor. He gets the idea to put on weight - and the second part sees him start pushing weights to try and bulk up. That doesn't work, so he gets a bike pump, inserts the tube into his mouth and starts inflating himself with air - to the point he explodes.

Here's the motion capture.

Now - you'll notice the "grey dots" on the suit. These are the "dots" that the cameras (on the stands in the background) are focussed on capturing the motion of. There are dots on the cap, the arms, body, hands, legs and feet. Once this motion file is captured, it then needs to be applied to a 3D model. To do this we have been using MotionBuilder. Here are a couple of versions of the process and what the final MotionBuilder output looks like.

The above file is the motion file with the "dots" - try running the 2 videos above at the same time to see how it works.

The video below is a version of the mapping of the dots captured to a standard 3D model.

The next phase will see the students apply this model and it's motion to their context - and I'll document those stages over the next couple of weeks as they get to grips with either Blender or Maya as they continue on their animation journey.

1 comment:

  1. the movioe avatar was interesting and the whole 3d animation was so cool, anyways check out this website for interesting feeds, www.unn.edu.ng thanks