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3D Artist
Aug
15

OptiTrack Prime 41 motion capture camera interview

News & Features
by
stephen.holmes

We talk to OptiTrack’s chief strategy officer Brian Nilles about the company’s latest motion-capture camera, the Prime 41, revealed at SIGGRAPH

 

OptiTrack Prime 41 motion capture camera interview

 

What are the specifications of the Prime 41?

The first camera in our new Primes series will be the Prime 41. Some of its notable features include:

  • 4.1 MP resolution
  • 180 FPS capture rate
  • Global shutter
  • 51° x 51° FOV
  • 80’ capture range
  • Built for real world use…

What can this camera do that other cameras can’t?

Short answer: Everything but drive you home after the shoot.

Joking aside, to fully appreciate the Prime 41, you have to understand our design process. We considered the complete lifetime of a motion capture camera—from unboxing to setup, capture, and teardown. Each process was accommodated with a nod to simplicity and usability. Of course we included all of the mocap essentials that our customers have come to expect—on-camera image processing, global shutter, external sync, high-transmission lenses, and much more. But then we added several surprises—new, unique features that will make you wonder how you ever got on without them. Everything about the Prime 41 was designed to make you say, “I can’t believe I’ve had to live with anything else.” This process has yielded the most powerful and intuitive 4.1MP camera ever built.

In terms of raw performance, the Prime 41 is a large volume juggernaut, able to track a 16mm mocap marker from more than 80’ away. When combined with our proprietary “fast glass” lens technology and powerful IR strobe, it can yield capture volumes up to 75’ x 150’ from a perimeter-only camera setup—with precise, noise-free data throughout. And with a 51° field of view, that volume can be achieved with fewer cameras than what you typically see in a large installation.

And then there’s the polish.

Enjoy innovations like our on-camera Aim Assist technology for simple, single-user aiming and calibration. One button push brings the camera view to full screen in the software, sets the image to grayscale, and optimizes it for visibility. The image is so clear that placing reference markers on the capture volume floor—only to pick them all up again before calibration—is no longer necessary. Once one camera has been aimed, move on to the next with a single button push.

OptiTrack Prime 41 motion capture camera interview

Or take our new on-camera visual alert system, which provides visual feedback on camera health and activity based on a ring of programmable RGB LEDs mounted on the camera face. As camera status changes, so does the indicator ring. For instance, you can program a red flashing light for when a camera is out of calibration. Or a dim green for when the cameras are rolling. Maybe blue indicates your reference cameras. The settings are customizable, so users can tailor the system to their preferences.

Even the case is thoughtfully designed. Instead of mounting a handle on top and a base on the bottom, each side of the camera discreetly serves as both handle and base. However it’s situated when you reach for it, you’ll find a handle. And each of its six sides is a suitable base to rest on. And once you decide how you want to mount the camera, it will automatically detect its orientation and adjust the numerical status LEDs accordingly, ensuring that they’re upright and readable.

One of our most important features—we offer all of this for 1/2 to 1/3 of the price of our nearest competitor.

Why will huge, triple-A productions be attracted to this camera over others?

To start, the price/performance benefits of the Prime series are so stunningly different from what people have come to expect from other providers. They have been trained to expect to pay a lot to get a lot. The Prime 41 will turn heads for bucking that trend so aggressively. It provides AAA productions with more volume, more actors, more precision, and less headache. That should add up to more money, but it’s an OptiTrack camera, so you know the cost will hit an affordable sweet spot. With even large studios feeling the pinch financially, that’s a helluva kicker.

How will this camera change the industry?

Like all OptiTrack’s products have done and will continue to do, the price/performance ratio completely changes the way that VFX studios, game developers, universities, labs and the military look at their requirements. When we launched the Flex 13 earlier this year—a 1.3MP, 120 FPS camera designed for medium sized volumes—we gave customers the ability to create a high-performance system for a complete system price that starts under $10,000. With the Prime series, even clients that are spec’ing out a top-tier system no longer have to make hard decisions about camera type and count. OptiTrack’s low pricing means they can either have 3X the system they had planned on achieving with older technology—or an even better performing system that will cost 1/3 as much. That’s hard to ignore.

How has OptiTrack’s past work and technology led up to the point you’re at now with this camera?

Five years ago we launched our first OptiTrack motion camera at $549. With that release, we proved to the world that we could build high-quality, high-performance capture and tracking hardware and software for less than anyone thought possible. We proceeded to invest in our own in-house prototyping and manufacturing systems, controlled our costs and didn’t cut corners. That camera became the largest selling camera in motion capture history.
We listened to our customers, mastered the design engineering process, specified cameras that brought the highest possible value to our customers, and then manufactured them for far less than our competitors. With this year’s launch of the Flex series and today’s launch of the Prime series, we’re now here to make sure the rest of the world can take advantage of our hard work.

 

OptiTrack’s Prime series is shipping right now. You can learn more about the Prime 41 over at OptiTrack’s site.

This interview and much, much more can be read in issue 45 of 3D Artist – out today! You can buy it at imagineshop.co.uk or get a digital version at greatdigitalmags.com

OptiTrack Prime 41 motion capture camera interview