It helps build unforgettable experiences in film, TV and games, and yet there’s an awful lot that you probably don’t know about motion capture and the people that provide it as a service – especially if you don’t work with it in your pipeline.
We were lucky enough to have a chat with Brian Mitchell, MD of Audiomotion, which provides and directs stages, equipment and mocap solutions for some of the biggest entertainment products on the planet – think Alien: Isolation, Quantum Break, Maleficent, Iron Man 2… the list goes on.
How has the mocap industry changed in the years since Audiomotion started?
We started nearly 20 years ago with 14 cameras shooting in near darkness apart from a flood of red light from the cameras with reference video on VHS tapes. Now we have multiple stages and location shoots running over 150 cameras, 20 actors and fully lit film sets recording live action and animation at the same time.
With the ongoing improvements in fidelity in both games and movies, how have you adapted to provide developers/film-makers with more precise output data?
We have the ability to capture data at different frame rates which means we generally record at 100/120 fps (frames per second) and sometimes much higher. This enables us to stay ahead of the out media whoever it’s for.
Which shoots have been the most challenging for your team to work on?
We have just completed a football shoot which required a capture area of 45 meters long by 20 meters wide and to allow free play from 11 players. We captured just under 300 GB of data over 4 days, we used 140 cameras at an indoor sports facility near Heathrow.Movie shoots to note have been capturing horses and chariots for Ridley Scott’s Exodus, battling stuntmen on horseback with broadswords, bows and arrows for Narnia and of course a million zombies for World War Z for Brad Pitt.
What’s the strangest thing to have been captured at Audiomotion?
A cat. We have looked to capture a big cat in the past but this one was domestic and quite hard to control, dogs are much easier.
Are there any real differences between capturing for film and capturing for games?
The main differences are that films have a lot more structure and hierarchy to deal with, so the way of working is fixed whereas the game developers have a much wider range of budgets which governs the way they work. Smaller developers are forced to be more efficient with the animation, where the bigger budget titles can use named actors, have stuntmen and use experienced directors. So the gap is narrowing all the time which I believe you see in the production values of the big budget games now.
Could you highlight the main software tools you use on site and what they do?
Our main software is Blade from Vicon which is our data tracking and clean up tool. We also use Autodesk MotionBuilder for solving. Maya, Max, Unity and Unreal are also on the list.
Is there anything you can tell us about any upcoming projects?
There is a film coming out in October with an A lister who has a very particular set of skills – we had the pleasure of working with him for two weeks and he’s a true gent. We’ve also just finished shooting on a major film where we had 15 crew on set with 4 mocap stages, shooting over 13 weeks with a world class director. I’ve read the book and personally I can’t wait to see the film.
Where can you see motion capture going in the next few years? Any exciting developments on the horizon?
Yes, the fact that we’ve been working in a virtual environment for so long means we’re perfectly placed to collaborate with all the VR/AR developers which is an exciting place right now. We have the ability to stream live motion capture in to game engine so the thought of having a VR experience where you can have multiple players seeing and reacting to each other in a 3D environment will be amazing. We are also developing one of our stages to be able to capture live action and animation at the same time with the use of infrared makers. The development and use of a virtual camera is also going to enable all the top film directors to be hands on through the whole VFX process.
Our thanks to Brian and his team at Audiomotion for their help with this piece.