The Future Of Motion Capture Animation: Building The Perfect Digital Human
If you have the QuickTime plug-in, you can view Webbie talk the talk. © Giant Studios.
The Next Step
Motion Reality is the leading motion-capture animation software to go beyond the limitations of visual markers, evaluating and utilizing as much information as possible about the motion source it's capturing, be it person, animal or animatronic rig. "The system is optically based, and we do use reflective markers [to track motion]," says Matt Madden, Giant Studios' Director of R&D (research and development). "That's certainly a big part of the capture process and important to calculating motion, but there's only so much information you can get from a set of markers. What do you do when those markers aren't visible? For example, when you make a fist, you can't see the bottom part of your fingers, but you certainly have a real good idea of where those fingers are. That kind of intuitive information is what we put into the software. It becomes smarter, essentially."
To accomplish this, the Motion Reality software utilizes a very detailed algorithmic formula to define the kinetic properties of the motion source. Explains Madden, "We get a clear understanding of what the person or source is comprised of, right down to a person's exact bone length, for example. We have a specific scaling process so that the software can figure out the specific dimensions of the subject that it's capturing. It has to know all those lengths and ranges of motion and even other things like connective tissue and ways to stabilize this skeleton. It evaluates all of [a source's] movement properties, as well as the different forces involved in generating those movements... and then our software tracks and creates skeletal transformations. This gives us more information for enhancing or modifying the motion" through 3D animation.
Watch this Quick Time movie of the preparation for a motion-capture session. © Giant Studios.
Once the skeletal motion and the movement style are created, the shader developer creates the visual surface elements, such as shading, lighting, rendering and texturing. "Shader development is creating the 3D programming tools to be able to mimic real life surfaces," says Giant's effects supervisor Rudy Poot. Formerly the Lead Color and Lighting Supervisor for Warner Bros' The Matrix, Poot is now Giant's resident expert on shading development. "No one's ever really been able to do human skin before," he says. "Human skin is really something that everyone is trying to achieve because it's so complex. There are so many layers of light being absorbed by our skin and bounced around, and it's very hard to mimic that in a program. With virtual humans like Webbie, we have to take many high resolution photographs of real skin, and then we have ways to stretch that skin onto the 3D model. And then a special code is written so that skin will react naturally to light."