ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.11 - FEBRUARY 2000

Vicon Motion Systems' Brian Nilles:
Motion-Capture Moves Forward

by Sharon Schatz

Quick quiz ...What do the following have in common: walking droids, fighting Gungans, and 1500 perishing digital characters on a sinking ship carrying Leonardo DiCaprio? If you said, "Their movements came to life with the use of motion-capture provided by Vicon Motion Systems," you are correct! Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace and Titanic are only two of the high profile projects that this company's motion-capture systems made possible.

Vicon Motion Systems is a subsidiary of Oxford Metrics, Ltd., a company that provides motion-capture technology to the medical, sports performance and entertainment markets. Oxford Metrics was founded in 1984 in Oxford, England. Originally, the company focused on the medical market for gait analysis of children prior to surgery or treatment for cerebral palsy. The company entered the market of motion-capture for animation in the mid-'90s. But it was only two years ago that Vicon Motion Systems introduced its most highly acclaimed product, the Vicon 8, an optical motion-capture system which has been used in major motion pictures, hundreds of computer games, commercials, music videos and television.

Brian Nilles, CEO of Vicon Motion Systems' U.S. office. © Vicon Motion Systems.

Brian Nilles is the CEO of Vicon Motion Systems' U.S. office, managing the company's sales and marketing efforts for North and South America. Brian joined the company in 1997 as a product market manager and spearheaded Vicon's expansion into the entertainment market. Between his work in the office and studio, Brian took time out to talk about the advances in motion-capture.

Sharon Schatz: What is different about motion-capture now as compared to two years ago?

Brian Nilles: A whole bunch of different things. If you're talking about Vicon systems, about a year and a half ago we launched a new hardware platform called Vicon 8 and that was the first optical motion-capture system that was designed from the ground up for animators.

You probably know that optical technology has its roots in biomechanics. We've been in business doing that for about sixteen years. That's great for the work that is done for biomechanics, but the solutions that we provided for those guys were outdated compared to what the animators wanted to do. So, we produced a brand new hardware and software platform that removed some of the limitations that the older technology held over the animators. Things like [using] up to 24 cameras. For the Vicon 8 system, a single datastation can run up to 24 cameras. That means that you can have much greater capture volumes and greater numbers of characters simultaneously captured. We have customers who are routinely doing five characters simultaneously and in truth, we can link datastations together so we can go beyond 24 cameras -- up to 48 without much trouble.

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