ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 4.11 - FEBRUARY 2000

Vicon Motion Systems' Brian Nilles: Motion-Capture Moves Forward
(continued from page 2)

Probably the greatest number of productions done with the Vicon system falls into computer games. I'll mention a couple of the top games that are coming out right now. NFL 2K and NBA 2K by Sega/Visual Concepts and House of Moves. Quake III Arena by Activision, id software and House of Moves. NBA Inside Drive 2000 by Microsoft, High Voltage and House of Moves. NFL Fever 2000 from Microsoft and House of Moves.

SS: What are the next great developments that Vicon or the industry in general is moving toward?

BN: Well, real-time has opened up a number of different opportunities within the entertainment industry, primarily TV and live broadcast. Beyond real-time, we are working on several different R&D (research and development) projects. One of them is markerless tracking. The technology of Vicon 8 places reflective markers on the actor. Being able to do away with those would allow for motion-capture equipment to reside alongside film equipment and that would be a major boon. So, we've been working on that for actually a couple years, but it's now coming to some very, very cool results.

We have some new hardware technology coming out that has to do with improving the resolution that we can capture. I'll leave that vague. We've got a product release coming up in April. Beyond that, we've also got some R&D that's looking at redefining motion-capture in its entirety using some image-based technology to produce the same sort of thing that we want from motion-capture, but more elegantly and with more versatility.

SS: What are the differences between optical and magnetic motion-capture and how does one or the other benefit the different types of projects that you do?

The interactive community is a booming industry heavily relying on motion-capture to create their products. © Sega Entertainment.

BN: The place for magnetic technology has typically been for people who are looking for entry-level pricing or who demand real-time. And that's in the past. Magnetic systems for a single character -- I think it's in the $60,000 range. As soon as you add another character, you know, two characters simultaneously, you have to add another suit and that becomes $90,000 or $100,000, something like that. Compared to the optical technology, that probably would be regarded as entry-level. But now with the production of Vicon 8 real-time, there's less of an argument to go for magnetic.

The difference in the output has to do with the accuracy of the capture. We can find a marker's position in a full-body capture situation down to about plus or minus two millimeters. And the magnetic people are in order of magnitude outside that. The capture volume that we can capture in or the area that the actors can move around in and be captured is significantly different from magnetic. We can produce capture volumes in the 30 and 40 foot range, where magnetic can't. The magnetic systems that I've seen, they have two units on either side of the volume that are responsible for measuring the magnetic field. The stages are not more than ten or twelve feet in diameter in the active area to be captured. Magnetic actually requires a special stage because if there is metal in the area, it can distort the capture. They often use wooden stages. With Vicon optical, we can go in anywhere for the work.

There are a whole bunch of other subtle differences. The Vicon 8 system can be used for facial-capture as well, and a magnetic system can't. But, mostly, it has to do with accuracy, the result in animation, and the fact that we can do real-time now is going to make it more difficult for the guys in magnetic.

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