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‘Night of the Living Dead’ Reboot Relies on iPi Motion Capture

Screening May 16 at the Cannes Film Festival, 3D animated horror classic reboot benefits from markerless mocap workflow.

MOSCOW -- With a seemingly unquenchable appetite for zombie movies, movie-goers will get their fill in 2014 with Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D, a 3D animated reboot of the original 1968 horror classic. The film features visual effects from The Graphic Film Company, Los Angeles, which relied on the iPi Soft iPi Motion Capture markerless motion capture software solution. The software’s ability to easily create massive amounts of zombie action and seamlessly integrate it with the studio’s complex workflow, provided the filmmakers limitless creative freedom. 

“There are a scant few examples of animated horror films, let alone ones that honor a classic like Night of the Living Dead, but this project is very special,” Michael Nikonov, iPi Soft's Chief Technology Architect says. "The fact that most of the film features motion capture, with a substantial amount created using iPi Motion Capture, stands as the best evidence our motion capture solution accelerates creativity easily and affordably." 

Produced by noted Hollywood filmmaker Simon West (The Expendables 2, Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and Jib Polhemus, and directed by Krisztian Majdik and Zebediah De Soto, Night of the Living Dead: 3D Origins is a 3D animated (rarely seen in the R-rated horror genre) retelling of the 1968 George Romero-directed zombie classic.

The highly-stylized film, with a look somewhere between 3D animation and a graphic novel, centers on a group of desperate survivors fighting to stay alive barricaded in an abandoned apartment building. Confined, cut off from the world and under constant attack from the undead hordes closing in around them, the six main characters struggle to survive, while also confronting their own sense of compassion and humanity.

Undertaking a completely 3D animated feature of this scale on an indie film budget, meant creating an innovative workflow that played to the strengths of motion capture, which Anthony Hoit, The Graphic Film Company's Chief Systems Administrator and Stereographer/Technical Director on the film, says was 90-percent of the production.

Hoit explained that the project first began to take shape about three years ago when production began at LA's Giant Studios, where they shot the principal motion capture with the main cast (including veteran actor Tom Sizemore) using a traditional motion capture stage set up with sensor suits.

From there, the project moved into post with Hoit and The Graphic Film Company's team of as many as 20 animators and visual effects artists using iPi Motion Capture to create much of the zombie action seen in the middle and background scenes. 

For Hoit, it was iPi Motion Capture's ease of use and high-quality motion data captured that provided the technical advantage from both a creative and a budget prospective.

"What most impressed me was how easy it was to take an idea, capture it with iPi Motion Capture, clean it up using 3D animation tools like Motion Builder or Maya, and drop it into a scene," Hoit says. "We’re talking a total time from concept to scene file of about 30 minutes. That’s pretty amazing."

Hoit noted that The Graphic Film Company team also found iPi Motion Capture fast-tracked the spontaneity in action scene creation. 

With members of the post team acting the movement, they were able to capture the motion right in their studio and composite it onto one of the many animated zombie character models they designed. Because iPi Motion Capture easily integrates with all of the leading 3D animation tools, they were able to take a sequence that on paper seemed complex and finish it in much less time than straight CG animation would.

For Hoit, the overall success of The Graphic Film Company is due not only to the studio's embrace of new, cost effective tools like iPi Motion Capture, but also their ability to incorporate them into their workflow without disruption.   

“Post production technology is changing very rapidly and integrating new software like iPi Motion Capture into our pipeline has helped streamline and speed our post production process.” Hoit notes. “One of the aspects of our company that is different than a lot of others is our forward-thinking approach to adopting and creating new technologies. That mindset is one of the reasons why we were able to complete 90-minutes of complex 3D animation on the budget of an independent movie.”

Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D is premiering at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16. It is scheduled for theatrical release in Fall 2014.

Source: iPi Soft