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Method Studios Brings Mocap into the Work from Home Pipeline with Xsens

CG supervisor Han Yang has transitioned his game cinematic and trailer production efforts to a work from home studio, allowing him to continue delivering high-level content on a host of projects.

As a 3D generalist and CG supervisor at Method Studios, Han Yang has worked on shows like LOGAN, Aquaman, and Star Trek. This past March, he flashed his 3D skills more directly with the release of a his own independent CG-animated short, Pantheon, about a high-intensity battle between an Archer and an Orc as they fight tooth and nail for a key into another realm. Yang produced the short using Unreal Engine, with Xsens MVN Animate delivering motion capture data for character animations.

Despite social distancing measures, Yang has continued working on a large amount of game-related content, cinematics, and trailers for Method; creating an efficient remote-working pipeline has been an essential part of his ability to complete the work safely and remotely, with Xsens technology playing a key role in his at home production system.

Method was using Xsens alongside an Optical solution for its motion capture, but without access to the studio’s mocap stage, the studio has switched to Xsens as its one and only solution. The versatility of the Xsens suit allows Yang and his team to easily adapt to their home environment. “Xsens has always been an essential part of my workflow,” he noted. “Not only do I use Xsens for my personal projects, but at work, we use Xsens for previs and animation too. The lockdown means we don’t have access to our studio and mocap stage. So, to keep the project going, my team of animators and I have taken the Xsens system home – we’ve had to do a lot of mocap in our living room, and the on-body recording also allows us to capture performance in other parts of the house like the hallways and stairs when we need to record climbing or running.” 

Both production output and communication are significantly different when working from home; digital communication tools become the basis for all meetings and discussions. Regular internal review and a little extra time and care are necessary to ensure a studio-grade level of production is maintained. According to Yang, “One of the most challenging aspects of working from home is communication. The meetings we have every day have almost doubled, the daily review became challenging too. But thanks to our IT department, we have been able to keep the pipeline going.”

While the move to remote working was challenging for Yang and Method at first, the circumstances have provided an opportunity to prepare and build a pipeline that is easily transferable between the studio and home. 

“Using Xsens as an on-body motion capture solution has become really great for both production animation and previs,” he added. “There are still challenges, such as capturing multiple actors and their interactions in a single session while remote, but technology like Xsens is really easy to use and artist-friendly. The MVN software is definitely the easiest one I’ve ever used, it’s straight forward to pick up and the data quality is consistent, requiring minimum edits.”

Self-isolation and home working can make it difficult to stay motivated, but Yang found that keeping busy with his projects and staying connected online have helped him maintain his motivation, even when it started to wane.  

“It’s difficult to keep the motivation going I have to say, but there are so many projects lined up and ideas for projects I want to make, that I’m keeping busy,” he shared. “Staying up to date with the creative community is another big positive for me too – seeing all of the amazing work coming out every day, it just gets the creative juices running. All of the tools and software are still working, the mocap suit is ready, so there’s no reason to slow down.”

“It’s definitely a really tough time for the industry at the moment, as many productions have been put on hold,” he continued. “As an artist, as long as you keep creating good work, keep doing what you love, and keep animating, eventually, we’ll come out from this stronger. Also, it’s a perfect time to learn those tutorials that we never get the time to learn. I hope everybody stays safe and keeps making great work!”