Who Uses Motion Capture?
Game development is the largest market for motion capture. With games drawing as much revenue as movies, it is easy to see why game development often calls for enormous quantities of motion capture. The immense competition to produce the 'coolest game possible' (thus becoming a top-seller - hopefully) means that greater production capabilities mean higher quality. More time is left for aesthetic finishing touches and fine-tuning of game play.
Generally there are two main types of 3D character animation used in games: Real-time playback vs. cinematics. Real-time allows the game player to choose from pre-created moves, thus controlling the character's moves in real-time. Cinematics are the fully rendered 'movies' used for intros and 'cut-scenes'. Often the last part of game production, or a process that is sub-contracted to a separate studio, cinematics are generally not essential to game-play, but do add a lot of appeal to the game, and help immensely with story development and mood generation.
Video and TV
Real-time motion is becoming popular for live television broadcasts. Motion capture can be used to place a virtual character within a real scene, or to place live actors within a virtual scene with virtual actors, or virtual characters within a virtual scene.
Motion capture for real-time broadcast requires mock-ups of any non-standard physiology (big stomachs, tails, etc.) to keep the performer's motions from causing the character's limbs to interpenetrate its body. Joint limits on the shoulders and knees (such as found in Autodesk MotionBuilder) also help maintain believability of the character. A real-time adaptation feature such as MotionBuilder's real-time motion mapping (from the performer's skeleton to a different proportioned character's skeleton) is essential when the character's body is very different from the actor's body.
When combining live elements with virtual elements the real and virtual cameras must share the same properties (perspective, focal length, depth of field, etc.) otherwise the illusion looks strange.
The Gypsy is ideal for real-time broadcast animation since it is so easy to transport, fast to set up, easy to use, and it works well in just about any environment.
Use of the PhaseSpace optical motion capture system, combined with MotionBuilder is makes it easy to produce daily 3d animated features, allowing TV stations to keep their content fresh and exciting, and giving viewers yet another reason not to 'touch that dial'.
Post-Production for Ongoing Series
Motion capture for ongoing series is becoming very popular. Creating a weekly show without motion capture invariably causes shows to be late or production studios to go bankrupt. Having an efficient motion capture pipeline is essential to the success of an ongoing character animation based series.
Motion capture is being used more and more in films nowadays. Motion capture based animation is essential for creating characters that move realistically, in situations that would be impractical or too dangerous for real actors (such as characters falling off the ship in Titanic.) Motion capture was also used extensively in Titanic for 'filler' characters (fit in between real actors) or in situations with virtual camera fly-bys over a virtual ship. Many of these shots would have been difficult or impossible to do with real cameras and a real ship, or real models, so virtual models, actors, and cameras were used. Some film characters require the use of motion capture, otherwise their animation seems fake. More and more independent companies are starting to put together desktop studios - The idea of two or three people creating an entire movie is not that far off, if motion capture is used correctly. The Gypsy is ideal for small and large shops. Motion capture animation can be done very quickly and inexpensively, without scheduling expensive motion capture sessions in a studio.
Motion capture is ideal for the web, whether used to create virtual hosts or greeting cards. As the web becomes more sophisticated and bandwidth increases, motion capture will help bring a 'human element' to the web, in the form of characters that viewers can relate to and interact with.
Motion capture generated Performance Animation can be thought of as 'Improvisation meets Computer Graphics (CG)'. At trade shows, meetings or press conferences, a good improviser acting through a CG character in real-time can create a very intriguing lasting experience for the viewer. Integration with live actors further helps create a fascinating experience.
Motion capture is useful for perceptual research. By presenting test subjects with abstract movements, distilled from motion capture data, repeatable experiments can be developed that provide insights into human perception.
Biomechanical analysis for rehabilitation purposes, relies extensively on motion capture, for its ability to produce repeatable results. Motion capture can be used to measure the extent of a client's disability as well as a client's progress with rehabilitation. Motion capture can also help in effective design of prosthetic devices.
Motion capture is essential for producing product designs that are ergonomically practical, as well as designs for physical products that are comfortable and appealing. The Gypsy has tremendous advantages over optical or magnetic systems when it comes to working in an enclosed space, such as a car interior or an aircraft cockpit. Optical systems are easily occluded and require a large distance between the subject and the cameras. Magnetic systems have major problems with metal in the capture space.
Motion capture training can make a huge difference in an animators training. While access to motion capture is not a substitute for developing good art skills and good traditional character animation abilities, it can go a long way towards making someone more employable.
Motion capture is indispensable for VR training applications. It makes for much better immersion than using a joystick or a positional handle.
Motion capture also has great possibilities for location-based entertainment. The book Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is a must read for anyone who enjoys musing about the future possibilities of VR.