Unlocking the Power of Motion Capture in CGI

For decades, motion capture technology has been the unsung hero in transforming the entertainment industry. In particular, computer-generated imagery (CGI) has harnessed this formidable tool to breathe life into avatars, seamlessly integrating them into TV shows, movies, and video games. This innovative technology has ushered in an era where VFX artists and animators are freed from the laborious task of manually animating CGI characters. The evolving landscape of motion capture is an exciting spectacle, propelling CGI into new dimensions of realism.
The Need for Motion Capture in CGI

CGI is a foundational technology in film, animation, and game development. Over time, it has empowered creatives to create, improve, and render astonishingly lifelike digital images of anything the mind can imagine. The extent of CGI’s influence is such that it can be a Herculean task to discern its presence in modern movies.

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox – Pictured: Andy Serkis in War for the Planet of the Apes
As CGI evolved, a significant challenge lay in rendering CGI characters with consistent and realistic movements. Before the advent of motion capture, film and video game production companies worked around this challenge mainly in two ways:
  • Common programming – This entails programming characters to move in a way that is specific to that character. Programming was strictly limited to CGI characters lacking innate or recognizable movement patterns, such as a toy or a car.
  • Rotoscoping – An animation technique where live-action footage of an actor’s entire body movements is traced over, frame-by-frame, to replicate these movements in an animated character.
Image courtesy of Classpert – An example of rotoscoping
Despite being a precursor for motion capture as we know it today, rotoscoping wasn’t a good fit for the direction CGI took in the 21st century. It was time-consuming and didn’t work well for 3D CGI characters. In addition, rotoscoping was unsuitable when these characters were placed in a live-action environment since it was prone to slight deviations in traced outlines, resulting in movement inconsistencies in the final animation.
As CGI transitioned towards rendering 3D characters with more human-like movements, motion capture emerged as the ideal solution.
What Makes Motion Capture a Perfect Fit for CGI
Motion capture (mocap) records the natural movements of human actors and accurately translates them into CGI characters in real-time. In mocap, VFX artists place fixed reference points of reference on an actor’s body, which are equipped with active markers and tracked by specialized cameras. The relative positions of these reference points can then be used to construct a digital skeleton for VFX artists to map a 3D model onto.
What makes motion capture perfect for CGI is that it excels where the previous motion technologies failed. For instance:
  • Motion capture tackles the issue of inconsistent character movements posed by rotoscoping. It gives CGI characters realistic movements that mirror natural human movements in animated or live-action environments.
  • Motion capture and rendering can simultaneously generate real-time avatars like those in virtual reality (VR).
  • It significantly cuts down the time and effort needed to create animations compared to frame-by-frame rotoscoping.
Simply put, mocap is an invaluable partner to CGI, and they work together wonderfully to deliver realistic appearances and movements in CGI characters.
Motion capture systems have historically been reserved for blockbuster productions like The Avengers or triple-A games like Call of Duty. However, these systems have become increasingly affordable and accessible to consumers. Thanks to cost-effective and user-friendly mocap systems like AXIS, users can now easily tap into VFX and animation production.
Mocap for CGI is Accessible Now More than Ever with AXIS
AXIS (Active XR Interface System) allows animators and VFX artists to generate authentic CGI characters with natural lifelike movements. Thanks to the AXIS Pro’s 16-node setup and 9 Degrees of Freedom, it delivers accurate measurements (<1mm) for precise full-body motion tracking. You can capture even the slightest nuances of your movements and accurately translate them to a CGI character.
Advanced motion tracking capabilities aside, AXIS packs all of its features in an easy-to-use solution. The nodes are interchangeable and wireless, allowing users the freedom to move around a 500ft range. That’s not all; it has an easy suit-up and set-up that enables users to achieve outstanding mocap results quickly and conveniently. As a cost-effective mocap system, AXIS has made a promising step toward making mocap accessible to general consumers.
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