Motion capture is – usually – expensive.
MoCap suits can run into tens of thousands of dollars, while cameras, software, and the space to carry out the movements can mean investing six figures into your setup.
For many years, this meant MoCap was mainly used by large studios – the investment was simply not worth it for smaller operations.
However, as the technology has improved, mo-cap has become more accessible. Cheaper options present new opportunities for developers and animators to create high-quality animations.
Types of Motion Capture
There are primarily three types of motion capture:
Optical Motion Capture: Uses cameras and reflective markers. The cameras record the movement of these markers to capture motion. Best for detailed captures but can be more expensive.
Inertial Motion Capture: Uses motion trackers or sensors attached to the actor. These sensors record motion without the need for cameras or markers. It’s generally more mobile and often more budget-friendly.
Video AI: Instead of relying on markers or sensors, Video AI analyses regular video footage, leveraging deep learning algorithms to identify and track human motion.
Computer Vision: Computer vision for motion capture utilises algorithms and techniques to analyse video data to capture, track, and interpret movement. This technology translates real-world motions into digital data that can be used in animation, gaming, sports analysis, and many other fields.
What do you need for motion capture?
- Inertial Sensors/Motion Trackers: These are small, lightweight devices that are attached to the performer’s body.
- How It Works: Using accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers, they measure and record movements in three dimensions, capturing every twist, turn, and tilt. The data from these trackers are then translated into digital motion on a computer.
- Cameras (Optical Systems): Specialised cameras designed to capture the infrared light reflected from markers placed on the actor.
How It Works: These cameras trace the movement of these markers, converting them into digital motion in the system. The more cameras you have, the more angles and perspectives you can capture, reducing the risk of occlusions or missed data.
Reflective Markers: Small, spherical markers covered with reflective material.
How It Works: Attached to specific points on the actor’s body, they reflect infrared light from the cameras, ensuring precise movement capture.
MoCap Suits: Tight-fitting suits designed to hold the reflective markers or inertial sensors in place.
How It Works: These suits ensure that the sensors or markers remain in the correct positions throughout the capture session, providing consistent and accurate data.
Calibration Tools: Devices or markers used to calibrate the motion capture space.
How It Works: Calibration ensures that the spatial relations between cameras are accurate and that the volume is appropriately mapped. This process is crucial for precise motion tracking.
Data Processing Software: Software that processes, refines, and translates the raw motion data into usable animation data.
How It Works: After capturing, the data is often noisy or might have gaps. The software refines this data, allowing animators to clean up, edit, or enhance the motion before applying it to digital characters.
Hardware on a Budget
Used Equipment: Sites like eBay or specialty forums might have second-hand motion capture equipment at a fraction of the price.
DIY Solutions: Using high-speed consumer cameras and open-source software is now viable. It’s time-consuming, but far cheaper than specialised options.
Smartphones: Modern smartphone cameras present an affordable alternative to more specialised MoCap cameras – the detail isn’t the same, but the cost is much lower.
Perception Neuron focuses on accessibility, ensuring that indie creators and small studios can script their narratives without being hampered by budget constraints. The available sensors are compact, efficient, and one of the most affordable options on the market.
Rokoko Smartsuit Pro is another excellent option for budget-oriented mo-cap developers. Rokoko has quickly grown as a quality alternative to more expensive options, offering suits and setups at competitive prices.
The Kinect sensor is a basic and very affordable option for those looking to get into motion capture. While it can’t provide the same level of detail as multi-camera setups, its cheapness makes it an attractive choice.
Open-source Software: Tools like Blender have motion capture functionalities and are completely free.
Freemium Models: Some software providers offer basic versions of their software for free, with more advanced features behind a paywall. This can be a good starting point.
MoCap Libraries: These contain pre-recorded MoCap data, with a wide range of motions. They lack the customisation of doing it yourself, and the more popular movements are likely seen in multiple productions. However, libraries are a quick and easy entry point into MoCap.
Blender is an open-source platform, ensuring accessibility for any aspiring developer. Blender offers tools to transform raw motion capture data into lifelike animations, ensuring that budget constraints do not compromise artistry.
Move.ai was founded to empower creators. It uses generative artificial intelligence, computer vision, biometrics and physics to translate videos into motion data for animated characters.
iPi Soft is another option for budget-oriented MoCap developers, which allows for markerless motion capture.
Performit Live is a motion capture app that connects animators with MoCap performers, giving them professional-standard performances at affordable prices.
Balancing Cost and Quality
Research: Thoroughly research and compare options, ensuring you’re not sacrificing too much quality for cost.
Prioritise: Determine which components are crucial for your project and invest more in those, while seeking budget options for others.
Test: Always test equipment and software before a significant project. An upfront investment in a slightly pricier but reliable system can save costs in the long run by reducing retakes and post-production fixes.
Performit Live is an app that connects animators with motion capture performers, giving professional performances at affordable prices. Just $36 nets you 20 minutes of bespoke motion capture.
Here’s how to do it:
- Get the app – Available on the Apple App Store (soon to be available on Google Play).
- Find your performer – Browse and book.
- Direct the action – Capture your vision with real-time direction.Integrate – Download the data and integrate it into your project.
Want to Know More?
Motion capture is one of the best ways to implement realistic animations into digital media. This is just a taste of achieving that on a budget. Our full guide – ‘The Animator’s Guide to Motion Capture on a Budget’ – is packed with detailed insights, guides, and tips on creating high-quality MoCap without breaking the bank.
Whether you’re an indie developer crafting the next big game or an animator bringing characters to life, this guide is tailored for you. Fill out the form below to download your free guide.
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