Motion capture is cool, I’ve been thinking about investing some money in motion capture actually. I have established enough of a presence with the Character Creator 3 pipeline and iClone 7 pipeline that if I wanted to invest in some motion capture, it’s within my reach, on a good day, with a sale going. Motion capture has advanced a lot, you can now capture the fine details of the face, the movement of the fingertips, as well as the motion of the body, converting them into rigged animation, and then import it into your Unreal game, or movie, or whatever.
So let’s breakdown what I would need if I wanted to break into motion capture.
- Motion live plugin $200 on sale at 50% off for $100.
- Facial Mocap Profile available for $399, on sale for $250. (or with Faceware for $990 on sale from $1590)
- Hand Mocap Profile $250 on sale from $399. (with the Rokoro Smartgloves)
- Body Mocap Profile $599 on sale from $999. (with Perception Neuron)
All in all, I’d be looking at about 2k in USD to get a fully featured mocap suite to go along with my iClone 7 and CC3. You’d lose another 1.5k on sale picking those up.
It’s a lot, but I can see the day when I’ve got that lying around under my bed, then I’d have full mocap capabilities and I could make my own animations and import into Unreal. Yeah I’d have a real urban nightmare setup, a makeshift studio with 5k worth of tools and it’s just one guy making his ridiculous games no company would ever license. Yeah there is a bent appeal in that, but I think for now I’ll save my money.
Check out this guide on the best assets on the asset store, if the budget for mocap is scaring you off and you want something a little more sensible.
What is the best mocap suit?
The best mocap suit is the XSens MVN Awinda, an expensive item, it is immune to magnetic disturbances. The Rokoko Smartsuit Pro is a cheaper option, or the Perception Neuron 2.0 is the discount choice.
How much is a mocap suit?
IMU-based mocap suits are $500-$10,000+, and Camera-based systems start at $2000, and can go as high as $15,000.
Is motion capture animation expensive?
Actually, if you’re going with a budget option like iClone based mocap from Reallusion, you might only spend 5k or less. Conversely a big ticket studio might drop 200k on their mocap and still feel unsatisfied.
Look at him dance
Here’s a metahuman dancing, from a robot dancing, following the motions of a human dancing…. wonderful, it is a sign of the times.
Yeah if you want to make your game really next level, bump it up to closer to professional grade, a good mocap suite will take you far. It’s a good investment for a mid to large scale developer. Any really big company is going is going to be working with a very professional mocap suite. But a small to mid range developer can still get on the bandwagon and become a lot more professional. Not sure if I’m entirely sold on this, but it is one of the things you can look at for your game dev company.
Okay, so you have a few different options when it comes to Mocap:
Arguably the best of the bunch:
Optical sensors have you wearing essentially a full body suit, covered in lights, the lights are easily tracked and followed by the camera’s watching you. You also have a number of lesser, smaller less efficient sensors, affixed to your body suit. These various sensors are placed in key areas all over the body. Enough that, with a few camera’s watching the scene, you can record all elements of motion, and with a camera affixed to your face, all of your reactions can be recorded in real time, converted to mocap data, and made into digital animation, for use in Unreal and Unity, and even making 3D animated movies.
This is technically the best method, but there’s other methods you can use, or even a combination of both or all.
However the body suit requires batteries,
and it is big and bulky.
Inertial motion, rather than using a system of cameras, measures position through gyroscopes, accelerometers, and magnetometers, and then sends them directly to the computer for processing. This is typically less intrusive and can be sewn into the seams of your bodysuit, which is typically less bulky and easier for theatrical performances due to it’s sleek and non intrusive form. Inertial motion will not be of the same quality as Optical Motion, but it will still be very good, and is suitable for most of your purposes.
Again your reactions can be monitored with a camera affixed to the face, and converted to mocap data for future use.
This uses elements of optical motion and inertial motion. Due to the nature of the system, any jittering from the use of optical motion can be smoothed out with the application of inertial motion to compensate. It is a very good system, but once again it is bulky. You might get similar or better results, but it has the benefits and drawbacks of both.
Generally suitable only for games, this system was used in the Kinect to somewhat moderate success. Instead of the wearer dawning a set of armor to mocap, or a swimming suit to mocap, this time the wearer is simply monitored by cameras. Usually it takes at least two camera’s to do the trick, but the more of them on scene, the better the quality of the mocap you will get. The benefit of this system is transparent, you can get mocap data from a player who is not even wearing a bodysuit. They can be wearing what they normally wear, and you still get mocap data. This is often used in conjunction with a gamepad controller, with either a optical or intertial based sensor for tracking.
What’s the drawback? Well it’s the least accurate of all. If you’re working on anything remotely professional grade, and I’m not talking for the end user, then Image Based tracking is not sufficient to your purposes. It is not suitable to record motion capture data for a commercial grade AAA videogame, as these other methods are. It is a toy for games, there is no point to it as such, as a tool for recording mocap data, but it is on the other hand, very useful, as a tool for navigating a VR environment. Put a nice VR helmet on them, or my experimental VR sunglasses that don’t exist yet, and they will have a whale of a time.
To put it another way, what kind of meat is best for making sausages?
or Unreal Asset
Well the answer son, is beef and pork are better at doing the job when you want to make sausages, pork in particular, but Unreal Assets are very useful items in the production of commercial videogames, they have MANY DIFFERENT USES, so pick your poison as to which is more useful to you. My days of starving to acquire Unreal Assets still linger in my memory, I made my choice.
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Motion capture is an interesting, and high level technology to be using. It seems a little rich for an indie. An indie should be approaching their final total budget at 5k, not buying a bunch of mocap, but think of all the interesting things you could do with it, you can make your own animations. From scratch, in full, and get them to do whatever you want. You can hook up mocap to your face and copy over your facial expressions to the game character you’re working with. With iClone 7 you don’t even need to have a face that was rigged for motion, you can just import in your fbx character and it’ll be converted for facial animation.
It’s a high end technique, not sure what else to say. I don’t think I’ll be buying this at this time, because it’s just outside my budget, but I can see the utility in it, I could make full on 3D cutscenes with this thing, playing every character from every angle, at that point I’d need voice actors. I feel what you get with this, as an indie, is not worth what could get with the same budget. You could set yourself up with enough characters, environments, frameworks, and tools and licenses and music and everything else, to make your entire game, from beginning to end, on just the mocap budget. So as an indie I can’t recommend this unless you have a lot of disposable income, or you’re a bigger sized company. If you bring in 10k a quarter from your game, sure get some mocap, it’ll turn a commercial game professional. But, as a low level indie like me, well let’s just say I’ll be picking up the mocap stuff pretty slowly, one piece at a time.
So I guess we’re at the end. Be sure to check out this Epic Games Guide to selecting the right mocap setup. It should give you some more detail about what we’ve talked about.
Motion capture is a powerful, but expensive, and high level advanced tool, best for mid range to large size developers, but within the reach of certain indies. Decide if this system is right for you, consider your budget, and make your decisions.
I’ll wait for now.