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April 15
2024

ISSUE

Spring 2024

THE EXPANDING HORIZONS OF MOTION CAPTURE

Chris McGowan

TOP: Snoop Dogg at Astro Project motion capture studio in Santa Monica for his “Crip Ya Enthusiam” music video utilizing the Vicon system and StretchSense gloves. (Image courtesy of Vicon and Astro Project, LLC)

Snoop Dogg at Astro Project motion capture studio in Santa Monica for his “Crip Ya Enthusiasm” music video utilizing the Vicon system and StretchSense gloves. (Image courtesy of Vicon and Astro Project, LLC)

Motion capture, performance capture and volumetric video technologies are rapidly advancing, incorporating AI and ML to a greater extent and focusing on enhancing realism, precision and accessibility. Peter Rabel, Technical Product Manager at Digital Domain, comments, “The trend towards real-time capabilities has become prominent, allowing for immediate feedback and integration into virtual environments, video games and live events. As we integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning as tools to enhance these functions’ capabilities further, it will enable automated analysis and capture of movements in real-time, which will help save time on the process, leading to cost savings. It’s essential for us to stay updated on recent developments and industry trends to understand the current trajectory of these capture technologies as technology continues to evolve so we can better serve our clients.”

VICON: MARKERLESS

Vicon made a splash in 2023 with its Los Angeles SIGGRAPH announcement of the debut of its machine learning (ML) powered markerless mocap. The news came after some three years of research and development focusing on the integration of ML and AI into markerless motion capture at Vicon’s R&D facility in Oxford, U.K. Vicon collaborated on the technology with Artanim, the Swiss research institute that specializes in motion capture, and Dreamscape Immersive, the VR experience and tech company.

“The ability to capture motion without markers while maintaining industry-leading accuracy and precision is an incredibly complex feat,” says Mark Finch, Vicon’s Chief Technology Officer. “After an initial research phase, we have focused on developing the world-class markerless capture algorithms, robust real-time tracking, labeling and solving needed to make this innovation a reality. It was our first step towards future product launches, which will culminate in a first-of-its-kind platform for markerless motion capture.”

OPPOSITE TOP: On the mocap set of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law with diode suit and Digital Domain’s Charlatan “face-swapping” system. (Photo: Chuck Zlotnick. Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

On the mocap set of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law with diode suit and Digital Domain’s Charlatan “face-swapping” system. (Photo: Chuck Zlotnick. Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

Finch continues, “What we demonstrated at SIGGRAPH was markerless recognition of the human form – using prototype cameras, software and algorithms – to track six people, with their full body solved in real-time, in a VR experience. This completely the need for participants to wear heavy gear with motion capture markers. As a result, the VR experience is more seamless and believable as the motion capture technology is largely invisible and non-invasive.” Finch adds, “Of the technology we showcased, Sylvain Chagué, Co-Founder and CTO of Artanim and Dreamscape, said, ‘Achieving best-in-class virtual body ownership and immersion in VR requires both accurate tracking and very low latency. We spent substantial R&D effort evaluating the computational performance of ML-based tracking algorithms, implementing and fine-tuning the multi-modal tracking solution, as well as taking the best from the full-body markerless motion capture and VR headset tracking capabilities.’ ”

ROKOKO VISION

Based in Copenhagen, Rokoko had two major announcements on the product front in the last year, “First, with Rokoko Vision, our vision AI solution that allows for suit-less motion capture from any camera. We released the first iteration mainly to get to know the space and gather insights from early use of the product,” CEO and Founder Jakob Balslev comments. “It’s becoming increasingly clear to us what the users need, and we are excited to release more updates on that front.

Rokoko’s Coil Pro is the company’s recent innovation in motion capture hardware, featuring no drift and no occlusion through a fusion of EMF and IMU capture. (Image courtesy of Rokoko)

Rokoko’s Coil Pro is the company’s recent innovation in motion capture hardware, featuring no drift and no occlusion through a fusion of EMF and IMU capture. (Image courtesy of Rokoko)

OptiTrack’s Primex 120 and Primex 120W cameras offer the company’s longest camera-to-marker range for Passive and Active markers. OptiTrack accuracy with more range enables very large tracking volumes for a wide variety of training and simulation scenarios, extreme ground or aerial robotic facilities and larger cinematic virtual production studios. (Image courtesy of OptiTrack)

OptiTrack’s Primex 120 and Primex 120W cameras offer the company’s longest camera-to-marker range for Passive and Active markers. OptiTrack accuracy with more range enables very large tracking volumes for a wide variety of training and simulation scenarios, extreme ground or aerial robotic facilities and larger cinematic virtual production studios. (Image courtesy of OptiTrack)

OptiTrack’s Primex cameras quickly identify and track Passive and Active markers. (Image courtesy of OptiTrack)

OptiTrack’s Primex cameras quickly identify and track Passive and Active markers. (Image courtesy of OptiTrack)

He adds, “Second, we unveiled our Coil Pro – the biggest innovation we’ve ever done on the hardware side – and, in my eyes, probably the biggest innovation ever in motion capture. Through a fusion of EMF and IMU capture, the Coil Pro unlocks the holy grail of motion capture: No drift and no occlusion. With drift-free global position over time and no need for line of sight from optical solutions, the Coil Pro is the best of both worlds of mocap [IMU and optical]. The underlying platform, named Volta Tracking Technology, fuses EMF and IMU and will be at the core of all our motion capture hardware solutions going forward.”

DIGITAL DOMAIN: CHARLATAN

Digital Domain is further developing its machine learning neural rendering software Charlatan (sometimes referred to as a face-swapping tool). “Acknowledging the expense and time associated with traditional methods, including our top-tier Masquerade [facial capture] system, we developed Charlatan to introduce efficiency and affordability,” Rabel comments. “Several years ago, Charlatan was created using machine learning techniques. This innovative approach involves utilizing real photography of an individual’s face and applying enhancements, seamlessly transferring it to another person’s face, or even manipulating discrete aspects such as aging or de-aging. Recently, we have been developing Charlatan 3D, which evolves this technology to produce full 3D geometry from this process but at a lower cost and simpler capture conditions than Masquerade. In essence, Charlatan represents a significant stride towards streamlining the creation of lifelike digital humans with unparalleled realism.”

OPTITRACK: NEW CAMERAS

OptiTrack provides tracking solutions that vary in use, including AAA game studios, medical labs, and consumer and prosumer budget solutions. In November the firm announced its three most advanced motion capture cameras; the PrimeX 120, PrimeX 120W and SlimX 120. “With higher resolution and increased field of view, these new additions enable larger tracking areas for a wider variety of training and simulation scenarios and larger cinematic virtual production studios,” says Anthony Lazzaro, Senior Director of Software at OptiTrack. All three cameras, which are designed and manufactured at OptiTrack’s headquarters in Corvallis, Oregon, feature their highest-yet resolution, 12 megapixels. With the PrimeX 120, customers benefit from a standard 24mm lens while the PrimeX 120W comes with an 18mm lens with a wider field of view. [And] we have 24mm or 18mm wide lens options available with the Slim X 120.”

Lazzaro continues, “We also released a more informative and intuitive version of our mocap software, which is now compatible with all OptiTrack mocap cameras. Motive 3.1 is aimed at simplifying high-quality, low-latency performance motion tracking, offering users easy-to-use presets and labeling for tracked items that deliver the best possible motion data while saving time and eliminating extra steps. Customers also have greater visibility into possible issues and can automatically resolve against the harshest of tracking environments.”

STRETCHSENSE: MOCAP GLOVES

Founded in Auckland in 2012, StretchSense took on the mission to build the world’s best stretchable sensors for comfortably measuring the human body. “Building on top of our sensor technology, in 2019 we pivoted the business to focus on motion capture gloves for AAA studios, indie studios, streamers, VR/AR, live shows and more,” explains StretchSense Co-Founder and VP Partnerships & New Markets Benjamin O’Brien.

“Our Studio Gloves are incredibly unobtrusive, with a less than 1mm thick sensor layer on top of breathable athletic fabric, and a small transmitting module,” O’Brien says. “This is more than just a comfort and style thing though; it means that our gloves don’t get in your way, and you can continue to type, use a mouse, hold a prop, use your phone or just get a pizza from the door. Once you start to think about mixed-reality applications, this becomes even more critical, as our gloves allow you to switch seamlessly between interacting with virtual spaces and the real world.”

O’Brien adds, “Our mission is to democratize motion capture, allowing independent content creators and streamers to create incredible and immersive stories and experiences. To achieve this, we have a long-term goal of getting our gloves down to a true consumer price point, which will really open up the space. At $795, we think our latest StretchSense Studio Glove is the biggest step the industry has ever taken towards this goal; less than two years ago, something with similar performance would have cost well over $5,000.”

ARCTURUS AND VOLUMETRIC VIDEO

Based in Beverly Hills, Arcturus Studios was founded in 2016 by veterans of DreamWorks, YouTube, Autodesk, Netflix and other notable companies. “Together, they saw the potential for volumetric video and decided to work together to steer its development,” recalls Piotr Uzarowicz, Head of Partnerships and Marketing at Arcturus. “That led to the creation of the HoloSuite tools, consisting of HoloEdit – a tool that can edit the 3D performances of performers recorded with volumetric video – and HoloStream, software that can compress a completed volumetric video file and stream it to any 2D or 3D device, even if the broadband signal is unstable. Together, HoloSuite has helped make it possible to use volumetric video for everything from e-commerce to AR projects to virtual production and more.”

Uzarowicz continues, “Arcturus took over Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Capture Studios (MRCS) business [in 2023], including the development of that capture system – the most sophisticated in the world – as well as the rights to maintain and supply MRCS licenses to studios around the world. That has put Arcturus in a unique position where it is now developing for all stages of volumetric video, from the capture and editing all the way to the final distribution.”

“One of our goals has always been to make volumetric video more accessible. We’re looking at new ways to make it easier to capture volumetric videos using fewer cameras, including the use of AI and machine learning. With the MRCS technology and our licensees, we are working with some of the best and most creative content creators in the world to find where the technology can evolve and improve the production experience,” comments Uzarowicz. “We just released a new video codec called Accelerated Volumetric Video (AVV) that makes it possible to add more volumetric characters to a digital environment. With the MRCS technology, the quality of a captured performance is better than ever. Volumetric video is constantly evolving,” he adds.

OptiTrack’s Primex cameras quickly identify and track Passive and Active markers. (Image courtesy of OptiTrack)

OptiTrack’s Motive 3.1 advanced motion capture software can be paired with any of OptiTrack’s motion capture cameras, including the premium PrimeX, Slim or low-cost Flex series. Motive 3.1 also offers trained markersets, enhanced sensor fusion and pre-defined settings. (Image courtesy of OptiTrack)

StretchSense makes motion capture gloves for major and indie studios, streamers, VR/AR and live shows. (Image courtesy of StretchSense)

StretchSense makes motion capture gloves for major and indie studios, streamers, VR/AR and live shows. (Image courtesy of StretchSense)

StretchSense’s mocap gloves are unobtrusive, with a less than 1mm-thick sensor layer on top of breathable athletic fabric and a small transmitting module. StretchSense’s $795 Studio Glove is a step toward the company’s goal of getting its gloves down to a true consumer price point. (Image courtesy of StretchSense)

StretchSense’s mocap gloves are unobtrusive, with a less than 1mm-thick sensor layer on top of breathable athletic fabric and a small transmitting module. StretchSense’s $795 Studio Glove is a step toward the company’s goal of getting its gloves down to a true consumer price point. (Image courtesy of StretchSense)

“The trend towards real-time capabilities has become prominent, allowing for immediate feedback and integration into virtual environments, video games and live events.  As we integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning as tools to enhance these functions’ capabilities further, it will enable automated analysis and capture of movements in real-time, which will help save time on the process, leading to cost savings.”

—Peter Rabel, Technical Product Manager, Digital Domain

: Arcturus took over Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Capture Studios (MRCS) business in 2023, including development of the capture system, as well as rights to maintain and supply MRCS licenses to studios worldwide. Arcturus also now develops for all stages of volumetric video. (Image courtesy of Arcturus)

Arcturus took over Microsoft’s Mixed Reality Capture Studios (MRCS) business in 2023, including development of the capture system, as well as rights to maintain and supply MRCS licenses to studios worldwide. Arcturus also now develops for all stages of volumetric video.
(Image courtesy of Arcturus)

Arcturus’s HoloSuite tools consist of HoloEdit – a tool that can edit the 3D performances of performers recorded with volumetric video – and HoloStream, software that can compress a completed volumetric video file and stream it to any 2D or 3D device, even if the broadband signal is unstable. With HoloSuite it’s possible to use volumetric video for e-commerce, AR projects and virtual production. (Image courtesy of Arcturus)

Arcturus’s HoloSuite tools consist of HoloEdit – a tool that can edit the 3D performances of performers recorded with volumetric video – and HoloStream, software that can compress a completed volumetric video file and stream it to any 2D or 3D device, even if the broadband signal is unstable. With HoloSuite it’s possible to use volumetric video for e-commerce, AR projects and virtual production. (Image courtesy of Arcturus)

MOVE AI

Move AI has announced the official release of a single-camera motion capture app, Move One, the company revealed in late November. “The app is now available to animators and creditors looking to bring realistic human motion to their 3D characters,” said the company. “Move AI makes it easy to capture and create 3D animations.”

AI/ML

“Arcturus is currently experimenting with AI and machine learning in several ways. From the moment we were founded, one of our main goals has always been to make volumetric video more accessible, and AI can help us do that in a few different ways,” Uzarowicz comments. “Among other things, one of the areas we are currently focusing on in our R&D is using AI to help us capture the same level of quality – or better – we can currently capture but use fewer cameras. One of the things that makes our MRCS technology the best in the world is the software that converts the multiple captured recordings into a single 3D file. With AI, we hope to improve that process.” Regarding AI/ML, O’Brien says, “We are seeing many companies using motion capture to create their own proprietary databases for training or tuning generative AI models, and we are looking at how we can lean into this. Finally, we are ourselves constantly investing in machine learning to improve the data quality [of ] our products.”

“Given our experience with machine learning, we see Gen AI as a tool like any other in our toolbox, enabling us to create artistically pleasing results efficiently in support of the story,” Digital Domains’s Rabel says. “We have found that the combination of powerful tools, such as machine learning and AI, with our artists’ creative talent produces the photorealistic, relatable, believable and lifelike performances we are striving for. We feel the nuances of an actor’s performance in combination with our AI and machine learning toolsets are critical to achieving photorealistic results that can captivate an audience and cross the uncanny valley.”

Lazzaro comments, “OptiTrack already uses ML algorithms to derive optimal solutions for things like continuous calibration and trained markersets. Continuous calibration takes existing visible objects in a scene, i.e. markers, and uses that data to determine how to make small adjustments to fix calibration issues related to bumps, heat or human error. Trained markersets allow you to feed marker data into an algorithm to make a model that can track objects that were previously not trackable, such as trampolines, jump ropes and other non-rigid objects. Lazzaro adds, “Advances in AI and ML will continue to shape the way that objects are tracked in the future.” Rokoko’s Balslev notes, “AI/ML will fundamentally change the motion capture space. Text-to-motion tools are emerging and maturing and will eventually completely disrupt the stock space for online marketplaces and libraries. These tools will however not be able to replace any custom mocap that requires acting and specific timing.”

Our mission is to democratize motion capture, allowing independent content creators and streamers to create incredible and immersive stories and experiences. To achieve this, we have a long-term goal of getting our gloves down to a true consumer price point, which will really open up the space. At $795, we think our latest StretchSense Studio Glove is the biggest step the industry has ever taken towards this goal; less than two years ago, something with similar performance would have cost

well over $5,000.”

—Benjamin O’Brien, Co-Founder and

VP Partnerships & New Markets, StretchSense

Move AI offers a single-camera motion capture app, Move One, for animators looking to bring realistic human motion to their 3D characters, making it easy to capture and create 3D animations. (Images courtesy of Move AI)

Move AI offers a single-camera motion capture app, Move One, for animators looking to bring realistic human motion to their 3D characters, making it easy to capture and create 3D animations. (Images courtesy of Move AI)

Move AI offers a single-camera motion capture app, Move One, for animators looking to bring realistic human motion to their 3D characters, making it easy to capture and create 3D animations. (Images courtesy of Move AI)

VR AND MOCAP

“We [Vicon and Dreamscape Immersive] are together mapping out just how far markerless mocap can go in providing a more true-to-life adventure than any other immersive VR experience by allowing for more free-flowing movement and exploration with even less user gear,” Vicon’s Finch comments. “Dreamscape has said it has long awaited the time when markerless could break from concept and into product, where the technology could support the precision required to realize its amazing potential. We’re testing that potential together now.” Finch adds, “Seeing people’s initial reactions to VR when they’re fully immersed is remarkable. The fantasy-reality line blurs, the more freedom you have in a VR space, which is reduced when a user is tethered and they feel the pull of the cable or know they’re wearing a backpack.” He continues, “There’s also the customer experience element that’s a central driver in all of this. People’s experience with markerless is a big wow moment. Markerless is going to lead to more magic – more wow.”

Lazzaro explains, “Mocap is used in all sorts of VR and AR applications. Typically, home systems use what is called inside-out tracking to have a head-mounted display [HMD] track the world around a user. This works great for HMD and controller tracking, but can’t be used to see other people wearing HMDs. OptiTrack uses an approach called outside-in tracking where we track the HMD, controllers and props using external cameras. This allows users to build location-based VR experiences in which multiple people can go through an experience together or engineers can work on designs in VR as a group.”

OUTLOOK

“We think these markets [motion capture, performance capture and volumetric video] will all be changed with the continued increase in accessibility,” comments StretchSense’s O’Brien. You can now do full-body mocap for less than the cost of a new iPhone, and basic volumetric capture can now be had for free on that same iPhone. This means different things for different markets: On a major AAA studio, you are going to see mocap happening on all of the people all of the time, and also on more ambitious projects that have more animated content than ever before. For independent creators, the financial costs of getting into mocap are dropping away so more people can join the space. Finally, there are millions of streamers worldwide who are getting new ways to connect with their community and make money while doing so by stepping into virtual worlds.”

“Mocap has a bright future in a variety of markets,” OptiTrack’s Lazzaro says. “This includes but is not limited to movies, video games, medical applications, robotics, measurement and VR. Mocap techniques are also becoming more commonplace with V-Tubers and other prosumer applications.”



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