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SIGGRAPH: Contour Reality Capture System Unveiled

SIGGRAPH: Contour Reality Capture System Unveiled

July 31, 2006 | By Jason Dobson

Entrepreneur and inventor Steve Perlman, founder and president of the Bay Area motion capture company Mova, and has demonstrate Mova's new Contour motion capture system at SIGGRAPH 06.

Contour uses two separate-yet-synchronized camera systems to simultaneously record visual and geometric information of the subject. These two sets of data are combined to result in a high-resolution 3D digital image. The markerless, optics-based process captures subtle details of a person's performance, and records it in real time, offering directors and producers a heightened level of creative control.

Traditional marker-based motion capture is used to create incredibly realistic performances for skeletal captures, but was never designed to capture the intricacies of soft tissue motion, like pursing lips or billowing fabric. Contour captures the motion of any 3D surface, deformable or not, with sub-millimeter precision at up to 120 frames second, at a resolution of over 100,000 polygons per frame. The result is a realistic, digitized performance that requires minimal manual clean up.

In addition, Contour's 3D volumetric representation of the action can be imported, modified, manipulated or retargeted to other characters using off-the-shelf CGI animation software. Contour can also import true human behavior into the virtual realm and works with both marker-based motion capture and key frame animation systems.

Through a collaboration between Mova and motion capture system developer VICON, Contour's markerless capture system was designed to be used simultaneously with the VICON MX-series marker-based capture system. This makes it possible for Contour's cameras to capture high-resolution surface motion, such as facial, skin and cloth motion, while VICON's MX40 cameras capture high-precision marker motion, such as skeletal and prop motion.

"Contour promises a future of vastly improved facial animation for the video game business," commented John Riccitiello, CEO of Bioware/Pandemic Studios. "The new generation of game systems is powerful enough to deliver photoreal facial animation. Contour promises to deliver this potential for the gaming industry."

"Vocal performances have long been embraced by animation," noted Perlman. "What we're doing is making it possible for physical performances to be genuine enough to be embraced in the same way. In the parlance of computer graphics, the `Uncanny Valley' is a perceptual zone where computer-generated faces approach photorealism just enough to be eerie. Contour is the first technology to successfully cross the `Uncanny Valley' and open the door to a whole new realm of creative opportunities."

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