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Planning and Directing Motion Capture for Games

January 19, 2000 Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

Motion capture is a great tool for creating animation for certain types of games. Like any tool or piece of software, if you learn how to use it properly, it can make your life easier and produce great results. If you try to wing it, chances are you'll end up wasting time and money and may come away with nothing useful. Since motion capture happens to be a relatively expensive tool, it's worth spending a substantial amount of time up front planning your shoot and visualizing your end results. The first question to ask is whether motion capture is right for your project. It's most useful for a 3D game with tomes of character animation, assuming you have an appropriate budget and schedule. It depends on the game engine and the style of animation you are looking for. I'm not here to convince you that mo-cap is appropriate for every have or to convert people who believe it's "Satan's rotoscope". But by no means does motion capture make animators unnecessary; in fact, animators are critical to planning the shoot and then turning the data into something useful.

Let's assume that you and your team have already made the decision to use motion capture and are now faced with the job of organizing and producing that aspect of the project. I'm going to explain how to plan the shoot, run the mo-cap session and direct the talent. These guidelines apply to planning and directing any kind of motion capture production, but I'll be referring primarily to optical motion capture. And although I'm going to mention technical issues for your shoot, you will have to discuss the specifics with your team and the motion capture studio.

Now for the purposes of this article, you're a director. You may, be a producer, programmer or animator, but if you're the person in charge of the motion capture production, you've just become the Spielberg or Cameron of your project. I strongly recommend that your team assign one person as the director. This individual bears the responsibility for making the shoot a success and will have an overview of all project issues related to motion capture. The director will be coordinating information from the entire team, from the game designer to the marketing manager. You can hire a freelance director--like me-- but whoever's in charge has to have a thorough understanding of the project and enough time to plan it properly. Ideally, this person should be able to communicate clearly but diplomatically with the talent and with all members of the team.


Planning a motion capture shoot for a game is very different from planning a shoot for a film or any other linear end product. What's the difference? Your goal is to end up with hundreds of individual moves that connect perfectly to one another. If you've planned other kinds of game animation, you should have a good understanding of this. Of course, the actual production of the notion data is going to involve further considerations. Full-motion video sequences, since they are linear, should be handled separately from the in-game character moves.

Article Start Page 1 of 4 Next

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