Animations Without an Animator

Original Author: Szymon Swistun

Animations Without an Animator

We needed to author around 70 animation sequences for 4 characters without an animator. I watched a bunch of character key frame animation video tutorials and found out quickly that manually authoring human motion is a lot of work. So we looked into motion capture to help generate the base foundation of our animations.

We wanted to have the flexibility of authoring our own unique motions and were not happy with the quality of using motion databases. Another option was to record our own motion’s using other studios, but the cost was too high. After hitting many walls, we finally stumbled upon iPi Desktop Motion Capture Software.

Trial Run

After downloading the free version, we setup a trial run and purchased the following:

  • 3 PS3 Eye Cameras @ $30 each
  • 3 Camera Tripods @ $30 each
  • 1 USB2 Hub @ $10
  • 2 USB2 10ft extensions @ $6 each
  • 1 Mag light mini for calibration @ $20
  • Tape @ $0 used some from home

iPi Mocap Jonas Kick Test

Results were pretty good, not great. You can see how the motion is represented but not perfectly. Calibration process takes a bit of processing time but is mostly automatic. Once calibrated, we captured a bunch of video of motions that are then taken to be tracked with their studio software. Tracking quality was ok and missed around faster more complex motions, but they provide a nice ability to pause the tracking, pose, fit, and track backwards from a known pose state and fixup most issues.

iPi Studio Calibration and Kick Test Result

3DS Max Work

Once we had the motions tracked well, we applied jitter removal to smooth them out and exported into Max. After applying the motion on our rigs, thus getting re-targeted, basic fixup was required to get working well in game. Those include:

  • Set the timeline to intended animation frequency, we use 60fps.
  • Manually delete keys around foot plants and set plant keys instead lock the feet to the ground
  • Add a layer animation for head tracking matching captured video
  • Fixup hands to work with intended props either manually, or using a layer
  • Also, accent the animation with a layer for any specific styles, fix-ups or exaggerations and to match the video capture motions more accurately if needed.
  • For cyclic animations, use the Mixer / Motion Flow to create a cyclic transition to the same animation. Some manual work here required to get the right cycle working. Clip the animation to the intended boundaries.
  • For movement-less actions, delete X and Z root key frames. Recently, we moved this step to our own internal export and retain the root motion to move our physics representation in game instead.

Final Setup

The results worked seamlessly in game, and we decided to upgrade to the standard package and get a 6 camera 360 degree studio setup to improve capture quality and get more range of motion. We use a quad core Intel i5 with a nVidia 480 GTX and works fine with 6 PS3 Eye Camera setup as long as you have 3 separate USB2 controllers each that can take 2 USB2 PS3 Eye Cameras plugged in at full performance. We additionally purchased:

  • Standard Edition iPi Desktop Motion Capture Software for $995
  • 3 more PS3 Eye Cameras @ $30 each
  • Two 3 meter tall light stands instead of tripods for 2 cameras to get them higher @ $30 each
  • 4 PS3 USB2.0 4.7 meter long repeaters @ $10 each
  • 1 more USB2.0 hub @ $10
  • $15 table and two $10 dollar chairs for some added comfort.

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