Motion Capture

What is the big advantage for MoCap and how does it compare to animation?
  • The amount of animation data that can be produced within a given time is extremely large when compared to traditional animation techniques. This contributes to both cost effectiveness and meeting production deadlines.
  • Complex movement and realistic physical interactions such as secondary motions, weight and exchange of forces can be easily recreated in a physically accurate manner.

Generally, motion capture is cheaper and faster in time savings and money because the results are produced faster and more accurately when depicting realistic human movement. There is still no better technical method to recreate exacting human actions, period. While 3D animation can reproduce the actions over time, the resulting work is dependent on the skillset of the animators. Short term projects using a few animators could replicate the activities–which will still necessitate more time–but problems will quickly show when a longer duration project using a multitude of people is underway. The consistency of skills and experience is one main issue particularly noticable when merging sets of actions done by several individuals into a cohesive whole.

The movements are literally made by human performers and no one is required to depict a physical activity for them. The performance of the actor is the "animation".

The mix of mocap with animation allows the realism of the characters to suspend the disbelief of the audience into assuming they can perform superhuman or fantastical transformations, as examples in Avatar, Planet of the Apes have shown.

What is motion capture and how does it work?

Motion Capture is the process of recording movement. The data recorded is then processed to create a realistic 3D representation. 

The recording process consists of having a capture space which we call “volume” and enough cameras to capture the action. The amount of cameras and volume space will vary depending on project but at least 4 cameras are needed to be able to capture. We attach reflective markers to rigid bodies or actors in order to track their movements. A marker must be within the visual range of at least 2 cameras at all times to be able to triangulate and determine its position. A 41 default marker set is used on actors to create a skeleton which is required to efficiently track human movement.

How does the process work?

The process consists of the following steps or stages in order:
1. Capturing
2. Cleaning/Solving
3. Retargeting
4. Motion Editing

For a better understanding of the workflow, please refer to the chart here.

Do I need any special preparation: suits, markers, actor preparation, props?

The actors will be wearing a Motion Capture suit onto which we attach reflective markers at strategic points around the body, so we can track the full motion. The actors must prepare for the sessions by following these requirements: no perfumes, colognes on any part of the body including hair. A close fitting t-shirt to wear beneath the suit. Boxer shorts or leggings to be worn as well. Actors will need to have scrunchies or flexible head bands to tie loose hair tight to the head. 

We can prepare special props and sets for the shoot day. The props and set pieces must be see through—at least as see through as they can be—in this way we avoid unnecessary occlusion.

It is recommended to have a shot list with the movements you want to shoot.

What is required for a shot list for MoCap?

A complete listing of all actions to be performed by the actors with any props in the scene.

  • Name of the Take
  • Number of Actors
  • Characters to be retargeted
  • Props
  • Set
  • Small description of action


Can you set up MoCap cameras at another location?

We are capable of remote installation, but we strongly advise to consider the limitations required to host a successful activity. It is quite a bit less costly to run a mocap session at the studio since we do not have to transport equipment and spend any time to properly install the cameras, calibrate and conduct coverage tests before we begin actual recording.


Can you shoot outside?

It is possible to capture outside using an active marker system. This means that the markers are sending the information to the cameras. 

What are the limitations?

The limitations are physical space: footprint and height, number of actors:

• 10 ft 'active' height
• 30 ft x 20 ft 'active' volume
• 5 Actors with props 

What’s involved in the post-production?

After the data is captured it is cleaned & solved (plotted/baked) into a skeleton, then retargeted to the final rig. Some motion editing can be done if required before exporting the file for rendering.

How do you integrate the MoCap data within animator’s workflow?

We deliver .fbx files with the animation baked/plotted onto the skeleton joints. Animators use the mocap data as a base layer of animation, which assists to create almost 80% of a shot or project, leaving only small motion editing to adjust any animation fixes (interaction with environment, finger animation). At the Sawmill we worked side by side with the client to secure optimal integration of workflows. 

What kind of data files or formats are produced by your studio?

• Raw Data:  .c3d, .fbx, .csv, .bvh and .trc
• Cleaning & Solving:  .ma, .fbx
• Retargeting:  .ma, .fbx

How do you accept payment?

At the moment, we are able to accept wire transfers, certified financial institutions cheques, PayPal transactions. Credit card transactions will be forthcoming shortly.

How do you charge?

Estimates are based on a number of factors such as amount of actors, props, complexity of movements, size of project, shot list, delivery schedule, etc. Please contact our producers and coordinators to receive specific rates.

Virtual Reality

How do you incorporate MoCap into a VR experience?

Motion Capture works alongside Virtual Reality in two main aspects:

• There are wireless VR headsets that require a motion capture studio to be able to track the position of the user, allowing the viewer to move around in real time. The headsets have markers attached to the body allowing the motion capture cameras to track the headset position within the active volume.

• MoCap processed data is used to fill the virtual world. Once the data is processed and 'baked' into the final model/rig, it is brought into game engines such as Unity and Unreal. The viewer/participant (the person the wearing the headset) can interact with the mocap environment.

What is required for equipment?

• Wireless headset
• Motion capture studio
• PC powerful enough to run all the data

What kind of applications are there for VR?



Can we use the studio facilities for other activities?

The studio is available for other activities such as audio recording, filming, photography, performance documentation. In the past few years, the studio has been dressed for film sets, recorded triathletes on high speed cameras for biomechanical studies, filmed glass breaking for VFX shots, hosted film wrap events, presented many Virtual Reality 

Is there parking nearby?

The main studio has very limited parking near the doorway entrance which can be secured. However, more parking spaces are found at the parking lot about 50 yards north of our gated area. There is additional free parking nearby located at the front of the 2 complex buildings.

Can we use the office assets: copier, wifi and wired, desk space?

Yes. The studio has all the office assets.

What size crew can you accommodate in the studio?

Approximately 8 crew members around the mocap volume comfortably.