the scope

The Sawmill is a motion capture facility servicing the extensive film, gaming and growing immersive technology communities. It is the only publicly accessible facility in Canada with a mandate to encompass production in motion capture, develop industry tools and engage research with virtual reality activists.

Our professional backgrounds in visual effects, entertainment, gaming, design and software development has created an intersection of different media experiences allowing for a broader scope of innovation.

Joint ventures with our partners and specialized companies enables customization of work processes to suit particular client needs or projects.

Motion Capture (MoCap) is the process of recording (capturing) movement of objects or people and is one of the most popular computer generated imagery (CGI) techniques. It is used in the military, entertainment, sports, medical applications, validation of computer concepts and robotics. When applied in the film and gaming industries, it refers mostly to the recording of human actor actions. Data obtained from those sessions are used to animate digital characters in a 2D or 3D computer animation.

Our main capture stage uses primarily the passive marker system in a volume of 20'x30'x16'. Active marker technologies are incorporated for specific activities. For sessions involving more than five actors and requiring a larger capture area, we will utilize additional space and install camera systems in out-of-studio locations. 

A full finger capture workflow designed to minimize the amount of post-processing complements a proprietary, ultra lightweight, facial capture rig currently undergoing production testing.

A Previsualization service allows viewers to observe actors depicted in the digital environment performing as their digital characters, potentially saving time and money before going into final production. The Virtual Camera system (VCS) allows the cinematographer to plan and edit final camera shots. The studio developed its own wireless Virtual Camera system to accomodate for these requirements.

The studio is acoustically treated for field recording and performance capture.


The studio has strategic partnerships with ScanLab Photogrammetry and Animism Studios. Each of our studios are cognizant of issues we have in most technical phases and will correlate support to assist whenever possible. The result is a faster workflow with minimal issues in our production—we smooth problems out efficiently.

The pipeline: creating 3D scanned character digital doubles, motion capture performances and post processing data while the animation creature/body riggers create trouble-free body rigs. This is a boon for producers because many issues are resolved that typically occur when one service vendor hands off work to another. Each of us specialize in one component of the asset creation pipeline and in combination, can provide a fuller range of services to get your creative ideas into your engine. It is the fastest part of the creation pipeline in the 3D animation workflow.

Our combined backgrounds are in live-action feature films, VFX and traditional 3D animation games. We believe interactive digital media–VR, as the future of entertainment and envision a convergence between film and VR quality. In most ways, the VFX pipeline for asset creation is the same for VR except for an extra step at the production end.

ScanLab Photogrammetry: 3D Human Digital Doubles

Animism Studios: 3D character rigging for animation and VFX



Research and Development is an important aspect of The Sawmill. One of our long term goals—to test and develop MoCap industry tools—led to the reconfiguration of the studio into a more flexible space.

Our interests are in motion capture, research in product development, XR development and content creation. We see favorable circumstances to become involved in the next generation of production tools and services. 

The surge of digital environments created for everything from entertainment to practical industry applications will exacerbate the deficiency of imagery to populate these virtual worlds. As we move forward, it may be a direction for further study.

As in all media disciplines, motion capture is evolving with new technologies becoming available in the marketplace. Human performance metrics can be incorporated through motion capture to help create or showcase new products in physical rehabilitation, medical science, professional sports, training procedures and simulation of environments. VR/AR/MR is undergoing more rapid growth as it moves towards mainstream acceptance.

The Sawmill maintains contact with several technologists and institutions around North America and supports dialogue for more development.

Presently, we have begun research for richer experiential and expanded practical applications.


the studio

The studio is located in South Vancouver in one of the oldest industrial areas of the city. In fact, its origins go back to 1922 as a sawmill where the trees were milled and barged down the nearby Fraser River. The recent conversion from its former use to a flexible, multi-purpose facility started years ago with the concept that the space should serve many functions and not be limited to motion capture work. Previous examples of the versatility include use as a film set location, performance and projection screening theatre, educational workshops, audio recording and rehearsal space.

There are several options to arriving at the studio. We are centrally located to all major arterial routes in and out of the city by public, rapid and vehicle transit including ferry and airport terminals.

The light manufacturing zoning designation allows for multiple industrial use without any sound restrictions. There is limited secure parking at the studio entrance and plentiful free parking spaces nearby. The studio itself has ground floor access, a gated parking perimeter, a 12 foot wide bay door, a fully equipped woodshop. Shower facilities, wheelchair accessible, kitchenette, fully networked office, rubber flooring over the concrete foundation, acoustically treated walls and ceiling. Our active stage (volume) for motion caption work is a 30 ft x 20 ft area. Maximum ceiling height is 15 ft and the truss system is positioned at a 13 ft height. The volume is suitable for up to five (5) actors working concurrently. We project 3D imagery onto a 17 foot screen configured to a 5.1 Surround Sound system.

For more detail on specific use of the facilities and workflows, please view on our FAQ Page >>

Our strength is creating accurate, edited motion capture data. We also offer the following support:

  • Fully integrated woodshop for props, set construction
  • Casting services
  • Previsualization through our Virtual Camera System

In relation to our motion capture workflow, our production pipeline is limited to delivery of cleaned and retargeted data to be incorporated by animation teams with pre-existing character designs. We are not structured as a full service animation production studio. However, our team has a multiple skillsets including motion graphics, 3D modelling, game engines integration (Unity), VR developement, live action production, video editing, brand development.

Visits are arranged by appointment only through the studio management. Bookings may be flexibly scheduled from a few hours to multiple day periods.

Please fill in the request form on our CONTACT Page >>