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 have the option of utilizing additional space with higher ceiling capacity or installing 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 at the facility 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 also 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 to allow for field recording and performance capture.

Multiple actor action and props are captured simultaneously

Review of the action capture for correction

Motion capture cameras positioned around the volume



Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer generated simulation of a 3D image or environment that can be experienced by the user in a seemingly real or physical manner. The simplest form of virtual reality is a 3D image that can be explored interactively at a personal computer. More sophisticated efforts involve such approaches as wrap-around display screens, wearable computers and haptics devices that let you feel the display images.

There are several methods of creating content for virtual reality experiences. Visual creation could involve 3D scans, CAD drawings, 360 films and animation are common techniques. However, motion capture technologies are the most accurate method of depicting human movement amongst current immersive research. 

The Sawmill is engaged with leading makers of VR head mounted display (HMD) hardware and code programmers. The studio provides a venue to test the proof of concept with current wireless HMDs within a motion capture environment. Our partners code in Unity and Unreal game engines incorporating character generating software with real time retargeting.

Virtual reality has its uses for medical simulation and training

Experiencing Virtual Reality with the Oculus headset




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 and VR development and content creation. We see favorable

circumstances to become involved in the next generation of production tools and services. Areas of research include accurate motion capture data with individuals not capable of wearing enclosed mocap suits and animals.

The surge of digital environments being 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 constantly evolving with new technologies becoming available in the marketplace. VR is undergoing even more rapid growth as it moves towards mainstream acceptance.

The Sawmill maintains contact with several VR technologists around North America and actively supports open dialogue and community forums 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 Sytem

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 preexisting character designs. We are not structured as a full service animation production studio.

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 >>