During motion capture sessions, movements of one or more actors (usually wearing a skin-tight suit for precision) are sampled hundreds of times per second. This data is then mapped to a 3D model to make it move like the actor.

While some motion capture systems involve several cameras and dozens of sensors, markerless systems have been used in recent years to sample facial expressions.

In “The Hobbit”, Benedict Cumberbatch’s body movements were recorded with sensors, while his facial expressions were recorded with a single, frontal camera. The little points were used as a reference for facial muscles on the 3D creature.

“Benedict Cumberbatch Smaug Motion Capture” [ Click to watch]The same technology is often used for sampling movements for characters in video games (see this side-by-side comparison of “The Last of Us”)

Microsoft’s Kinect (a markerless system that uses infrared projection and a depth sensor) has also become a low-cost option for independent animators. It also allows for “real-time” animation (i.e: for video games).

The animation in “unnamed soundsculpture” was created by capturing the movement of a dancer with 3 kinects. The data from the 3 cameras was then assembled into a complete 3-dimensional figure that allowed for complete freedom of movement around the figure.

“Unnamed sound sculpture – documentation” by Daniel Franke & Cedric Kiefer [Click to watch]

– Anna Pinkas