OptiTrack's Insight VCS Brings "Avatar" Magic to Every Studio
July 16, 2010

OptiTrack's Insight VCS Brings "Avatar" Magic to Every Studio

"Our goal has always been to offer full-featured motion capture systems at a price that production companies of every size can afford," said Jim Richardson, NaturalPoint co-founder and lead engineer for the OptiTrack motion capture line. "With the Insight VCS, we're expanding this vision to include the bleeding-edge virtual camera technology that Cameron made famous with "Avatar", at an exceptionally low price."

To ensure complete compatibility with a variety of production pipelines, the Insight VCS has been engineered for interoperability with any existing optical motion capture system - including OptiTrack, Vicon, and Motion Analysis - that can track marker-based rigid bodies and stream data to Autodesk MotionBuilder or Autodesk Maya.

Developed in close collaboration with Los Angeles-based previsualization company Halon Entertainment, the Insight VCS is the ideal virtual camera solution for a broad range of applications ranging from film and commercial previsualization to digital filmmaking. Throughout the development process Halon tested design iterations in the field, utilizing pre-production versions of the Insight VCS to create content for high profile projects and directors.

"In working with OptiTrack to develop the Insight VCS, Halon helped build a tool that puts film directors and directors of photography in a virtual world they more closely understand," said Justin Denton, technical developer and previs supervisor at Halon Entertainment. "The value of being able to walk out into a space and explore a virtual world by physically controlling a camera, finding the perfect angles and then shooting multiple takes is truly remarkable. All of this is achieved in a fraction of the time it takes to keyframe a single camera take, and the results are more natural."

The Insight VCS is a two-part system, consisting of a hardware camera rig and software interface. As the hardware rig is tracked throughout the motion capture volume, absolute 6 DOF position and orientation data is streamed live via the software plug-in to either MotionBuilder or Maya to drive the virtual camera within the 3D application. Real-time reference video is streamed out of MotionBuilder or Maya back to the VCS display, creating a low-latency visual feedback loop, akin to the viewfinder in an actual digital camera.

Different versions of both the hardware rig and software plug-in are available to fit a variety of existing pipelines and production requirements. Components include:

• Virtual Camera Rigs: The Insight VCS offers two different hardware rigs for controlling the virtual camera: 
  • VCS:Pro
    Designed for professional production work, the VCS:Pro replicatesthe organic cinematographer's experience with exceptional fidelity. The professional model includes a 1280x768 HD LCD display for real-time feedback, mappable buttons and joysticks for extensive camera control, and a robust Redrock Micro shoulder mount kit. Markers and posts are included for a variety of marker configurations.
  • VCS:Mini
    The VCS:Mini provides low cost, lightweight and highly flexible access to the virtual camera pipeline. The kit includes an anodized aluminum mount preinstalled on a wireless Xbox 360 game pad, as well as markers and posts.

• Software Plug-ins: Comprehensive, customizable plug-ins are available for camera work in MotionBuilder and Maya for control over scripts, button mapping, scaling, and camera properties. Universal versions of each plug-in are also available for use with non-OptiTrack motion capture systems.

Demonstrations of the Insight VCS will be available at SIGGRAPH 2010, July 26 - 29, at the OptiTrack booth #701.

Pricing and Availability
The Insight VCS will ship late summer 2010. Pricing for the camera rig ranges from $199 USD to $5,000 USD. Software plug-ins to MotionBuilder and Maya for OptiTrack systems are $1,000 USD. Universal plug-ins for other motion capture systems are $2,000 USD.