Mocap Helps Bring Futuristic World to Life

Category: Web Exclusives
Markerless motion-capture technology from iPi facilitates intricately choreographed robot soldiers' performances in short trailer.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – The world of “Keloid” — as realized in the intense two-minute, CG trailer for the future sci-fi feature created by Barcelona, Spain-based design/animation boutique Big Lazy Robot — brims with danger, intrigue and a nightmarish future robot society, brought to life through their inventive use of iPi Soft’s iPi Motion Capture software

"We designed iPi Motion Capture with companies like Big Lazy Robot in mind – smart, creative boutiques seeking an easy-to-use and affordable motion-capture system to achieve their filmmaking vision, but for whom traditional marker systems and greenscreen stages are out of practical reach,” says Michael Nikonov, iPi Soft founder and chief technology architect. “Big Lazy Robot’s imaginative use of iPi Motion Capture, in conjunction with standard off-the-shelf hardware, allowed them to create an amazingly complex, futuristic environment.”

Using iPi Motion Capture with two Kinect cameras in concert with Autodesk’s 3ds Max and The Foundry’s Nuke compositing software, the “Keloid” trailer plants the seeds for what Big Lazy Robot hopes to turn into a feature-length animated film – something, according to J.J Palomo, creative director of Big Lazy Robot, that will likely begin in early 2013. 

“We’re mostly known for our visual effects work in advertising, but every now and then we like to experiment and do something on our own to showcase our skills and give free reign to our potential,” Palomo says. “One of our animators came up with the idea of a mechanical SWAT force rushing into a clandestine drug lab also operated by robots. The idea was appealing, but we knew the conceptual treatment would require extensive amounts of motion capture to bring the troop of six robot soldiers to life with synchronized military precision as they enter the abandoned warehouse that is the setting for much of the trailer.” 

For Palomo and the Big Lazy Robot creative team — Hugo Bermudez (character modeling, concept art); Juan Civera (character setup, character animation); David Cordero (character animation, editing); and Leopoldo Palomo (producer) – using iPi Soft’s markerless technology on “ Keloid”marked the first time the studio had ever tried motion capture. 

“We set up in our office using Kinect cameras, and just loved the outcome,” says Palomo. “We used iPi Motion Capture to animate the main robots, and because we wanted a more realistic approach in the biped animation, coupled with our small staff, we could not afford to spend a lot of time digitally animating robots into the scenes.”

iPi Motion Capture was used in primarily to capture robots’ torso and legs, with arms left as reference mark to be hand animated later on. The animated robots hold their weapons at eye level at all times and explore the environment while aiming them, because of this the Big Lazy Robot animators quickly realized to pull off the action the way they envisioned it they would have to capture the motion of the actors holding a prop rifle, then marry the motion capture to the character rig they designed, except for the arm movements, which were animated separately

For Palomo, one of the most difficult sequences in the trailer is a scene that is shot about a minute into the trailer in which all six robot soldiers appear in the frame at the same time.

“We had to devise a bit of choreography to get a shot that was readable and not confusing,” Palomo explains. “We worked with 3ds Max in BVH format, and loaded the motion-captured data onto our more complex rig system, where could then we could touch up, clean and reanimate.

He adds, “We also recorded different captures that were composited separately during post. The Kinect camera worked great, but it can be limited when trying to depict six characters moving forward in a scene at same time.” 

iPi Soft is currently working on multiple actor motion-capture capability, an enhancement that it hopes to offer customers some time 2013.

“For ‘Keloid’ we used techniques we hadn’t tried before,” Palomo says. “We never worked on such elaborate, dark atmospheres and close, oppressive scenes with so much intricate lighting. Our understanding of iPi Motion Capture has only begun. Using it on ‘Keloid’ was a learning process, but now it’s a part our pipeline and we’re looking forward to future product enhancements that will facilitate a smooth workflow and impact our creativity for years to come.” 


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