Originally devised by students in BYU’s animation program as a final project, the team’s short film “Owned” placed first at the 2014 College Television Awards and recently received another first-place win at the 41st annual Student Academy Awards
“Xsens MVN was my first experience working with mocap, and it was great,” says Susan Hatton, an animation major at BYU and animator on “Owned.” “When we started the project I was fairly unfamiliar with professional production programs. Digging into MVN Studio and a motion capture workflow helped me understand the production process at a fundamental level.”
In addition to learning industry standard tools like Side Effects’ Houdini and Autodesk’s MotionBuilder, the students also had to develop a pipeline that would work within their university studio, which is designed to emulate the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks.
“That’s what sets our school apart; students leave with the experience of working on massive projects,” says Brian Kingery, recent BYU grad and technical director on “Owned.” “We are taught to understand how our work will affect everyone else within the production.”
Final projects at BYU often see students working in teams of up to 45, including separate departments and artists working at every level of production. On “Owned,” the team knew they needed a pipeline that could easily meet the needs of multiple production teams and still deliver a fluid workflow for each animator. They started looking for a motion-capture solution that would be intuitive and flexible.
“We were surprised at how fast it was to set up Xsens MVN and capture exactly what we needed out of the gate,” continues Kingery. “For example, we wanted to record one punch that we could duplicate over and over for our fighter. Xsens MVN’s 10-minute setup made it incredibly easy to quickly get that data and cut it into those moves.”
Initial tests with Xsens MVN helped the team draw insight and reference from the director on character animations. Hatton continues, “Our director put on the Xsens MVN suit and was able to quickly communicate his vision for the six characters in ‘Owned.’ That alone saved us a tremendous amount of animation time!”
With a reliable motion capture solution at the base of their pipeline, BYU’s students have delivered their final project and already claimed two first-place awards for “Owned” in 2014. Many members of the 45-student production team have graduated or are headed toward graduation; ready to face whatever projects the working-world has in store for them.
“I’m not sure how many other schools give their students the opportunity to work with technology like Xsens MVN,” continues Kingery. “Working motion capture into our pipeline really helped us do something really unique. It’s just fantastic to see that hard work pay off with our names up on the big screen and awards on our resumes.”