LOS ANGELES – Vicon (www.vicon.com) has announced the upcoming release of Shōgun 1.3, the latest addition to its performance capture platform. Shōgun 1.3 introduces extremely precise finger solving, enabling artists to create and see fully animated characters in realtime. Users will also be able to stream their own characters directly into game engines. Support for the Universal Scene Description (USD) format has been added, opening the door to mobile devices and augmented reality.
The addition of the new finger solving in Shōgun 1.3 means that users can record the entire body – from skeletal movements to the smallest hand gestures – for use in projects ranging from feature films to AAA games. To create this sophisticated finger solving, Vicon partnered with Framestore, the Academy Award-winning VFX studio, whose resume includes films like Gravity, Blade Runner 2049 and Spider-Man: Far From Home.
“For several years we’ve worked with Vicon on a host of projects, so the opportunity to work with their team to address something that artists have been waiting on for years was an easy decision,” notes Richard Graham, Framestore’s virtual production supervisor. “We have already successfully deployed it on a number of projects, and given that it is part of the whole-body solve, it fits straight into our realtime and offline pipelines."
For more than 18 months, Vicon and Framestore worked to perfect Shōgun’s finger tracking, based on a dense 58-marker set capable of tracking finger and knuckle movements. Users can choose a reduced set to animate the fingers; that data can then be combined in realtime with a user’s digital rig, producing a fully animated digital character capable of intricate movements, from writing a letter to playing an instrument. A process that used to take weeks of painstaking animation can now be done instantly.
“Capturing full five-finger motion capture data has been at the top of customers’ wish lists,” notes Tim Doubleday, Vicon product manager. “This is a milestone for Vicon and motion capture.”
Along with finger solving, Shōgun 1.3 grants users the ability to record data directly into a game engine – including both Unity and Unreal Engine 4 – without the need for third-party packages. Shōgun users can retarget a performance onto any FBX skeleton in Shōgun, and within seconds see an animated version of their character, adding full performance digital avatars in the game engine.
Shōgun 1.3 can now export skeletal data using the new Universal Scene Description (USD) format, a file type currently used by major VFX companies around the world, including ILM, Framestore and Pixar. By using the USD format, Shōgun 1.3 can export data directly to iOS devices, giving users the ability to view Vicon’s data directly on an Apple device, while also supporting Apple’s new AR kit technology for use in augmented reality.
Shōgun Live users will find several improvements to the overall functionality, including multi-machine support, allowing scaling of processes across multiple PCs and improving performance for large captures. The addition of “camera mask painting” also means users can block out background noises like reflective objects and additional light sources.
And Shōgun Post will feature a new gap list function, allowing users to first identify individual users and then separate a single performer. From there, Shōgun will identify any gaps in the performer’s movements and automatically fill them in based on the expected movement.
At SIGGRAPH, Vicon is demonstrating the Shōgun platform by letting people direct their own animated movie starring live actors, all in realtime. The actors will work with the attendees while utilizing the latest virtual production tools, including realtime capture from Apple’s new AR Kit technology. All data will be captured in Shōgun 1.3 and streamed into Epic Games’ Unreal Engine. The actors will appear as animated characters, with digital assets added to the scene courtesy of the Epic Marketplace.
Vicon will host its interactive demo from July 30th through August 1st, with sessions taking place at the company’s booth (#741) throughout the day. Between sessions, Vicon’s Tim Doubleday will offer a closer look at the new tools. Shōgun 1.3 is currently in closed beta, with a roster of users that includes Electronic Arts, Framestore, ILM, Pixar, Ubisoft and more. The beta will be available to the public in September, with the full version expected later this year.