What is Motion Capture? An Intro to Mocap

What is Motion Capture? An Intro to Mocap

Motion capture technology is making the news for its advancements in a diverse range of industries from sports therapy and healthcare to animation, film and gaming, but what exactly does it entail? Mocap is the process of recording the movement of people or objects and transferring the data to a computer to animate digital characters.  

Motion capture may seem like futuristic technology, but its development dates back to the 1960s when American animator Lee Harrison III devised a system of analogue circuits, cathode ray tubes, and adjustable resistors to record and animate a person’s movement in real-time.

His efforts produced only rudimentary results but the technology was not developed enough to attract mainstream attention. 

Since the 1960s, improvements have been made to the original designs including the addition of bodysuits to improve accuracy, the use of more advanced tracking cameras and facial capture technology resulting in photo-realistic images. In the early 2000s, Peter Jackson became one of the first Hollywood directors to embrace the technology, using motion capture for The Lord of the Rings’ Gollum. 

Twenty One Points | Studio LocalTwenty One Points | Studio Local

    Beyond blockbuster films, motion tracking has a broad range of uses. Healthcare professionals can use motion capture to analyze the movement of patients and diagnose problems while coaches and sports therapists can correct athletes’ form to prevent injuries and improve performance. The military utilizes the technology to enhance training experiences for our armed forces while the video game industry uses mocap to record and transfer the movement of actors to virtual characters for realistic on-screen action.

NAWO - workplace safety Workplace Safety | NAWO Ergonomic Solutions

Contemporary motion capture users can utilize one of four techniques: 

  • Optical (Passive): Retroreflective markers attached to bodies or objects reflect light generated near the camera lens to calculate the position of the markers within a three-dimensional space and are recorded. 
  • Optical (Active): Using the same technique as above except the markers emit light instead of reflecting it and require a power source. 
  • Marker-less: Instead of relying on markers, this method uses depth-sensitive cameras and specialized software to track and record movement but is considered a less accurate technique compared to the alternatives. 
  • Inertial: This technique records movement through inertial measurement units (IMUs) such as gyroscopes, magnetometers and accelerometers,  containing sensors to measure rotational rates. 

Motion capture is advancing every day and Noitom’s mocap experts would love to hear about your ideas and how Perception Neuron can be a part of making that happen. Schedule a free demo to learn more. 

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