The first thing you should consider is whether motion capture is appropriate for your project. It’s best for a 3D game with a lot of character animation, providing you have the funds and time to do it. It depends on the game engine and the animation style you want to use.

Animators, on the other hand, are not rendered obsolete by motion capture; in fact, animators are essential for arranging the shot and then converting the data into something meaningful.

Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)
Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)

Assume you and your team have already decided to use motion capture, and you’re now in charge of organizing and producing that component of the project. Animost Studio will show you how to arrange a shoot, execute a mo-cap session, and lead the actors. These criteria apply to any type of motion capture production, however, Animost Studio will be focusing on optical motion capture in this article.

Planning

A motion capture shot for a game differs significantly from a shoot for a film. What’s the difference between the two? The goal is to have hundreds of separate moves that are properly connected to one another. You should be familiar with this if you’ve designed other types of game animation.

Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)
Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)

Of course, the actual creation of the goal data will necessitate additional considerations. Because full-motion video sequences are linear, they should be treated separately from in-game character movements.

Animation List and Flowchart

You’ll need the game spec, which includes an animation list and flowchart, to start preparing your shoot. As you put the animation list and flowchart into a shot list, you’ll be modifying it back and forth with the team. Each character should have his or her own flow chart.

Examine your mo-cap flowchart to check if your character can transition smoothly from one maneuver to the next. You’d do it regardless of how the animation was made, but with motion capture, you can’t have an animator recreate the missing move without reshooting.

Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)
Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)

Many questions would arise as a result of this animation list and flowchart. Consider the following scenario:

  • Is it necessary for the character to stand up from a crouch before walking or running?
  • Is it necessary for the character to stop walking or running in order to fight?
  • Can the character transition to a stop or a sprint from either foot if he’s walking? Is it necessary to finish one walk cycle before making the transition?
  • Where will the punch and kick blow connect on each of the opponent characters if they are different sizes?
  • Will each of the enemy attacks (as mentioned on their move lists) lead characters to have the identical “get hit” reaction?
  • What are the restrictions for Special Moves?

The answers to these questions are determined by the game engine and the overall design of the game. Transitions are handled by several animation blending tools, so you don’t have to capture them. While it’s generally safer to collect more data than you require, you don’t want to waste time and money shooting moves that aren’t necessary.

Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)
Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)

Examine the list with the designer and producer to see if any further changes are needed to improve playability. Is the player’s character equipped with all of the required moves to face or evade danger and enemies? Is he/she able to travel around every part of the game’s world in a reasonable amount of time?

While this is a design issue for which the designer and producer are responsible, it is up to you to avoid additional mo-cap shots later in the production timeline.

Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)
Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)

You can begin preparing the shot list after you’ve reviewed and updated the animation lists and flowcharts for each character. You’ll also need an estimate of how many frames each motion will take. Work closely with the animation team that will be reducing the motion data to the target size to ensure that you are familiar with their techniques. Although no human being can throw a punch in exactly fifteen frames, you can devise a relative timing approach.

Shot list

So far, a motion capture animation list appears to be equivalent to any other sort of character animation. However, it’s in defining the shot list that you’ll account for how to shoot the actions at a motion capture studio.

Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)
Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)

It’s a good idea to arrange the motion capture data with a database program like File Maker Pro. You can create a shot list from the database, and you and the rest of the team will be able to create customized lists for post-production afterward. Character names, talent, move names, move descriptions, file names, frame counts, capture space size, props, and special setups should all have their own fields.

Also, take notice of whether the animation is looping or transitional. A loop is any movement that repeats itself, such as standing, crouching, or walking. A punch, a fall, or a particular maneuver that has a distinct start and finish is a transition. For each transition move, make a list of the starting and ending positions.

Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)
Motion Capture for Games: Planning and Direction (Part 1)

Early on in the process, establish file naming rules with your team. This will make sorting the data much easier and allow you to label additional moves later in the process.

The completed shot list should be thoroughly reviewed and agreed upon by all essential members.

Include authorized costume sketches of the game characters. Anything with a lot of movements, such as long hair, a coat, or a cape, will require extra attention from the animators and studio staff. To track the motion of problematic costume elements, you might be able to make a unique motion capture costume or prop. You may see if it works properly by doing a test shoot.

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Conclusion

For certain sorts of games, motion capture is an excellent method for developing animation. If you understand how to use it effectively, it may make your life easier and create excellent results, just like any other tool or piece of software.

If you try to wing it, you’ll most likely waste time and money and wind up with nothing worthwhile. Because motion capture is a relatively pricey technology, it’s worth investing some time preparing your shot and picturing the eventual results ahead of time.

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