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Mocap Solutions

Posted By Nick GlassB Last Year
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Nick GlassB
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Hi all. Recently started to look into the idea of a mocap solution. Obviously of the compatible offerings the Perception Neuron v2 is the only affordable option for a lowly indie animator such as myself, so I was wondering what you more experienced folks thought, is it a worthwhile investment? or am I better off continuing to invest in motion packs I string together using motion editor and curve editor etc? Especially considering the upcoming cloud selection of motions on the horizon.
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I have the PN V2 and I would not do without it -- easy to use, put on, and great, great capture.

I've looked at the cloud solutions but none of them come close but that's just me.  With the new pricing on PN V2 it's almost a shame NOT to have it, though (and none of them do fingers, if that's important to you).



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Nick GlassB
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Yeah I've seen some of your other comments about it. Did you find that it took some getting used to and once you did there was less clean up involved or is it invariably going to always need a bit of cleanup? I understand you also tinkered with the HTC / Orion solution? But I'm guessing you went back to the PN V2? Considered the pro version? I'm UK based so its a bit harder for me to get hold of. It would seem there is only one supplier over here!
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Just like with almost any hobby you enter into, your requirements and needs make you more and more critical as you strive to be better and better.  I started with the Kinect RL solution (which was awful), then went to multiple Kinects and iPisoft (which was a decent enough system that involved a TON of work to use), tried the HTC (but gave up on it due to foot sliding) and finally went with the PN.  Overall I'm happy with using it out of the box, with only minor cleanup but as I suggest, everyone's needs are different and what makes you happy today is likely to change.

For me it works because it's quick and easy so I'm not looking to move on (although I have tried some of the cloud solutions just to see -- they have major issues which might be solved someday, or may never be solved -- right now the quality is akin to the multiple Kinects with better ease of use).  I think it helps to understand exactly what you are looking for in any such system.  What kinds of captures do you want, how detailed, how perfect, etc.

I can put the PN suit on in five minutes, do a capture, and in under an hour I have exactly what I want for any particular scene or sequence.  I find it so much easier to do this that I don't even bother using the literally hundreds of motions I've bought and paid for over the years -- it's easy to record exactly the walk and turns and movements I want for that particular scene, even though I will never use that again, than trying to piece together canned stuff.  But everyone's patience and skills are different -- some folks are very skilled at editing mocap clips together.  I'm all about speed and have almost zero patience when it comes to editing.

But, again -- try and figure out what you would use ANY sort of mocap solution for, in order to determine the best one for you.  I do think this much is true -- the PN suit, used CORRECTLY (a whole lot of folks have no idea how to use it correctly, but luckily they have now made some excellent videos to clear all this confusion up) can't really be beat, not at the current price (remember, you do NOT need the iClone piece for it.  As a matter of fact, I would strongly recommend against it.  As long as you have 3DXChange you are far better off recording your animations separately and bringing them in through 3DX, than using the PN Live plugin.  I wish I had never wasted that money on it).



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Nick GlassB
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That's really useful advice, I appreciate that. Particularly with regard to the plug in. I'll spend my money on a copy of 3dexchange instead! Yeah I'm after a similar result to you really, I just want something affordable that will do the job. Don't mind a bit of minor tweaking otherwise it would be too easy but stringing together out of the box clips is proving irritating. I prefer spending my time building the scene and realism. Thanks. Also your instruction videos have been great too and very useful by the way. 
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One more question though Mike, If you're importing via 3dxchange, say a basic walking motion, do you have to set the actual character travel for the movement? IE it walks on the spot and you have to manually set the distance? I like the idea of doing it as you say as it does open the possibility of using any mocap solution that exports as fbx, however I find the process of setting physical travel (point A to point B) a bit of a nightmare, or is that simply where the practice and experience has to be developed regardless of the mocap solution you use?
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If I understand what you are asking (and I may not) you are questioning exactly how to get your character(s) to move around in your virtual set properly.  If that's the question, then it really depends on what you are doing.

Here's a good example - this was a longish video, so I apologize if you don't want to watch all the way through but if you can I think it will be worth the effort as I'll mention some things afterwards to address the issues:



Okay, if you did make it all the way through let me tell you this was done in only one take each of the three movements -- so (including time to put on the suit, perform, export the actions, and import) a total of less than around 15-20 minutes for the body mocap.  There's no editing per se but I did adjust the arms to make the gate open, which does bring up a point I need to address but first let's talk about basic movements.

Unless your character(s) are going to do some very complicated dance movements around objects in a scene you really aren't going to be showing them moving through via their whole body without doing editing and camera cuts.  IOW, if you watch any sort of live action movie or television you'll see that we rarely see the character's whole body and if we do it's only briefly for establishing shots.  What folks want to see, particularly in animation, are closeups of your characters and you can edit and adjust things to work easily with good mocap.

There are times, of course, when you need to get a character very specifically from point a to point b, and in my video this occurs most prominently in the cemetery sequence (in the opening he only walks a short distance that isn't particularly necessary to get too accurate -- in the end he's walking in a large forest with plenty of room to navigate.  He has to end up at that tree, but that was a case of where I put the tree and positioned it to match the movements, not vice versa).  So the cemetery he needs to walk along the front, and then get to the gate and open it up, and then walk along the cemetery on the other side of the gate.

I merely mapped out on my floor the distance I knew it was -- not hard to do (you can accurately measure inside of your scene).  Interacting with the gate itself isn't perfect by any means - but it would have been just as difficult if not more so even if I had been using the plugin inside of iClone, as I would have needed to keep my eye on the monitor rather than "acting" (such as my acting is).  If I had spent more than a couple of minutes in the arm editing I would have gotten it much smoother but I was doing this all on the day before Halloween and wanted to have it available in a few hours.

I think you'll find in general that such precise movements are indeed a tradeoff between "acting" and "hitting your mark" (as we used to say when I was in the business).  Actors often do have such marks placed on the floor so they can hit where they need be and it's a PITA to have to do this AND act naturally.  Some people are better at it than others but at least with animation we have the luxury of adjust things via camera cuts and set placement afterwards (actors in movies can seldom have the entire set moved to fit their acting, although now with virtual sets that's getting to be more and more possible).

I do have the iClone plugin and it's a royal pita to use in a lot of ways but it in no way makes it easier to move among your virtual set, at least not for me.  But everyone is different.  You have to figure out your own talents (and those of your performers) to see what works best.  And it's a learning process.



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Last Year by Kelleytoons
Nick GlassB
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Thanks for taking the time to clear that up Mike I appreciate it. Your video is great by the way, your singing voice very much fits the character and scene. 

Now I understand better I do totally agree in regards to the Iclone plugin. The PN2 does seem to tick a lot of boxes for me (affordability, fluidity of motion etc). My only concern from things I have ready is the fragility of it, how sensitive it is to magnetism particularly. it is still, however, the current top option for me. Now that I am no longer bound by solutions Iclone have plugins for, I may do some more research on other suits that may be around (and more available here in the UK) before I settle on it. My aim is to be in a similar position to you where I'm able to turn a smooth animation around in a matter of hours rather than days.

thanks again for your input.
Nick
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Thanks for the kind words (not sure my "singing" is anything other than an attempt, though :>Wink.

The suit itself -- straps and sensors -- isn't all that sensitive if you mean that physical force or usage will hurt it.  They don't recommend using it for martial arts with full contact, for example, but rather "stage fighting" (where the actors would feign contact).  I've had mine going on two years and am not particularly careful with it and had no issues.

In terms of magnetism the biggest issue is transport.  If you are moving it from place to place the recommended procedure is to take all the sensors out and put them in the sensor case and rebuild the suit on location.  They do sell a shielded case for it but I think they still would recommend you do this take and removal since a car is a mass of electronics that plays havoc with it.  I do all my mocap in the same place in my home -- I have the suit in that aforementioned shielded case.  I have never had any issues with magnetism nor had to recalibrate anything.  Initially I checked out my capture area and know where the problem places (like speakers on a wall that I have) are and stay away from them.  But everyone's situation is different and if you DO intend on traveling with the suit you either need to take the extra time involved or perhaps step up to the higher range one that is less sensitive to those issues.  But since my suit (actually suits since I have two) always sit in the same place, in their cases, I just never worry (now, I have walked out and done capture in my garage without problems -- never checked to see if there were problem places I had to avoid, though).

If you DO intend to do most or all of your capturing in one location download one of the free magnetometer apps for your phone and check around with it.  It will tell you what problems you might have (you want, in general, no more than 70u to be in any one place).  If nothing more it's interesting to see and use.



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Nick GlassB
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That's interesting. I just downloaded one of three of those apps and none of them went over 60 even right next to my pc! that can't be right but good to know anyway. I certainly don't intend on transporting it anywhere if I do get it so won't have to worry there. 

I've just had a quote for a comparable price to what it's sold for in the US so I may just be placing an order!

Thanks again.



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