Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Mocap and Motion builder

Colin Graham - Director of animation, notes on his talk about Watch Dogs at Bradford Animation Festival.

+ In the game, Watch Dogs, everything was 100%  recorded with motion capture, with most animators adding their own key frames to situate the footage with in the animation and game data. All motion was delivered in this process, saving time with trying to create natural movements that would occur as the covering and fighting scenes would take place, each needed an iconic movement that related to the character. The expense of the motion capture was budgeted with in the increase of their budget as they were progressing with the project. From this the program, Motion Builder, from AutoDesk, was used to connect the dots that were on the actor for the motion capture, the only connection to this actor were the dots that were recorded, so the dots had to be in the correct place to be able to see the movement and use it for their game models. Each of these dot markers are tracked and the challenge is to find out which marker is which as they cross over. The animators job is to reshape the data, starting from the rig the retarget man has done and editing it. Actor tool is an accurate, virtual mannequin of the actor, with the in game skeleton connected through the infamous t-pose. Using that as a basis, the retarget tool is used for the connection relationship between the in game character rig and motion capture. Most animators begin the motion builder experience with control rigs.

+ The pivot points are essential, these will cause problems in the future, such as if the characters shoulder pivots are too close then you will either get too much or too little rotation than you actually need to be able to animate. An example of this can be seen in Arkam Asylum, there was no shoulder movement at all due to this problem, which was caused early on in the animation process and wasn't fixed due to the time that was left to complete the game. With hand contact - when making contact you want to use reach and pull, the gesture being FK, this provides better rotation. The role of gameplay animators are more technical, as everybody is the director, what it means to the gameplay and how it fits; reactions, how long does the character have to be distracted. When shooting the motion capture, learn to interact with the actor, able to put in your input directly rather than relaying messages through people to eventually get the scene redone.

Motion capture studio

+ The new role of gameplay animators have tools that are specifically aimed at animators, able to create new software for specific needs and to save time. Animators now have usual interfaces that was only available to programmers, now you can do it yourself with out asking anyone. The speed and the responsiveness of animation is now determined by the animators not the game designers; game designers are more the lead on the responsive time and reactions. Timing is not just the length but the frames between the key animations. Animators now have the responsibility to learn game design.

I believe that this is quite an interesting statement through how the advancement of technology has progressed so much that there is more for the animator to learn, to develop and have key skills in other areas of disciplines than the one that they originally intended to stick with. I also feel that this creates alot of pressure to understand this technical side more, meaning a few limitations can be made through the lack of skills in this area of programming, especially whilst working on a game animation and at the same time trying to learn the programming yourself, to then further edit your sequence. However cutting out the middle man, the programmer in this case, could essentially be easier for the animator to work, rather than waiting for feedback and for the revised scene to be sent back for you to edit, you can directly do that yourself and get feedback directly from the animation director etc. This can be seen as a double edged sword through the loss of jobs that this could possibly make, for instance if you have an animator that can program as well, do you need another programmer?

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