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Motus Lets Users 'Film' Within Any 3D Environment 89

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the still-need-a-zoe dept.
Zothecula writes "In the creation of the film Avatar, director James Cameron invented a system called Simul-cam. It allowed him to see the video output of the cameras, in real time, but with the human actors digitally altered to look like the alien creatures whom they were playing. The system also negated the need for a huge amount of animation – every performance was captured in all its blue-skinned, pointy-eared majesty as it happened, so it didn't need to be created from scratch on a computer. Now, researchers from the University of Abertay Dundee have built on the techniques pioneered by Simul-cam to create a new system that lets users act as their own cameraperson within existing 3D environments."
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Motus Lets Users 'Film' Within Any 3D Environment

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  • This looks similar to what Lightwave 10's, Virtual Cinematography.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhJauu_vB2A [youtube.com]

    Pretty amazing stuff. Though not as exciting as the old days of waiting 24 hours to see what a single frame turned out like. :)
    • A single frame?

      Shouldn't you be modelling a single frame?

      Or did you try 3D Animation with a blindfold?

      Actually I did that once with Blender, I was telling my friend about how there are so many hotkeys and shortcuts in Blender to do everything, he challenged me to animate a sphere moving without looking at the screen, from scratch. I wrote up a script of keys to press while the monitor was unplugged. It worked.

      Sweetest 10 bucks I ever made.

      • Re:Lightwave 10 (Score:4, Informative)

        by AmigaHeretic (991368) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:25PM (#34175618) Journal
        My computer ran at 7mhz at the time.
        • Didn't you at least have some kind of viewpane for what you were doing though?

          • by CityZen (464761)

            Way back when, there were these very exclusive devices known as video terminals. There were many different kinds of different capabilities, but the basic idea is that they could interpret commands from a serial port (running at up to 9600 baud if you're lucky) and draw points and lines on the screen. Some early models used a video storage tube that didn't need to be continually refreshed, but it had to be erased by erasing the entire screen at once. They were monochrome (green). Eventually, models incor

          • Young whipper snapper! Get off my lawn!!

            The first software I saw with a viewport was in about 95 or so. A wireframe only rendering on a HP Unix workstation (@60Mhz!) would take a few seconds to re-draw (longer if you had back face culling on). Mind you, we didn't get mouse input for the camera controls until we switched over to SGI machines a couple of years later. Up until that point (and still integral to the animation pipeline today) you only had control over the scene by executing code. You should try
        • by Inda (580031)
          7mhz? Bloody luxury!

          Back in our time we had to draw the frames, paint...
          • I thought so at the time. I had 1.5 megabytes of memory, so I pretty much dominated everyone I knew.
            • by Amouth (879122)

              heh.. i remember having a "laptop"/"portable computer" which was an old 8088.. 640k ram. and a 2mb hdd.. replaced the battery pack with a bunch of D Cells.. and used to play games on it on road trips.. still have it some place...

              • by Pezbian (1641885)

                I have a laptop like that still. I did a battery retrofit with NiMH AA cells in a radio shack battery case to run it when I got nostalgic. Had better charge life than the original heavy pack, actually.

              • by tehcyder (746570)

                heh.. i remember having a "laptop"/"portable computer" which was an old 8088.. 640k ram. and a 2mb hdd.. replaced the battery pack with a bunch of D Cells.. and used to play games on it on road trips.. still have it some place...

                A hard drive? Luxury!

        • by AP31R0N (723649)

          milli hertz? Wow that IS slow.

      • Yeah, I modeled in wire frame, but even that took a long time to update. But when the scene was together you'd want to render a frame or 2 to see what the hell it was going to look like before you started a 3 week render of a 5 second animation.
    • by agrif (960591)

      That's a very impressive tech demo there, but I cringe every time this guy says "OpenGL". It's pretty clear he has no idea what OpenGL actually is, because he's constantly acting amazed that OpenGL can do realtime rendering (*gasp*).

      Choice quote: "The VBOs have been like pumped up for OpenGL..." (around 4:20)

  • The first weird and not specifically predictable combination of erp/cosplay/fanfic/porn using Motus emergent in 3... 2... 1...

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      The first weird and not specifically predictable combination of erp/cosplay/fanfic/porn

      Are there any non weird combinations involving cosplay?

      I mean, sure, hot girls with blue hair and fake swords is kinda sexy and all ... but, it's still weird.

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        Your normal world seems dull...
        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Your normal world seems dull...

          I embrace weird wherever I can ... but I still recognize it as weird. ;-)

        • Yes, but at least I can still get excited by reality. It is really sad when the only thing that gets you off anymore is a blue haired tentacled chick.
  • This sounds like rotoscoping in real time using a digital process.

    Being able to "skin" your actors in real time with costumes/makeup will have a profound impact on a lot of films, but also the film making industry itself. I'm sure there are a lot fewer model-makers/matte painters since the advent of CG, will this have the same effect on makeup/props/costumers?

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:32PM (#34175730) Journal

      Well essentially you're just transplanting the costs to someone else - where did that 3D model come from? It didn't just prop up out of nowhere.

      Some things, like Zombies, are generally much cheaper on Make up than something like a talking Gorilla suit. One of the reason there are so many Zombie movies out there is because it's essentially the cheapest thing an Indie Film maker can make - They require little to no story writing, they don't require any special effects besides 1 good make up artist and a lot of cornsyrup and food colouring, and you can simply run around your city shooting.

      Now - is it possible to make a Zombie model and transpose it over your actors? Definately. Is that cheaper? Not really. You're paying big bucks not only for the design of the model but the textures, skinning, skeleton work - there's a lot of stuff that goes into this.

      One of the reasons this worked so well for James Cameron in Avatar is that essentially the world of Pandora was meant to be vast and immersive, which is really hard to do on a sound stage - or its extra expensive that way. Since the rest of the world was in CGI to cheapen the costs of producing an elaborate stage - it wasn't much of a stretch to move the Actors and Actresses into CGI as well - in fact for me personally I think it makes the parts with Live actors look more faked somehow (specifically the end fight scene).

      So I don't think this is exactly "the end" for makeup and costume artists, because 100 yards of silk and a good tailor to do up Costumes can be a lot cheaper than a team of 3D modellers - and still look more real.

      • Now - is it possible to make a Zombie model and transpose it over your actors? Definately. Is that cheaper? Not really. You're paying big bucks not only for the design of the model but the textures, skinning, skeleton work - there's a lot of stuff that goes into this.

        Not to mention the fact that a zombie movie with only a single zombie is going to be pretty boring. You're going to want a bunch of them, and you don't want them all identical. Which means you want a bunch of different skins.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          And different models as well - since you wouldn't want to see the same face with a different skin every moment either.

          It's another advantage a makeup artist and a hundred extras has over CGI. It's pretty simple to find a bunch of people wanting to be a in a zombie movie, you can probably find a bunch of Teenagers off school willing to do it the whole day for like 20 bucks.

          And then your costume and make up artists can spend 2 hours making them exactly how you want them - and you've got a wide variety for a f

          • by wed128 (722152)

            But...what if you were being attacked by CLONES of zombies....or zombie clones....

            Someone call hollywood, i smell a hit!!!

            • But...what if you were being attacked by CLONES of zombies....or zombie clones....

              Someone call hollywood, i smell a hit!!!

              "We thought we were smart. Creating a horde of clones to do all the menial jobs that us Americans didn't want to do anymore. And with them genetically programmed to die after a year, we were going to have an endless revenue stream selling replacements.

              It never occurred to us that they might not *stay* dead..."

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      I'm sure there are a lot fewer model-makers/matte painters since the advent of CG

      Actually, it's my understanding they still use the model-makers and old school techniques, they just integrate them with the digital stuff.

      I seem to recall seeing something that one of the big CG houses (Pixar?) actually had physical skeleton models to let the old-school animators move the wireframe since they got much more realistic results.

      I think they actually use hybrid systems to really good effect.

    • Being able to "skin" your actors in real time with costumes/makeup will have a profound impact on a lot of films, but also the film making industry itself. I'm sure there are a lot fewer model-makers/matte painters since the advent of CG, will this have the same effect on makeup/props/costumers?

      I'm quite sure that the makeup people have plenty of work to do. Have you seen how bad people look in HD? If a camera adds ten pounds, HD adds twenty pounds and twenty years.

  • Did James Cameron actually invent this system? I thought he was a director.
    • Came to post that. I suspect this is a case of giving the "genius" credit for everything. At the very least, he was not the one who realized the idea (the hardest part of all ideas).

      • by cbhacking (979169)

        He is known to the masses for his directing, but he has also done a ton of screenplay writing (how he got started) and has always beein interested in special effect technology (how he got into the industry in the first place). I don't know how much implementing he did, but he definitely drove the technology behind sci-fi effects. Certainly the functional specification, and possibly also the design spec.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Came to post that. I suspect this is a case of giving the "genius" credit for everything. At the very least, he was not the one who realized the idea (the hardest part of all ideas).

        There are a lot more competent engineers than genuine inventors.

        • Depends on what you mean by genuine. If you consider James Cameron a genuine inventor for coming up with an idea for the display he would like to have, I disagree,

  • Does it work in the cinema?

    • Bad Summary (Score:5, Informative)

      by AmigaHeretic (991368) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:32PM (#34175720) Journal
      No. This summary is horrible. The article and the technology it references has nothing to do with real-time skinning of character models onto real humans.

      What they show is basically 2 Wii remotes at the same time for more accurate movement in a video game.
      • THANK YOU! (Score:4, Informative)

        by denzacar (181829) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @01:41PM (#34175842) Journal

        Sadly, I spent all my mod-points earlier today on utterly irrelevant posts.

        It has NOTHING to do with 3D as in stereoscopy (read: Avatar and similar 3D movies) it is instead just yet another control system for 3D games (as in Duke Nukem 3D).
        Like the parent said - it's a Wii remote. Again.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by lennier1 (264730)

          True, it's a glorified Wiimote. Nothing like what they used for Avatar.

          OTOH the Virtual Cinematography feature in the next version of LightWave will be much closer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhJauu_vB2A [youtube.com] even though it only takes care of the camera part and not the kind of realtime two-stage (body + face) motion capturing Avatar used. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhJauu_vB2A [youtube.com]

        • Yeah, it has nothing to do with stereoscopy or "video output of the cameras, in real time, but with the human actors digitally altered to look like the alien creatures whom they were playing. "

          That later was what I was hoping to see when I read the article.
  • by vlm (69642)

    Great, just what I never wanted, automated ShakeyCam.

    Note from the CAD industry this is decades old. Is the actual story that AutoCad's patent finally expired so movie folks can use it legally in their software, or something like that?

  • After watching the video from the source article I can't say I'm impressed and I don't see any advantages when using this compared to my general PC hardware. He says the applications of the commercial version will (for example) be replacing in-game democams so you can film it yourself as if you were really there. Oh please. We all use slick traced animations for that not shakey videos shot by hand, why would we want to have that? We could easily emulate that afterwarts too if we wanted it. Then he tells us

  • From TFA: "The system also negated the need for a huge amount of animation – every performance was captured in all its blue-skinned, pointy-eared majesty as it happened, so it didn’t need to be created from scratch on a computer."

    That magic little piece of technology is called motion capture. Most definatly NOT something that Mr Cameron invented.

    Additionally, while he may have been able to see the cgi characters in realtime, they would need to be realtime models with realtime capable ef
  • is what Simul-cam sounds like. However, the technique from the article is a bit different, in that it lets a hand-held device to act as a camera controller within a virtual environment. Nothing particularly new there either. Previously, the tracking device on the user's head performed such a function.

    • is what Simul-cam sounds like. However, the technique from the article is a bit different, in that it lets a hand-held device to act as a camera controller within a virtual environment. Nothing particularly new there either. Previously, the tracking device on the user's head performed such a function.

      Sorry to be pedantic, but, no, head tracking never performed that. Rotation data is very easy to get, the positional data is *not*. Right now, the ability to plot a tracker in a 10x10x10 3D space requires 10's of thousands of dollars in equipment and installation.

      • by CityZen (464761)

        It depends upon what head-tracking you're talking about. The Polhemus and Ascension magnetic trackers have allowed this kind of thing for ages, and are available for under $10K (sometimes you see them on Ebay for a pittance). In addition, various optical (OptiTrack) and ultrasonic (Intersense) trackers have also had this capability.

        And let's not forget mechanical tracking, as pioneered by Ivan Sutherland back in 1963. True, range was an issue, but the main idea was already present.

        • I'm talking about spatial tracking for something like moving a camera around a volume. Mechanical tracking isn't anywhere near ideal for this and Intersense trackers are exactly what I'm talking about with the high price tag.

          I'm curious about the Ascension trackers. Have you worked with those before?

          • by CityZen (464761)

            Indeed I have. So have many others. You can search for "ascension flock of birds" and see lots of related research.
            For a limited volume (that's relatively free of ferrous objects), it's okay. It tends to jitter & distort towards the limits of its range
            (at least the model I used). I imagine that optical trackers are better for bigger volumes, assuming you can string up an
            appropriate constellation of LEDs (for outward looking) or cameras (for inward looking). You could probably do something
            quite dece

  • I remember seeing some behind the scenes stuff from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and they had sensors on a full-sized, over the shoulder sized video camera, so someone could control the camera's position as the animation played out.

    (I think it was on "Science of the Movies") ... so the technique's been done ... maybe the novel part is that it's generic to work with other systems?

  • Now the actors will be getting paid even less because they can super impose the face of any other actor, and only pay royalties on that actors face, but the actual physical displacement of the body is done by a stunt double....watch ...soon, all movies will be semi computer animated to save even more money!

  • ...The guy in the video that is - he used to be my lab tutor 5 years ago when I studied CGT there. Good course, cool profs, hi Matt!
  • BS title, that... (Score:2, Informative)

    by JohnnySlash (913420)
    The speaker in the video makes a grandiose claim but shows no proof - all the footage is from their own test environment. "Motus Lets Users 'Film' Within Any 3D Environment"? Gizmag should take some journalism courses.
  • what on earth is different about this from say..

    a augmented reality headset? What exactly is new about this? With a motion controller headset, the thing is basically strapped to your eyes. The only difference here is that the video output is piped to a computer display somewhere else..which I doubt they are the first to do.

There is no distinction between any AI program and some existent game.

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