Giggle’s Noitom Motion-Capture Training

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During these tricky times, the team is keeping out of mischief working on various projects for our clients that we have had to adapt to meet the current challenges. One such internal project is no different. Here is a little piece on how the team are adapting our projects to suit social distancing.

Last year I had a very interesting day training in motion capture at Andy Serkis’s, Imaginarium Studios, one of the leading motion capture studios. It was incredible to see all the different aspects of motion capture and how it could be used not only for film but also for theatre, gaming and even the potential to use it on the events that we create content for. This type of studio uses a network of cameras that are tracking the movements of the body. The performer wears light-reflecting balls that bounce back information about the whereabouts of that point. The computer then takes in the data and we can create a skeleton that will ‘drive’ the animation. This is the market-leading way of doing things but is very time consuming and very expensive. In the quick turnaround of events, we often don’t have the luxury of time or huge budgets. 

Over the last couple of years, we have been working on various projects that integrate projection and dance performances for various clients. We are also asked on a regular basis to create pieces in new and exciting, creative and technological ways. One of the mediums we have been working with is our studio mates, Holotronica’s, revolutionary product, Hologauze. This enables us to project the image of a dancer onto the Hologauze and play with images of a real dancer behind the gauze and an illusionary dancer on the gauze.

One of the projects that we were commissioned to do requires the dancer to turn into a magical spirit type of figure. This presented a few challenges about how we might create that figure. Would we create an animated character from scratch? This would take far too long and need weeks and weeks of work on the movement to make it as realistic as possible.

While my colleague Nick and I were at ISE in Amsterdam in February, Nick took me to Noitom’s stand. I was totally bowled over by this much cheaper and faster way of taking in the information and applying it to our work. 

Noitom is a set of 17 sensors that are strapped to various points on the body that measure where they are. The whole set is sensed as an ‘inertial suit’ by one routers style device. It means that we don’t need a full set of cameras tracking the suit in a motion-capture suit. It brings the cost of doing a motion capture session down from thousands of pounds to hundreds.

A couple of weeks before we entered this extraordinary lockdown, Iina, Ed and I took the trip to London to get some training on Noitom’s Perception Neuron Pro. We spent the afternoon being trained by the wonderful Stephanie, who taught us about how to wear the suit, how to use the software and how to translate the data into useful information that we could use. Very quickly in the days after, the team were able to create some really beautiful work using the experiments that we did during the training. Check out the video of our training below.

Originally we had planned to create a piece with some MA dance students from Bath Spa University. Since this is no longer possible (for obvious reasons!) we have instead pivoted the project to create a new kind of story. We are hiring the system for a week and doing some motion capture individually in our homes and sending it around to the rest of the team. This footage will then be used to create something beautiful, which you’ll be able to see in a couple of weeks.  

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