How to select the best mocap technology for your needs

Written by

07 July 2021

Whether you’re an animator wanting to create superior 3D characters; an engineer interested in evaluating how workers interact with machinery; a producer looking to utilize virtual and augmented reality in a broadcast studio; or a clinician wanting to assess walking deficiencies, there are a few factors you need to take into consideration when choosing mocap technology.

The best way to do this is to be armed with knowledge so you know exactly what to look for. Therefore, the first step you need to take is to understand the different needs required by the various industries mocap is used in: an animator might be able to get away with a lightweight system that has a quick and easy setup, but a large broadcast or film production studio might need something more powerful. 

Read through the list below and find your industry, then take note of the most important factors to look out for. Finally, work through our checklist of questions that you should answer before approaching any vendors. 

INDUSTRY: ANIMATION & GAMING

If you’re going to be developing stand-out 3D characters for film or for gaming you’re going to want mocap technology that can capture complex movement, facial expressions, and realistic physical interactions with low-latency results, which can be rendered in a physically accurate manner. 

This means your software should allow for segmental modeling and real-time streaming and use real-time previsualization data to inform and accelerate animation decisions.

You’ll want a system that consists of two Skeletons: one constrained by markers to match the mocap subject, and one that matches the animator’s rig, and you’ll want to produce the cleanest, highest quality data. It would be beneficial to have a system that offers a quick and easy setup for 3D motion capture and a larger amount of animation data to be produced, in order to improve efficiency and reduce overall production costs.

INDUSTRY: MOVEMENT ANALYSIS

Within the field of 3D motion capture for movement analysis or biomechanics, there is a broad range of requirements. For example, a simple clinical balance study may need minimal tracking devices but need kinetic data from force plates, whereas high-level gait analysis, with enhanced foot modeling, may need a hundred or more markers and simultaneous force plates, EMG, and video vector overlays. 

You should be looking for fully integrated motion capture technology with the ability to capture and track the subtle movements of sports equipment, individuals, and entire teams, improving and extending the limits of athletic performance. 

Because of the range of needs motion capture may be used for in movement analysis, it would be beneficial if you could choose from a variety of out-of-the-box applications or have the ability to customize the system to meet those needs.

But most importantly, when it comes to movement analysis, fidelity of data is key. Therefore precise data collection and instant translation of that data is imperative and should be a top feature you look for in a system. 

BROADCAST

If you work within a larger studio for broadcast purposes that requires the use of many cameras, efficiency and productivity of mocap technology is key. You need to equip your team with unparalleled camera tracking and mocap quality, speed, and usability, with a system that can integrate with all major graphics software solutions.

The system you should be looking for should be able to track an unlimited number of cameras, as well as the performers’ locations simultaneously, and should allow for precise real-time tracking of broadcast studio cameras to create live VR or AR sets quickly and efficiently.

Ask vendors whether their software is able to calculate the optical axis and nodal point of each studio camera, a feature which will dramatically shorten the camera calibration process by aligning the virtual camera with the studio camera. You’re going to want all your studio cameras to be able to work from the same global coordinate system, so that you can map multiple cameras. 

INDUSTRIAL AND ROBOTICS

If you’re using motion capture to research expandable solutions for military, engineering, robotics, product designers, and manufacturers, you’re going to want to shorten  development cycles and reduce costs as much as possible. 

In order for this to happen, you need a system that’s integrated with a wide range of control systems, with a VRPN server for streaming real-time data to a range of engineering, simulation, and virtual reality applications. 

To effectively identify and correct ergonomic issues that lead to injury or design more effective ergonomic products, you’ll want software that can provide accurate and precise low-latency measurements of kinetic movement and body angles.

And lastly, it would be beneficial if you could find a system that can track anywhere from one subject to an entire squad, in order to cater to the range of potential applications you may need it for.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER BEFORE YOU TALK TO VENDORS

Now that you know the type of features you should be looking for in a mocap system, based on the industry you’re using it in, here are a few other considerations you need to think about before you talk to vendors:

  • How would you summarize the application you need the system for?
  • What is your goal with usage of this system? In detail, what items do you want to be able to observe, measure, and/or quantify?
  • How many subjects do you need to record at any given time? 
  • What are the approximate capture volume dimensions? 
  • What is your preferred marker size, if you have one?
  • Are you wanting a fixed setup (wall mounted or c-clamped to rail system) or mobile setup (tripods)?  
  • Are you in the pre-planning budgetary phase? Or do you already know how much you can afford to spend?

WE HAVE THE MOCAP TECH TO DELIVER THE SOLUTIONS YOU NEED

Find out more about the systems Motion Analysis has to offer by booking a demo with one of our customer tech support staff today.