By: Peter Clapperton - Creative Assembly

The Missing Dead Activity Pack to be used with the Missing Dead Game app

What is Motion Capture?

Motion capture, or mocap, has the ability to add realistic movement to characters in a computer game, picking up details that can be very difficult to create or would take a very long time to do in the animation process.

Mocap is the process of capturing real movement and mapping it on to a 3D model. It originates from an animation technique called rotoscoping, which was first developed in 1915. In rotoscoping, each frame is drawn with tiny changes to the characters and they are played one after the other very quickly to create the illusion of movement – just like the cartoons you see on the TV. These hand-drawn animations would run at about 15 images being shown for every second of time. In mocap, instead of drawings, we use film. This allows us to capture far more images per second. As standard this would be 120 images per second!

How does mocap work?

At Creative Assembly we have our very own mocap studio, the picture below describes the way we can get a character to move on the screen using a real person.

In the games industry we use this both for in-game itself but also to create trailers of the game.

By animating using mocap we are saving a lot of time and money when making a large game as the characters can move straight away.

When we have a mocap session – which we call a shoot – we have actors that do the performance of the characters, a director that can tell the actor how and when to move and a crew of technicians whose job it is to make sure that all the equipment is set up correctly and that the reflective markers have been placed correctly on the performers and that the ‘capture’ is being recorded successfully onto the computer.

When the shoot is over, the technicians look through the ‘data’ that has been collected to make sure that it is ready to be sent to the animation team for their additional pass to add any extra ‘flair’ that they may like to include. This is called the polishing stage.

There is no direct career path into mocap, but it is very much linked to animation in game development. In fact, careers in animation are increasingly looking for understanding or experience of the mocap process. Mocap has both artistic and technological influences so can be approached from either a creative or academic direction.

Creative Assembly has been involved in the mocap process for over 20 years and is one of only a handful of European developers to have an inhouse studio. To read more about what is involved have a read of our Creative Chronicles series here.