Motion capture is ubiquitous in video gaming world today. Not a single AAA title could be made without the magic of motion capture, not a single marketing campaign would be complete without highlighting how some famous actor spent few days stuck in the black jumpsuit with glowing ping pong balls attached to them (Kevin Spacey, Mark Hamill just to name few). Understanding Motion Capture for Computer Animation and Video Games is an interesting book exploring the Motion Capture technology, its growth, intricacies of when to use it and when to avoid it.

To be honest, I discovered this book by chance. I was doing some research into the Noir: A Shadowy Thriller and got in touch with Mr. Alberto Menache, owner of the company that developed the game and while trying to learn a little about him, I found out about this book. I was reluctant to start reading the topic of Motion Capture yet, as I wanted to explore it later down the road, but the style how it was written was so approachable that I finished the book almost in one go.

Mr. Menache is a pioneer in the field of Motion Capture and you could feel his experience from the book. He is not writing any theoretical nonsense, all his views and expressions are supported by real life scenarios, including small wins and huge losses. He starts with the obligatory history of MC, its types but also goes through specific applications in movie and games industry. Among the most interesting stories were the plan to use Motion Capture technique in the skeletal scene in Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger and its ultimate failure or a story of Sinbad: Beyond the Veil of Mists, first computer-generated feature-length movie ever made (the movie was at the time of book release still in post-production). But there were also some victories materialized in the form of stories of Pillsbury Doughboy commercial or “Steam” video clip to the song by Peter Gabriel.

They spent two days capturing motion data from Peter Gabriel and a dancer. About 150 different movements were collected. “Peter had one rule for the room: no spectators,” recalls Conn. “When the playback rolled, everyone had to dance and get into music. He liked it so much doing the motion sampling that he refused to quit. Knowing that we had only time left to animate a few scenes it was way over the top, but hey, it was Peter Gabriel and we were getting data.

After the light stories section, you can find an enormous section containing the complete overview of the Motion Capture session. Everything from preparing blueprints, storyboards, setup of characters and cameras through the calculating volume of the shots needed and the physiology and movements of the body. All very detailed and well written for immediate use. Parts where I got lost, were last chapters describing Motion data, various file formats their structure etc. These were just too technical for me and I didn’t understand a bit, but I’m sure they are invaluable for any Motion Capture enthusiast or professional.

If you would like to learn more about the technology behind the games I can only recommend this book thanks to its style and no bullshit approach it was a nice read and if all amazon reviews are right it is still relevant to the craft today. This is just an awesome testament to the book that is over 15 years old which is like an eternity in today’s world of technology.

Menache, Alberto. Understanding Motion Capture for Computer Animation and Video Games. 1st ed. MA: Morgan Kaufmann, 2000. Print, pg.12.

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