A decade ago, the idea of “remote motion capture” would have seemed about as realistic as a global pandemic. But just as we found out with the latter, remote motion capture isn’t just possible; it’s here way faster than we could have ever predicted.
But now, thanks to massive advancements in motion capture technology and remote video production platforms, it’s possible to set up a fully-functioning remote motion capture studio from pretty much anywhere.
Can motion capture teams really do their work remotely?
What’s truly amazing about the rapid advancements in motion capture tech is that they really do allow motion capture teams to work from just about anywhere and collaborate in real-time.
Traditionally, motion capture teams have required large spaces that are either purpose-built for a motion capture shoot or retrofitted with large backdrops and lighting grids. This was because accurate movement tracking was dependent on dozens of specialized cameras and an actor that was covered head-to-toe in colored tracking dots that each needed to read on camera.
Now, you can accurately capture movement at home with a motion-capture system that consists of nothing more than a few sensors, a couple of lights, and an iPhone. We’ve really come a long way.
If you’re looking to start experimenting with remote shoots or are considering ways to downsize your motion capture rig so you can work remotely, we’ve got your guide to the latest and greatest tools that will allow you to work anywhere at any time, and conduct a motion capture session on demand.
Before we go any further into the specialized hardware and software required for remote motion capture, we need to cover the basics.
To successfully create a remote motion capture “studio,” you’ll need to first find a space where your talent can move comfortably without banging into anything, and ideally, where you can always have an unobstructed view of their movements.
While most of the modern motion capture technology we’ll cover doesn’t require you to have a clear 360-degree view of your performers, you will want to at least have an open area where you can set up a reference camera to capture the “raw” performance alongside the motion capture data.
You also want to make sure you have enough space for your talent to complete each required movement without risk of injury during performance capture.
You’ll also need:
- A computer with a high-speed graphics card and CPU capable of running 3D motion graphics software
- A portable camera for facial movement capture
- A camera to capture reference footage
For facial capture, you probably already have an advanced mocap camera in your pocket. Most current iPhones have a TrueDepth camera that allows them to capture 3D facial features for FaceID and augmented reality filters. You can use this to capture facial performances and pair it with a motion capture app for incredibly accurate renderings.
For successful remote motion capture, you’ll need 3D rendering and animation software that’s capable of receiving your motion capture data and translating it into animation. You’ll also need a way to communicate with your team so you can collaborate during both capture and edit sessions.
These solutions are some of the best available for creating and rendering 3D graphics from anywhere in the world.
Create together remotely, in real time
Evercast is a remote collaboration and communication platform specifically designed for creative teams. It not only includes your standard video and chat communication capabilities but has advanced screen-sharing, annotation, and live-feed features that can adapt to any creative workflow, from game development to movie production.
What makes Evercast great for remote motion capture is the ability to chat face-to-face with every member of the team while watching a live stream of either your motion capture cameras or your editing workstation. You can use Evercast alongside all of the hardware and software we’ll detail in this guide and use your Evercast room as your virtual mocap studio.
Blender is an open-source 3D animation software that constantly evolves to be an affordable alternative to expensive 3D animation platforms like Maya and After Effects. It utilizes open-source software to make it highly customizable and has recently become one of the top choices for animators looking to create realistic motion-capture animation.
Autodesk Maya would be considered by many to be the industry standard for 3D modeling and animation, with assets created within it showing up in blockbuster films and games across the world. Maya syncs seamlessly with the motion capture hardware we’ll cover later and can accurately render everything from full-body movement to facial expressions.
Cinema4D is the last of the “big three” of 3D modeling and is another great option for anyone looking to do motion capture work remotely. Like Maya and Blender, Cinema4D offers a wide range of 3D animation tools, textures, and lighting.
Likely, you’re already pretty familiar with the software tools we’ve outlined, but doing motion capture remotely requires very specific hardware. Most importantly, you need a way to capture movement that’s easy to use, doesn’t require a ton of lighting, and will accurately render everything from full-body movement to facial expressions.
Thankfully, these devices check all the boxes and are making remote motion capture more attainable than ever before.
Rokoko Smartsuit Pro
Diving right in, the Rokoko Smartsuit Pro is one of the most breakthrough motion capture solutions enabling remote motion capture. The Smartsuit Pro is an inertial motion capture suit, which means instead of using cameras looking at dots, it uses special sensors that detect their own position and movement, then transmit that data into special capture software.
What this means is you can use the Rokoko Smartsuit pretty much anywhere, with no need for studio lighting, backdrops, or special cameras to capture its movements. This makes it an ideal and nearly essential tool for any remote mocap work.
Rokoko Smartsuit Gloves
The Rokoko Smartsuit Gloves are an accessory to the Rokoko Smartsuit and are nearly as necessary as the suit itself. These allow you to capture nuanced hand movements for added realism and utilize the same inertial motion capture technology.
Xsens Inertial Sensor Modules
Xsens is another leader in inertial motion capture space, and their inertial sensor modules are another great alternative to the Rokoko Smartsuit. Instead of being confined within a suit, the Xsens sensors can be attached independently via their soft “t-shirt” straps.
This gives motion capture teams more flexibility in terms of who they can fit with the sensors, as well as which parts of the body they’d like to isolate.
Faceware Headcam Systems
Facial motion capture requires different software and equipment to accurately capture, as the movements of the face are much more subtle and cannot be detected with bulky motion sensors. Instead, you’ll need a way to mount a camera to your performers that can record their facial performances as they move.
The Faceware Headcam devices make it easy to mount a GoPro or other small camera and get a detailed face capture.
As always, the best tools for your remote session are the ones that work for you, not against you. Experiment with different types of animation software and capture devices until you find the perfect tools to help your team conduct motion capture shoots, even when you’re in different locations.