Karl Abson presenting research at FMX 2014
Part of the motivation for Karl's work is the observation that in many cases, it is not possible to use real animals in motion pictures: it's either too dangerous or too time consuming to train the animals to perform the desired actions. As such their essence must be captured and re-created digitally. Traditionally this has been done by gathering reference material, such as photographs and video, and animating the animals manually. However, even with high quality reference material, it is possible for even seasoned animators to produce results which are inaccurate or unrealistic.
Overcoming the uncanny valley requires knowledge of both the subject and the techniques used to recreate it digitally. Karl's work is an attempt to build a highly accurate and animal friendly approach which is also cost effective. Motion capture is an ideal solution in this case, especially since the development of outdoor capable cameras. Karl's approach focusses on initially studying horse anatomy and movement. This is done by painting real horses with an anatomical skeleton (a technique regularly used by veterinary surgeons), so that they are then able to build an anatomically correct approximation of the skeleton, decide on marker placement and observe and address possible problems such as skin sliding.
During animal motion capture it is essential for the animal to behave naturally, that they are comfortable with the presence of the equipment. The horse used in this study, Marie, was encouraged to investigate the equipment before shooting, which proved to be effective.
Using Vicon cameras, in conjunction with Blade 2, meant that system setup and capture were straightforward. It was possible to acquire solved data with minimal manual intervention even in real time conditions. The University holds an up-to-date 16 camera motion capture studio and regularly works with Vicon and motion capture studios around the world. Karl and is currently working with Vicon to make the model and data available to the community.
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