GDC 2024: Vicon’s accuracy and speed are a recipe for creativity

“There’s a lot of subtlety that comes through how we move, we can almost think of the way we move as being a fingerprint in motion,” David ‘Ed’ Edwards, VFX Product Manager for Vicon, told an audience at this year’s GDC. “Motion tells you a lot about a character.

“And to imbue all of that into an animated character can take a lot of time. This is where motion capture comes in, because within a few moments we can capture a person’s individual movements, complete with the gravity and the weight and the character that they carry, in a fraction of the time it would take to do that by hand.”

Ed was demonstrating how a Vicon motion capture system can bring characters to life for today’s cutting edge video games. A Vicon solution doesn’t only elevate the quality of a studio’s work, it also offers increased efficiency and, ultimately, cost savings. And, as Matt Workman pointed out in his GDC presentation, these benefits can be realized by developers from AAA studios all the way through to indie.

One thing Ed demonstrated in his presentation was the fact that while Vicon prides itself on the quality of its data, delivering that data at speed is also crucial.

“We deliver real-time, 3D-solving characters within just a few seconds,” he said. “The idea is that we don’t want to create these artificial barriers to getting this data to customers. It’s not just about high accuracy, it’s about high accuracy at speed. The quicker you get data, the quicker you can iterate, the quicker you can empower creators to make important creative decisions that are going to impact the quality of their work.”

Tracking is more robust than ever

Historically, two particular challenges used to slow down VFX pipelines: marker occlusion and finger solving. Ed demonstrated that both issues are now largely problems of the past

In the demo, a performer in a markered suit was asked to lie on the floor and move around, prompting the markers that were now covered up by the performer’s body to turn red. “Back in the day, this would have caused a problem because if you can’t see a marker, you can’t track it, therefore it won’t become part of the performance,” Ed explained.

“The way our algorithms work is they can essentially detect where those markers would exist based on the existence of other markers. We don’t want to tell people motion capture is great as long as you don’t lie down. So even in cases like this, where a series of the markers are completely occluded, it’s not affecting the data. We’re still getting a really solid track because we can calculate the position of the markers we can’t see based on the markers that we can see.”

Ed also emphasized the importance of finger tracking for modern games. “One of the things that distinguishes what we do is our emphasis on finger tracking out of the box. Maybe 10 or 20 years ago, this wasn’t super important because we didn’t have the fidelity and game engines to really bring this stuff to life. But today, the modern consumer expects realism, they expect high accuracy and that’s what we deliver with our software and hardware. Despite the fact that these are really small parts of the body where there’s a higher chance of occlusion of markers, we still get really good data.”

Robust tracking means greater creativity

Ed moved on to demonstrate how the Vicon system’s robust tracking could enrich a developer’s creative process.

A second performer entered the volume, having been off-camera for 20 minutes, and the system immediately picked them up. “You don’t always have to go through these manual processes of resetting characters when they come in and out of the volume,” Ed explained.

“The one thing that we never want to tell customers is ‘don’t do that’. We want to give them as strong a platform to bring their creations and their ideas to life as possible.”

The two performers wrestled, and the system maintained tracking as markers dropped in and out of view while Vicon’s Shōgun software kept the two figures distinct.

“Essentially what is really important is we are visualizing this data in real time,” said Ed. “This isn’t data that we have to save, reprocess, or view in the engine. We can do all this on the spot, and that empowers creators to iterate.

“What this means from the director’s perspective is more freedom. All these technologies we’ve seen, such as marker placement and the full character solve, are coming together to give creators the power to envision and respond to what they see in real-time. You don’t have to clean it up in post-production, it can be done on the spot. And what it fundamentally means is that when you buy a Vicon system, you’re getting access to quality, you’re getting that platform that allows you to not just achieve your goals, but to exceed them and to push our technology to the next level.”

For more information on how a Vicon motion capture solution can improve your creative output, click here.

Watch the full library of GDC presentations from the Vicon booth here:


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