FE417: Motion Capture for Artists Schedule 2013

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“Progress is not possible without deviation” –Frank Zappa

Evolving Class Schedule for 2013:

January 28
First class meeting.  Browse some of the key books related to the course.  View several approaches to motion capture starting with a brilliantly cynical warning of the type of mocap abuse we hope to avoid.  The three following videos include scenes created via the PhaseSpace mocap system at CalArts .  The remainder of the videos are selected to serve as examples of other approaches to motion capture that extend the possibilities beyond the conventional.  Some of them are mere motion graphic exercises and others are much more.  All are useful examples for contemplating the possibilities of what we might do.  After the screening we will discuss each student’s interest in motion capture with some projections on directions the course might take to best serve them.

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The California Institute of Motion Capture, CalArts Producers Show Intro 2007
We can do this the easy way or the hard way –or not do it at all.
Let’s push the boundaries of irony and do the dance of the mushroom cloud anyway!

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Ke Jiang made Taxi while he was a student at CalArts.  He used The PhaseSpace mocap system to create a quirky performance by taking advantage of the artifacts that occur at the edge of the capture volume:

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Visiting Artist Max Hattler conducted a workshop during the Program in Experimental Animation interim sessions in 2011.  The goal was to produce one or more short works using abstracted motion capture.  Forms I (Taekwondo) is one of those works:

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Shimbe used the PhaseSpace motion capture system in a unique way for the making of this film. He rigged a Bunraku puppet with active markers and directed Danielle Ash as the puppeteer. The natural floppiness of the puppet provided an extraordinary quality to the targeted motion.

“The Wonder Hospital, a 3D & puppet animated film, is a surreal journey of oddity and empty illusion. In a mysterious hospital, modification of physical beauty is not what you would expect. A girl’s desire for superficial beauty leads her to chase after the luring ‘After’ images on a path of advertisements throughout the hospital. But in the end she finds something unimaginable and irreversible.”

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February 4
Second class meeting. Discuss student interest in mocap and some possibilities for student-initiated projects.  View and discuss Sara Pocock’s mocap test and the documentation promo from Robert Abel and Associates historic 1985 production, The Making of Brilliance.  Examine the components of the PhaseSpace Impulse system and learn to propagate the spandex suit with markers.  Suit up a student and explore several ways the live data may be viewed in the PhaseSpace Impulse software.  First and last assigned reading of the semester:  Maureen Furness’s comprehensive paper, Motion Capture.  Here is a link to some Notes on the Tangential references made to three influential artists.

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A Maya playblast from 18 March 2010 of Sara Pocock’s little girl character animated via a simple mocap T-pose test. The T-pose test was performed in class by Justin Leon in order to double check that we had setup the MotionBuilder marker mapping process correctly before moving on to a directed capture session. We came close do doing a brief capture session but ran out of time and had to postpone the session until the upcoming class. The realtime data from the T-pose test is all that we used in this test. No clean-up, filtering, retargeting, or other adjustments were done. Justin’s simple casual movements gave the character an unintended sense of presence. In subsequent class meetings Justin and Sara worked on directed performance tests in order to gain more experience with that form of mocap –even though Sara’s goal was to keyframe all of the animation in the final film.

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This promo documents several aspects of an early marker based motion capture system. Markers were hand tracked from a 2D screen and then plotted into the 3D character’s motion channels. The software used in this project grew out of the code used to drive motion control cameras. That code was soon incorporated into the first off-the-shelf 3D CG package created and marketed by Wavefront, Inc. Robert Able and Associates created the ground breaking Brilliance commercial for a single airing during Super Bowl XIX. Notice the subtle and not so subtle interplay of hype and confidence building between studio, agency, and client.

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February 11
Third class meeting.  Show and discuss examples of mouse based gestural motion capture  with a focus on correlations with certain aspects of musical composition.  View a few excerpts of my absolute videographic animation from the eighties that serve as the point of reference in my proposal to extend that work into immersive Virtual Reality.  Set up the eMagin Z-800 stereoscopic HMD and PhaseSpace stylus.  Demonstrate one of the experimental “instruments”  that Elijah Kleeman has developed for his  3D drawing program .  Invite students to take a turn wearing the HMD and inscribing space with the stylus.  Discuss the positive and negative aspects encountered in these initial experiences with gestural marking in immersive 3D space.  Suggested reading:  My paper, Absolute Animation and Immersive VR, and if time permits, Golan Levin’s comprehensive thesis, Painterly Interfaces for Audiovisual Performance
 .  Here are some Notes on the Tangential  –including Cannonball Adderly’s take on the nature of being hip.

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February 18
President’s Day Holiday.

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February 25
Fourth class meeting.  Suit up a student.  View markers in the PhaseSpace Master program and discuss how to do a direct data capture from Master.  Open Autodesk MotionBuilder and import PhaseSpace generated marker data.  Assign markers to the MotionBuilder “Actor”.  Create rigid body marker sets.  Import a MotionBuilder “Character” and assign the “Actor” to drive the motion of the “Character”.  Work in real-time to view issues with the data mapping onto the “Character”.  Use the “Plot” function to bake all the motion data onto the skeletal structure of the “Character” to save the rotations and translations as key-frames (every frame is considered a key-frame in this case).  Export the key-framed scene as a .fbx  file.  Import the .fbx file into Autodesk Maya.  Discover how  to actually see the imported character and observe issues with scaling etc. from within Maya.

MB_suit_config_guide

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March 4
Fifth class meeting. Presentation: Chronophotography: The Seminal Work of Étienne-Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge in Relation to the Development of Digital Motion Capture.  View and discuss sections of Norman McLaren’s 1968 film, Pas de Deux as an example of the influence of Marey and Muybridge on McLaren and other artists, such as Butch Rovan.  Work with the PhaseSpace Impulse system to explore particular students interests.

As with Marcel Duchamp’s seminal painting Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2, Norman McLaren’s Pas de Deux was inspired by the chronophotography of Étienne-Jules Marey. McLaren’s studied use of the optical printer for creating dynamic temporal and spatial offsets can be seen to share similarities with the compositional devices later used by John Whitney Sr. and Larry Cuba in films such as Arabesque and Calculated Movements. Similar approaches to structuring and revealing image flow may also be seen in many contemporary real-time digital works.

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Butch Rovan has this to say about his interactive installation, Let us imagine a straight line:
Let us imagine a straight line is an interactive work about movement, the first installment in my ongoing project for dancer, video, music, and live electronics called Studies in Movement. I take these titles from two French thinkers of the late 19th century: physiologist Etienne-Jules Marey and philosopher Henri Bergson. Marey conceived the apparatus for the modern scientific study of movement. He invented instruments to measure human and animal locomotion—a beating heart, a bird in flight—and developed technologies that eventually led to the modern cinema. Bergson responded to these advances with a philosophy that rethought the relation between space and time, matter and memory, physical and psychical movement.”

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March 11
Sixth class meeting. The plan was to continue working with the PhaseSpace/MotionBuilder/Maya pipeline.  We discovered that live captures can only be done with the PhaseSpace Master program at this time as a bug has developed with MotionBuilder’s live mode with the OWL optical device process. Hopefully this problem will be resolved by next week.  This week we learned how to launch the newly restored Parallels on the Mac Pro Tower workstations,  load up Windows XP, and run MotionBuilder 2013.  I did a follow along projection demo with MotionBuilder.  We learned to import a PhaseSpace Master captured .c3d motion file, add an “Actor” module, create appropriate marker sets, and generate proper rigid bodies with the marker set.  After a bit of difficulty we located a properly characterized model in the “Character” folder, added that to the scene, and activated it so that the motion file added to  the “Actor” then controlled the “Character”.

 

March 18
Seventh class meeting. Visiting artist John Brennan will conduct a workshop directed at optimizing work with the PhaseSpace Impulse mocap system and MotionBuilder through experiencing student directed capture sessions and adopting best practices based upon his years of experience in the field.

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March 25
Spring Break

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April 1
Eighth class meeting and April Fools Day celebration with visiting artist John Brennan working with students requesting assistance with their project ideas and demonstrating some advanced Motion Builder techniques.


A stereoscopic slide show of a mocap session for our TA, Ivy Flores’ thesis project, A Scenic View of the End of the World, scheduled to run in the Black and White Gallery until Friday, April 5:

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April 8
Ninth class meeting.  Continue work on student projects.  Discussion of John Brennan’s visit and troubleshooting ongoing technical and aesthetic issues.

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April 15
Tenth class meeting. Continue work on student projects during a return visit by mocap expert John Brennan who will work with students on advanced applications of MotionBuilder for realtime performances such at the project proposed last week by Rachel and Julian. John and I will work to assist each student with preparations for next weeks move up to the Black and White Gallery. Followup: John and I worked with Isabela on ideas for marker positioning for her tap dance piece,  Rachel and Julian on their real-time motion builder performance, Alex on his hand performance capture, Gu Yuen with advice on creating a simplified skeleton for capturing data back to her ribbon character, and Jovan on best practices to capture her falling character.  Mikael worked quietly in the corner with no questions.  Sean, Dawn, Kyoung Joo, and Heejeong were MIA.  Next week we meet in the B&W Studio, A404, to set up for the exhibition.  I have appointments to work with Alex, Jovan, Rachel and Juilan, and Isabela this weekend for more capturing and test run in the B&W Studio (where the mocap rig will remain set up after Elijah Kleeman’s  Thursday night exhibition.

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April 22
Eleventh class meeting.  Set up and run student projects in the A404 B&W Studio performance space and gallery in preparation for the Thursday afternoon and evening course exhibition.

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April 29
Twelth class meeting.  Reset the PhaseSpace Impulse mocap system in F105.  Review documentation of the course exhibition and critique the event.

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May 5
Thirteenth class meeting.  Final class session.  Fun TBD.

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May 13
The School of Film/Video Bijou Festival.

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