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SIGGRAPH: Markerless Motion Capture

Mova founder Steve Perlman says Contour system enables 'Volumetric Cinematography' By Frank Moldstad

Mova founder Steve Perlman and model during Contour mo-cap session.
Every once in a while a new technology comes along that offers a completely new way of doing something -- while suggesting intriguing new creative possibilities. Thats the buzz in Boston, where a new markerless facial motion capture technology called the Contour Reality Capture System has been introduced at SIGGRAPH.

Developed by the San Francisco motion capture studio Mova, Contour is not only markerless, it produces a true volumetric 3D image. Using two synchronized cameras, Contour simultaneously records visual and geometric information. When the two sets of data are combined, the  result is a high-resolution 3D digital image that rivals the quality of film cameras, says Mova founder Steve Perlman, whose background includes leading the QuickTime Development Team at Apple in the late 1980s, and later founding WebTV (acquired by Microsoft).

The imagery captured by Contour is extremely realistic, because the cameras are ingesting data from the entire surface of a subject, not just data from strategically placed markers. The motion of any 3D surface can be captured, whether or not its deformable faces, body movements, and even cloth. Surfaces to be captured need to have phosphorescent makeup applied to them, which is recognized by the VICON MX cameras. Resolution exceeds 100,000 polygons per frame, with sub-millimeter precision at up to 120 frames a second.


This QuickTime file shows the five stages of Contour capture (L-R): Live Performance; Phosphorescence; Surface Geometry; Textured Geometry; and Surface Texturing. All five figures follow the movements and words spoken by the human model at left.

Perlman, the chief architect of Contour, calls the approach Volumetric Cinematography. ?Up to now, weve had incredible tools for manipulating CG, but there's never been a CG camera, a volumetric camera, he said, speaking from Movas booth on the SIGGRAPH show floor. ?And we are capturing the voxels at approximately the same resolution as a camera' s pixels. Marker-based motion capture uses volumetric cameras as well, but what they are capturing is points in space, as opposed to a continuous surface.

Capturing 3D data at film resolution opens a host of creative options for filmmakers, video game developers, and cinematographers. ?The interesting thing about it to me is that cinematography has not changed that much since the first Edison camera, Perlman said. ? Its point of view, you know? And if you want to have more than one point of view, you set up a few cameras. But if you want to have a position between those cameras, or you want to change the lighting, or look at things a different way, you've got to create it synthetically in CG. 

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Related Keywords:SIGGRAPH, Boston, Steve Perlman, Contour, motion capture, Mova, 3D, Cinematography

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