“Part of being human is we jiggle when we move,” says one researcher in a video from Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, where a team has created software that tweaks the standard motion capture procedure used for 3-D animation.
Most motion capture software filters out any movements of soft body tissue (muscles, skin and fat) as “noise” and focuses on the rigid movements of the skeleton. Their program, called Motion and Shape capture, or MoSh, is based on the idea that body shape and soft tissue movement is just as important to creating realistic animations as the movement of the skeleton, and that ignoring this data will lead to lifeless renderings.
“We argue that these non-rigid marker motions are not noise, but rather correspond to subtle surface motions that are important for realistic animation,” the researchers write.
MoSh both measures the movement of motion capture markers on the surface of a body, allowing collection of data about the movement of soft tissue, and can conveniently replicate body shape with 47 to 67 markers–relatively sparse by motion capture standards–which is information that would otherwise need to be obtained with a full body scan.
The data from MoSh can also be combined with regular motion capture data to enhance existing animations. The team was also able to transpose their data set, which consists of the movement of individual markers placed on bodies, onto invented 3-D animations with different body shapes or even cartoon-like non-human characters. This new technology could lend a heightened realism to 3-D animation, even with fantastical, fictional beings, solving some of the uncanny valley problems that have plagued CG since its inception. In the future, we can look forward to Shrek’s beer belly moving just like the real thing.