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Animation - The First Motion Capture Film of Escape!

Hi all, My name is Jake and I am the new Aftercare Coordinator at Escape Studios. I studied the 12 week Animation course back in February 2020 and absolutely loved the experience! After my course, I was fortunate enough to work with Escape Studios on their first Motion Capture film and that’s what I am going to talk about today!

When the MA students were working on the pre-production of their final project, they decided that they wanted to have a realistic style to the 3D models and environments. To match this, they wanted to use motion-capture to create realistic movements.

Clement Gharini, a cinematography tutor at Escape Studios, was kind enough to supply the team with an Xsens Awinda MoCap suit. I was lucky enough to be in the suit for the shoot. I am a former Drama Secondary School teacher, so I was excited to use my previous acting skills for the production.

We only had one day to film every shot for the short film so we knew it would a tight filming schedule. The first process we did was measure my body so we could input those measurements into the system we were using. These measurements needed to be accurate so that the software could calculate my movements in real life.

Escape Studios tutor, Amedeo Beretta, was in charge of the shoot. He acted as the Director of my performance which was useful to me as an actor as he could give me different options to act out. After a thousand shots, finally we found the right performance!

We had a screen showing the movement of the character I was portraying so that I could see my actions in real-time as I performed. This was vital to the success of the day as we noticed early on during the day was that I was over-acting the takes! This was because I would overact normally when filming refence for animation. When filming these references, it helps to overact as animation should be more exaggerated than real life. However, the motion-capture suits picks up every subtle detail. We noticed that when I acted the scenes in a contained subtle manner, the shots increased in quality.

This made the acting look so “real” because humans make subtle movements in real life. Legendary animator, Milt Kahl, one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, has often spoke about how the hardest thing to animate is nothing/ stillness as animation IS movement. However, the takes I did when I was standing still doing “nothing” were so rich because the mo-cap picked up the tiniest details; like a casual shift of weight from the left side of my hip to the right, a casual sway of my arm, breathing in and out and looking slightly from left to right. This was really good for the scene when I was portraying a robot bored on a train. We found the more I tried to “ACT IT” the more fake it was. The more I acted naturally, the better it became! TOP TIPS FOR MOTION-CAPTURE ACTING!

  1. Ensure all measurements are correct before you start to ensure accuracy.

  2. Use a screen so that you can see your motions in real-time and critique the acting.

  3. ACT SUBTLE to get the best performance!

  4. For contact movements (E.g. Character being pushed or pulled) use other Actors to make a natural performance.

  5. Focus on how your character is FEELING rather than MOVING. The movement will come with your characters thoughts!

Follow me if you love finding out facts about Animation. My Instagram account is @jakeleeanimation and my YouTube is “Puzzled Panda” where I am doing a playlist of 100 Facts about every Disney Animated Film. These videos focus on the legendary Animators who worked on these films and the ups and downs during the production!


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