Locomotion Uses Vicon Mocap System for Spy Kids 2

Mon 22nd Jul 2002 | News

Vicon has noted the recent inventive use of Vicon technology by LocoMotion Studios on the feature film "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams", which will be released in theaters on August 7th. LocoMotion used its Vicon 8 system in a groundbreaking process that captured the positions of cameras and objects on set while the movie was being filmed.

Certain scenes within "Spy Kids 2," an adventure sequel with "slightly larger spies" released by Miramax/Dimension Films and directed by Robert Rodriguez, presented the challenge of having real actors interface convincingly with virtual elements. One such sequence involved the film's young heroes and their rivals riding on fantastic creatures in a large arena. The production originally planned to shoot motion capture of the actors and then remove all of the markers digitally during post. An ultimately quicker and easier solution was found by using LocoMotion's Vicon system on the live set to instead capture Director Rodriguez's camera and other objects as they moved within the scene.

LocoMotion set up 15 Vicon cameras in a 60-to 70-foot oval-shaped capture volume elevated above the actual film set. Film cameras shooting the action on the green screen stage were marked up, as were cables, cranes and the robot props that were being used to represent the CG creatures. Motion capture was conducted on these objects simultaneous with the rolling of film.

"This approach required that we be able to work directly from the live film set, a rather hostile environment for motion capture," said Michael McGar, President of LocoMotion. "The flexibility and dependability of our Vicon system allowed us to set things up without being in the production's way and to operate flawlessly, even with walls of 50K lights, green screen, camera vibration and all of the other situational elements involved. I think the filmmakers were pretty impressed that we were able to get such a high-tech motion capture job done from right within the thick of things."

The visual effects department used motion data collected by LocoMotion Studios to seamlessly merge live footage with digital backgrounds and characters, with the tracked camera positions lending a more accurate relationship between the actors and their virtual surroundings. "What normally would have taken us weeks took only a few days," said Brian McNulty, head of post-production at Sleeping Shark Productions. "Traditionally, animators must plot the positions by hand, frame by frame, to complete the job. With LocoMotion Studios' involvement, the visual effects were not only finished sooner, but with more realistic action. Being able to blend live footage seamlessly with the virtual backgrounds and characters is a great step forward for film visual effects. This new process of tracking camera position will cut time in post and lend even more precision to the way live actors interface with the virtual world."

"Through its products and the company's support of them Vicon gave us the confidence to sit on an active film set, do something we'd never done before and know that we would succeed," McGar added. "We can always rely on Vicon to provide the best equipment that is easy to use and that functions well. We can also depend on Vicon's support team to be there for us, whether it's walking us through a particular issue or giving us pointers on best approaches to starting a project."

In its long-standing work within the entertainment industry, LocoMotion has completed projects for clients ranging from Microsoft to Acclaim Studios and Atomic Pictures. The company's well-known motion capture expertise featuring horse and rider moves has been featured in productions for Fox Television ("Night of the Headless Horseman") and the BBC (interactive horse race for ITV in Europe).

Locomotion Studios

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