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Is there any way to make animations using physical dolls?

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I've had trouble animating characters using 3D applications. It is too slow and difficult. I've programmed my own 3D animator that uses only the keyboard to change key angles. The results are much better, yet it draws some considerable time.

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I'm reaching the conclusion animating is hard because nor the keyboard nor the mouse are ideal input sources for that kind of thing. I guess the best would be a physical doll one could manipulate. Is anyone aware of such a product?

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Being used to make models out of clay, thus using your hands, that "Qumarion" sure looks a whole lot easier than moving joints with the mouse. 750$ is less then I expected as well (though still way too much for hobby purposes). However... what if you need to animate an animal? Or a 4-arm Guru? Guess they need to add some Optimus Prime transformer abilities to that manequin as well!

 

The technique behind it doesn't sound that hard by the way (except that it is being implemented on a small scale on a sweet looking puppet). Just a bunch of angle sensors, a chip that measures them, and sends these values to a PC that translates them into join rotations. At work we have a lot of metal arms and inclinometers to measure angles on machines. Got to make a harness with those some day to have my own low budget motion capture studio hehe.

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That's really cool :)

 

The traditional technique comes somewhat under rotoscoping, where you take a film or images of a subject, and then trace/reproduce their form. Often modellers/animators will either have their work overlayed on the reference images, or side-by-side.

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Another option would be to look at MIDI devices that have alot of rotary dials and sliders then map them to the controls on the 3D application.  You could then use 'Change Patch' to have them mapped to several different joints on whatever model you use.  There is plenty of hardware options out there, but they will all cost some bucks.

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Being used to make models out of clay, thus using your hands, that "Qumarion" sure looks a whole lot easier than moving joints with the mouse. 750$ is less then I expected as well (though still way too much for hobby purposes). However... what if you need to animate an animal? Or a 4-arm Guru?

You probably can remap the doll arms to the other arms you're animating. You'd need to animate a pair of arms at a time.

Now a animal... Yeah, that doesn't sounds viable.

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Hmmm, Kinect + clay ?

 

I think there's been some attempts at using Kinect (or other motion tracking devices) with real human models - or dolls, if you must - to collect animation data and filter it down to something that can be fed into a video game pipeline, for instance see here but apparently it's still too noisy to be really usable for anything beyond very low-detail animations, sadly. It's a shame because I can see the potential for some very realistic movements.. but I'm sure with enough money and hardware you can make it work (like anything, really)

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The Kinect for the XBox One has better hardware - maybe that'll benefit the indie mocap movement.

You'll might have to buy an entire XBox for the new Kinect - I don't know if they are sold individually - but you could probably pick them up used for cheap after about a year or so.

 

"The new Kinect has greater accuracy with three times the fidelity over its predecessor and even the ability to see in the dark thanks to its new active IR sensor. It has an up to 60% wider field of vision that can detect a user up to 3 feet from the sensor (compared to six feet for the original Kinect) and will be able to track up to 6 skeletons at once. It can also detect a player's heart rate, facial expression, 25 individual joints (even thumbs) and the precise rotation of such joints, the weight put on each limb, and the speed of your movements, and track gestures performed with a standard controller." - Wikipedia

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It has an up to 60% wider field of vision that can detect a user up to 3 feet from the sensor (compared to six feet for the original Kinect) and will be able to track up to 6 skeletons at once.

Is it just me or is 3 feet a little too small of a distance? That's about a meter, not a lot of space to dance in.

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I think that's worded a bit wrong. Can detect a user "up to 3 feet from the sensor"... Should probably be something like "from as close as 3 feet away from the sensor".

Anyway, the original Kinnect is designed to work with users from 1.2m to 3.5m (~4ft - 11ft).

 


I think there's been some attempts at using Kinect (or other motion tracking devices) with real human models - or dolls, if you must - to collect animation data and filter it down to something that can be fed into a video game pipeline, for instance see here but apparently it's still too noisy to be really usable for anything beyond very low-detail animations, sadly.
Yeah, there's a motion builder plugin for Kinnect capture that's in wide use for very cheap mocap :) It works pretty well!

BTW, all mocap is too noisy. Mocap data is always used as a starting point for an animator, and always has to get cleaned up before being used in a game. Yeah, the kinnect data will be more noisy than data from a $50,000 mocap rig, but noisy data isn't just a kinnect-specific problem ;)

The real disadvantages of kinnect compared to larger (more expensive) systems is that the performance space is much smaller, the number of bones captured is smaller (e.g. no finger movements), it only captures from one angle (movement of a hand behind your back can't be captured), and can't capture more than a couple of actors at once.

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Is it just me or is 3 feet a little too small of a distance? That's about a meter, not a lot of space to dance in.

 
Yeah, as Hodgman said, there were alot of complaints with the first Kinect that it didn't detect well for smaller apartment living-room distances. I think the minimum you were supposed to be from it was six feet. Bear in mind, this is standing up, not sitting down on your couch. Edited by Servant of the Lord

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The Kinect for the XBox One has better hardware - maybe that'll benefit the indie mocap movement.
You'll might have to buy an entire XBox for the new Kinect - I don't know if they are sold individually - but you could probably pick them up used for cheap after about a year or so.

 

I remember reading somewhere that the XBone Kinect will not connect to a PC, but they will sell a stand-alone PC Kinect later.

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Good to be aware of - Kotaku agrees with that - separate Kinect versions for Windows vs the XBox One. The XBox 360's Kinect didn't work with the PC at first either, until homebrew developers got it working. Microsoft later released their official SDK. Here's a video showing the XBox One's capabilities - tracking several joints and even some muscles and muscle stress which might be useful for animations.

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That's an interesting looking device. Have you actually tried using one? Or anyone else have any experience with one? I'm curious how well something like that would actually work in practice.

 

I've tried using a Kinect for motion capture purposes, and found it to be extremely noisy, and the limited viewing space really restrictive. It also would glitch out massively if you ever self-occluded yourself and put say one leg in front of the other. I have hopes for Kinect 2, though it'll suffer from the same self-occlusion problems. Though you can alleviate those somewhat by using 2 Kinects at different angles (haven't tried that myself, so, I don't know how well that really works).

 

Plus of course, some actually has to be able to physically perform the motions you want to capture...

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