Animating is an incredibly tedious and time-consuming task. On average, it takes an hour of work for a single second of character animation. With that in mind, it’s no wonder video games and animated films take years to create. And that’s typical with cutting-edge technology and a massive team of designers and programmers.
But why does it take so long and are there ways to expedite the process?
Posing and in-betweens
The standard animating process consists of poses or “keyframes” that define the main animation/movement. So if a character needed to move its foot, the initial keyframe would have the character’s foot on the ground. The next keyframe might have the heel raising up, and the final keyframe would have its foot raised all the way. But if that’s all animating was, then viewers would simply see the character’s foot jump from being down to being lifted.
In order to make it much more fluid and realistic motion, in-betweens are used. In-betweens are intermediate frames that are generated between keyframes. These help to fill in the gaps between the desired poses and creates more realistic movement without all of the jumps.
This process typically requires about 50% of the time dedicated to posing and the other 50% spent on the creation and fine-tuning of the in-betweens. This is incredibly time-consuming and detail-oriented work.
Motion capture (mocap)
Motion capture (mocap) is an animation technique that deviates from the conventional way of drawn animation. Traditional mocap records human actors equipped with different sensors in order to memorize and incorporate their motion into animation. The movie Avatar utilized motion capture extensively in order to bring the Naavi species to life.
Video games also incorporate mocap as Cyberpunk 2077 used it extensively to add realistic animations to the many different game characters. But traditional motion capture isn’t for everyone, and it’s generally reserved for large studios due to the massive undertaking and costs it requires.
It’s also somewhat limited to what it can accomplish and where it can be applied.
The downsides of traditional motion capture
Motion capture can be used to create extremely realistic animations, but that can also be its downfall. In many cases, video games aren’t looking for ultra-realistic movement. And the precise and detailed animation can actually look out of sorts in certain environments.
Traditional motion capture requires a significant investment upfront as well. With mocap suits, cameras, and software, the initial costs can immediately remove it as an option for smaller studios and individuals.
Motion capture also requires a considerable amount of “clean up” because of the massive amount of data it records. This means animators have to spend countless hours cleaning up the data in order to properly render the right animations. This is just another reason why traditional motion capture is reserved primarily for larger studios.
But even with the disadvantages of motion capture, it still provides an excellent alternative to spending countless hours animating a few seconds of content. Fortunately, companies like Pixcap have designed solutions to combat the downsides of traditional mocap.
Introducing AI to animation
Artificial intelligence (AI) is an incredible tool, and its implementation has revolutionized many aspects of our lives. In effect, it has made technology smarter and more effective and allows the creation of highly customized tools and services.
3D animation is a field that has highly benefited from the integration of AI into a variety of processes. Two of the primary ways AI is currently being used is through AI motion capture from videos and images. The use of AI significantly reduces the cost and time required by conventional motion capture. This in itself has lowered the bar considerably to allow individuals and small companies to enjoy the advantages of mocap.
Using AI Mocap with videos can significantly expedite the process of motion capture and animation. It does this by analyzing a provided video and then projecting the recorded movements onto a provided skeleton. This can provide an excellent framework for animation, but it’s infallible. AI Mocap requires clean-up due to the noise it can capture within the frames. It’s also prone to foot sliding issues which would need to be fine-tuned.
AI Image Mocap is another option that provides advantages. You can speed up posing considerably, and save up to 50% of time spent on animation by practically eliminating the need for dedicated posing design. This feature can significantly enhance your animation and save you countless hours of work.
Implementing AI in motion capture
Pixcap is a platform that utilizes AI to simplify animation as well as make it more efficient. This lowers the bar of entry considerably and allows smaller studios and individuals to reap the benefits of motion capture without the massive costs or labor-intensive process.
Pixcap allows animators to use still images to capture rough poses and get straight into fine-tuning without wasting time. This can speed up the posing process by up to 5 times faster than conventional methods.
The platform AI can also take any video source and use motion capture to record keyframes and retarget it to your character rig. This can significantly expedite the animation process and provides access to features normally reserved for high-end studios.
Pixcap provides an all-in-one tool to allow animators to cut down on the considerable time demands that come with traditional animation techniques. Now anyone can take advantage of the power of motion capture and can quickly and effectively animate a variety of things.