To increase player engagement and most importantly, sales, the video game industry relies on a technique known as motion capture to create increasingly realistic and compelling animation. Motion capture is a sophisticated process using dedicated software and gear to capture an actor's movements and nuanced facial expressions. Realistic animation requires large amounts of motion data which is acquired from actors fitted with specialized body suits covered in tracking markers. A poorly calibrated suit leads to errors, which must be fixed manually.
Capturing realistic facial animation can be especially challenging. Tiny dots (i.e. the tracking markers) are placed on the actors face in order to record subtle facial expressions that make the animation appear authentic. Poorly tracked markers need to be manually adjusted, which can be a time consuming process.
Knowing that bad facial animation data can have a negative impact a game's success, Miles and Philip Guidon, two entrepreneuring brothers from Hollywood, put their skills to the test and developed a head mounted camera, or HMC, that is now used by companies such as Ubisoft and Sega to help create motion captured facial animation for their top selling games.
The HMC created by Philip and Miles is engineered to be very stable – a necessary requirement to ensure that the tracking markers are recorded properly. The device is highly customizable as well, allowing wi-fi control, facial illumination, and on or off-board production recording.
Miles and Philip now have full-fledged company known as Mocap Design to sell the HMC, but manufacturing the head gear has been a challenge. Using traditional manufacturing methods, one head gear would take 3 or 4 weeks or even longer if changes were required. Overall the process was quite labor extensive and extremely exhausting.
Realizing that there must be a better way, Miles and Phillip took the plunge into 3D printing, with the initial purchase of a Stratasys uPrint SE Plus and then a Dimension Elite. With the new 3D printing technology at their disposal, each HMC could be manufactured in 45 hours versus 3 to 4 weeks. This huge increase in productivity enabled Miles and Phillip to diversify and a new business was born: Hollywood 3D Printing. It provides a range of 3D printing services including SolidWorks modeling, 3D rendering and prototype development. Most of the work coming through their doors falls into what Miles describes as the 3 "Ps" of 3D printing: prototyping, proof of concept designs, and passion projects.
With business booming, the brother's collective brains are overflowing with entrepreneurial ideas and novel concepts for Hollywood and beyond. By operating two successful businesses, Miles and Philip exemplify the famous quote from Cory Doctorow's book, 'Makers'. "The days of companies with names like 'General Electric' and 'General Mills' and 'General Motors' are over. The money on the table is like krill: a billion little entrepreneurial opportunities that can be discovered and exploited by smart, creative people."
Indeed, motion capture gear is an ideal market to be exploited by 3D printing. The equipment is highly specialized, customized and produced in short runs.
So, the next time a character winks at you in Assassin's Creed or Call of Duty think about inventive guys like Miles and Philip Guidon at MoCap Design and Hollywood 3D Printing. Thanks to their 3D printing ingenuity they have streamlined the process of creating a valuable tool that can make realistic motion capture a far easier process.