Deskcap in Production


What is Deskcap?

Motion capture (“mocap”) is the most effective way to capture movement data, transcribing its actors’ performance faithfully into digital files, but even the best mocap and animation teams can benefit from an alternative solution.

Desk capture (“deskcap”) is a form of motion capture which focuses entirely upon the hands. Like its name implies, it’s able to be done right from your desk, unlike mocap which often needs a stage and crew to make the most of. Its job is simple: make the hand animation process easier and more flexible than ever before, and in this it excels.

The beauty of deskcap lies in the complexity of the hands. Due to their precise and expressive nature, and the importance they hold in human communication, mocap teams often find that subtle changes must be made to ensure their vision. Thankfully, because deskcap needs so little equipment space to operate, animators can use this method at their own desks to swiftly capture lifelike data instead of waiting for a mocap stage, reducing stress while maintaining quality. If there’s one universal problem in production, it’s the constant lack of time. Understandably, anything that exacerbates this – like recapturing data – only serves to make the situation worse.

Deskcap is a time-saver; it reduces the number of “busy work” hours on projects to make pipelines run smoother and reduce waiting between stages. Not being limited to a motion capture stage gives a team amazing flexibility, saving both time and money during production. It can do this in three ways:

· Setting Keyframes

· Hand Dubbing in Post

· Rapid Prototyping

Setting Keyframes

Setting keyframes without gloves can be a lengthy process. While modern motion capture solutions have significantly reduced the need for keyframing, getting hands right in an acceptable timeframe still remains a challenge. In fact, it’s not unusual for animators to throw out hand data altogether. This often means a return to end-to end keyframing, and that takes time.

As a strategy that’s specifically designed for hand capture, deskcap can make the process of setting keyframes faster. Rather than adjusting every bone in a character model for each keyframe, you can simply capture the ideal pose instantly with your StretchSense gloves. Done and dusted.

Hand-Dubbing in Post

Hand-dubbing recaptures a hand performance to use in parallel with the full-body data, and as such is perfect for deskcap. This allows you more freedom to adapt on the fly and is a useful option to have in many situations.

Whether you’ve decided to change the object a character is holding, fix an unnatural-looking gesture, or are simply looking to add hand data after the primary performance capture shoot, hand-dubbing in deskcap means that you don’t need to return to the mocap stage – you can do it right from your desk.

Hand-dubbing is a lot like voice-dubbing: it involves replacing the original performance with a new take. This could be for any number of reasons: cleaning up the captured data, changing the performance, or so on. Some teams use hand-dubbing to reduce the number of technologies they need to manage on shoot days. Due to the complexity of hands, the ability to capture them in post while still getting great quality hand mocap data is a great alternative option.

But most of the time, the real culprits are drift and occlusion. You can find our other deskcap related article discussing those here Overcoming Mocap Data Challenges.

Rapid Prototyping

As a method of recording motion capture data without the need for a mocap stage, deskcap excels at rapid prototyping. Thought-mapping new hand movements for an upcoming scene (“pre-vis”) and being able to rapidly prototype ideas from start to finish is incredibly useful for teams of all sizes.

The value of rapid prototyping really does speak for itself. The ability to manipulate hand models from within the animation department rather than on-stage allows the team to see exactly how something might look and whether they want to use it – even before the mocap performers arrive. Deskcap keeps it all “in-house”.

So, the next time the director wants a rushed pre-vis on Benjamin Buttonsworth binge-drinking a butterbeer, it will (hopefully) be easily done.

Well, at least when it comes to the hands.

Check out our other deskcap related article:

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