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Strap on that body suit, we've got a cartoon to make

face June 17, 1997
Web posted at: 11:36 p.m. EDT (0336 GMT)

HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- Computer animation is becoming more life-like characteristics with a new technology known as motion capture.

The idea is to attach sensors to human actors and have them move about to replicate the movement of a cartoon character. The sensors transfer motion information to a powerful computer and a headset full of tiny television cameras watch individual locations on the "actor's" face, including eye motions.

These motions are then matched to a predetermined character and instead of months of animation, the result is instant animation.

New Hollywood technology - almost instant animation!

movie icon 1.4M/40 sec. Small frame QuickTime movie
movie icon 3M/40 sec. Large frame QuickTime movie

"They essentially perform electronic puppeteering," says Chris Walker, president of Modern Cartoons. "They can see themselves being rendered in real time ... and can perform finished broadcast quality video."

Steve Oedekerk's project, under way at Modern Cartoons, is a television comedy special that can use the benefits of animation with few limitations.

"Everything that's produced out of it has a very spontaneous, free kind of feel," Walker said.

A stage at Futurelight Studios in Hollywood uses a similar approach, creating full-body animation using a motion capture suit and an array of cameras to turn simple movement into a special effect in real time.

"What this enables us to do is to do very realistic animation, get all of the weight shifting and those little things that make animation look real," said Rob Bredow, director of R&D for Futurelight Studios. "We capture that directly off the human rather than trying to figure out how that works in a computer."


Dan Michaelson is an engineer who also has one of Hollywood's newest titles: motion capture actor.

It's a job that still being invented. "We had people in from Cirque du Soleil, we had ballet dancers, we had all sorts of performers, people who are in touch with their body in control of their body," Josh Rose of Futurelight said.

Futurelight is beginning work on "Godzilla" for next summer and motion capture effects will be a part of "Titanic," due at Christmas.


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