Mocap Adventures – Part 3

In my last post i had discovered the Kinect for windows was a faulty pile of junk after going out and getting an Xbox connect which works fine.
Fastmocap: Motion capture for everyone?

Finally i started to mess about with Fastmocap and experiment with it’s capabilities. The software is as simple as it can get. It starts by initialising the Kinect sensor then right away its showing a figure on screen thats mimicking your movements. Then it’s simply a case of hitting the record button and doing your thing.

Obviously this in no way will match that of proper body strapped Sensor tech, but how well does it capture your movement?

I decided on a list of animations to try and capture.

1. Standing
2. Hold and Swing a weapon
3. Climb a ladder
4. Dance

 

fastmocap

 

Standing you might think would be easy and not very interesting, but there is vital small movements that make a standing pose natural looking. Unfortunately though the Kinect or Fastmocap does not really pic up minute movements in things such as wrists, shoulders and neck. In Fact to my disappointment Fastmocap does not recognise any head or neck movements at all. Unless i do a standing pose that has huge exaggerated movements there is no point in trying.

Holding a weapon, vital for making animations for sword or axe wielding heroes. Again it becomes apparent that the Kinect and Fastmocap are not really suited to detailed motion capture. The Sensor can get very confused if you bring arms close to each other but even when held apart the Fastmocap model just isn’t intelligent enough to hold a good pose. When swinging a weapon Fastmocap more than most gets confused not knowing what you are doing.

In climbing a ladder Fastmocap did a good job keeping up with me, but i in the end could not figure out how best to present climbing a ladder for the kinect in the small space that is my studio.

Where fastmocap did come up trumps was dancing. Adjusting the smoothness bar allows for the software to mirror more movement faster. This allowed for it to quite successfully record my stupid dance moves quite fluidly.

If all you want is to capture yourself dancing gingham style then i guess fastmocap is motion capture for everyone but…
They don’t tell you about the next bit.

 
BVH stands for ‘PAIN IN THE BUTT’

Fastmocap is easy and does what it says, records you motions and exports a file for use in other programs such as Poser, Blender etc. But really all it does is make a BVH file. Great because Second Life uploads BVH animations. Well it’s never that simple.

In most cases a file format is a file format so that they are all the same. Not the case for BVH animation files because animation files include Armatures which are bones that move and these bones can be named very different. For example a left forearm in one BVH file could be called LFarm in another and software like Second Life can only upload animations that have armature bones named a certain way.

So after the ease of fastmocap you then have to learn about how to ‘retarget’ a BVH file to be used with certain programs. A fastmocap animation exported for use with Poser does not actually work with poser. Instead you get a message saying something about getting the free upgrade once they make it compatible.

Anyway as usual there are plenty of videos and tips for Blender users about importing and fixing mobcap animations from BVH files and i managed to get the Dance animation looking correct in Blender. Unfortunately there seems to be a bug or something that is preventing the exported BVH file from blender 2.6 to be imported correctly to Second Life or Poser.

So until i can find a fix for that, I’m still unable to reach my goal of giving my brother Gemini a new mocapped Dance animation.

blenderBVH

So verdict?

The kinect was created to map your movement on a basic level for use in video games, it’s by no means a cheap alternative for Motion capture. For the most part the results you get you could have gotten better in Poser or Daz3d and have them imported into Second Life in a mere fraction of the time.

Where mobcap speeds things up with motion sensors it takes away with its lack of exporting features making it extremely difficult to prepare and import into desired software.

The BVH animation format as widely used as it is seems severely lacking in editing support and with Blender seemingly not exporting correctly it’s left me in a bit of a dead end with this motion capture adventure.

Overall if I’m able to record, edit and import into Second life i could possibly use the Kinect/ Fastmocap for recording fast broad movements but it would be useless for detailed precise animation capture.

Sharing Shared Spaces

8493772456_9885d9d6ad_h.0_cinema_640.0I was reading some tech news about the announced PS4 today and while I’m mostly interested in its graphical upgrades the tech industry are mostly interested in the ‘funky new social shit’ that the PS4 will offer.

The idea being that the PS4 will give players the ability to share share and share. From simply broadcasting their gameplay to friends, to sharing tips and tricks, taking over control of other players characters to get past difficult parts. It also sounds like you can post snaps of your achievements and follies and this is where my mind connected with Second Life.

In essence the PS4 will make a shared space of any game.

“Any method that will make it easier for a 12-year-old to share his gaming prowess online is valuable for the gamer” – techcrunch

In Second Life you can share snapshots and locations in the SL feed. I’ve said it a hundred times that SLprofile feeds has such potential for increased SL usage, and here I’m reading that Sony is taking the basic premiss the SLfeed uses offering it as a major feature of Ps4.

Across the board sharing seems to be lacking in Dio, Patterns, and Creatorverse. It’s wrong to think slapping the Facebook API on it will make it SHARE.

SL Profiles could have been sharing small Vine style video grabs by now, groups could be collecting small video tutorials.

“Any method that will make it easier for a user to share their second life is valuable for the user”

As a shared space, Second Life is missing out on it’s potential to share and as Sony prepares to turn its network into a sharing space, LL might start to rethink their idea of what a shared space is.

New Escapades Lighthouse

The Lighthouse at Nemo beach has been there since the start. Everyone who makes a sea side location wants a lighthouse coz lighthouses are kool!

 

Originally the lighthouse was a simple collection of basic shapes and upgraded it once with a sculpty prim to add extra detail while keeping prim cost down since the homestead i was on at the time meant Prims were scarce. Now 3 years later I’ve finally found some time spare to rebuild it again but of course with mesh.Now it looks more realistic in terms of size, hight, textures and detail.

I found i had a bit of difficulty making the Physics shapes for it. The Lighhouse is cylindrical so you would think it’d be best to use Prim Cylinders for the Physics, but linking cylinders to mesh drastically explodes the objects land impact so i’ve had to keep the physics separated.

It’s still pretty simple in shape though and retains the colour of the old versions. Cost wise the New Lighthouse is a few more Land impact at around 27 to the old ones 21 but crucially the new lighthouse is half the display cost.

New Lighthouse will go on sale by end of the week from my Marketplace store.

 

Mocap Adventures – Part 2

fastmocap

 

It’s been a week since i last blogged about the mocap stuff. Since then i’ve been and bought a new power cable from ebay, and for a moment the Kinect worked only for it to crash Fastmocap software. NI-Mate which is another kinect mocap software could not recognise the sensor at all.

I unistalled, reinstalled, checked USB sockets, software updates… nothing, i just could not get it to work.  The only remaining thing to rule out was a faulty sensor, so i skipped off to sainsburys and bought an Xbox Kinect. As soon as i connected the Xbox Kinect everything lit up and worked… DAMMIT! So the Kinect for windows is in fact FAULTY, typical microsoft.

Now that i have a fully working kinect sensor it’s on to using Fastmocap to capture my animations. The software itself is very very simple to use plug n play. A stick figure mimics your movement and you click record to record what you do.

All this easy to use stuff goes out the window when it comes to exporting though as it saves as non extension bvh file with no tutorials , information, clues or hints to what i can now do with it. I guess its not for the software to say what i should do with the animation file after export. In fact the support contact at fastmocap was kind enough to point me to BVhacker for use in modifying my animation for use with SL. Unfortunately BVhacker is windows software so why Fasctmocap which is a MAC software was directing me to that  just ads to the confusion.

So i have the sensor working, and i’m recording animations. Next step is to expand my knowledge now about BVH animation files and how to edit them and in what software i can edit them in order to get them into SL.

Meshing up the the Rubber Ducky Cabin

Im getting  a bit quicker at making mesh buildings now due to learning enough tricks with duplicating and using multiple parts of a texture. The original had a buig sculpty rubber duck on it that would appear as a big blob for ages before loading. Coming in at 41 land impact with a display cost of 15000 i was hoping to create something at least half the landimpact with mesh.

 duk

The New Mesh version finally came in at 25 landimpact with a display cost of 8923, better texturing but overall is almost identical to the original. The Rubber duck is a bit more cute and looks more worn by the weather.

 
Along side finishing the Rubber Ducky, i also discovered a service called ‘SketchFAB‘ which allows you to create a portfolio of 3D models online complete with textures that people can see in their web browsers as long as it has WebGL activated.

This is a great way for me to show you exactly what i’ve been working on, and it also could be useful on SL marketplace if people want to quickly see a virtual world object in 3D.