history in motion
Motion and performance-capture veterans Audiomotion discuss 21 years in the business
We chat to performancecapture veterans Audiomotion
The rural surroundings of Wheatley, a small village just outside Oxford, are not where you might expect to find Europe’s largest motioncapture stage. But that’s exactly where
3D World has headed to sit down with Audiomotion’s managing director Brian Mitchell and sales director Philip Morris. The pair have taken a break from a busy film shoot to show us around their state-ofthe-art facility. “We’ve got the two stages currently set up for motion and performance capture. The bigger space has a capture volume of 20 metres by 12, which is a pretty good size for anyone,” explains Mitchell. The main stage’s camera rig is motorised, so Mitchell and the team can change the height and capture volume according to their clients’ needs. In total, the impressive facility houses 180 Vicon cameras and is the largest capture area outside of North America.
Audiomotion was established as part of a group of developers owned by Geoff Brown, one of the game industry’s founding fathers, to provide audio and motion capture services to the rest of the group, Silicon Dreams, Attention to Detail and Pivotal Games. “That’s how the name came about,”
adds Mitchell. “Obviously it doesn’t work for us quite so well now that we mainly do motion capture, although we still record final audio and guide tracks when needed.”
That name quickly earned a reputation for exceptional motion and performance capture. “It was set up separate from the rest of the developers to offer our services out externally as well as service the internal companies,” says Mitchell. Over the next few years they would work on a host of sports titles including Olympics tie-in games, and ridley Scott’s historical epic, Gladiator.
It was the studio’s great reputation that convinced sales director Philip Morris that he’d made a good decision when he joined six months ago. “I joined Audiomotion and one of the first things I did was book my flight to GDC,” he laughs. “Everyone spoke about us in such a positive light, and told me how smoothly their shoot went or how they’d heard someone else came to us and was really pleased. It was a great first impression to have, at such a prestigious event. My role now is really to build on that and open some new doors – which is made a thousand times easier by the fact that we’ve already got a great reputation.” Despite having their origins in the world of gaming, the last two decades have seen Audiomotion become an increasing presence in Hollywood cinema. After capturing horses for ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings and creating an undead horde for World War Z, their biggest project yet came in 2016, with Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One. Mitchell continues: “We supplied all the cameras, crew, and loads of freelancers for that film. We would then take what we
“We’ll Work With clients on their scenarios, rigs and shot lists all in advance” Philip Morris, sales director, Audiomotion
captured through Motionbuilder, Maya and Unity. So we’d do the whole pipeline in the same day, it was pretty full-on.” It’s a challenge that clearly paid off, as they would go on to earn a credit on Star Wars:
The Last Jedi, a major box to tick off for Mitchell and his team.
Not content with working on Hollywood films and best-selling video games, Audiomotion picked up a Guinness World record in 2015, for the most people motioncaptured in real time. “We got a troupe of hip-hop dancers to have a dance off. The record stands at 19 people, it would’ve been 20 but one of the guys took their mocap hat off, which basically took the character’s head off.”
So what is the key to Audiomotion’s success? For Morris it’s their collaborative approach to dealing with clients. “We work with each individual client to create something bespoke,” he says. This means that the studio forgo having a default price list, as Morris explains: “As much knowledge
“not only can We offer the service, but it’s almost like a consultancy – We can advise exactly Which Way to go With something” Brian Mitchell, managing director, Audiomotion
as we can get on the project beforehand will help us tailor the shoot to your requirements. Because if we go ahead and give a quote without finding out everything we need to know then something could go wrong. We’ll work with clients on their scenarios, rigs and shot lists all in advance.”
Mitchell believes that their continued success is largely due to the expertise they’ve acquired over a long and varied career. “Not only can we offer the service, but it’s almost like a consultancy – we can advise exactly which way to go with something.” This often involves sitting down with creators long before production starts, to iron out exactly how something will be achieved.
Even after 21 years in the game, there’s still plenty for Audiomotion to aspire to. recently they announced a partnership with rokoko, making their assets available on Unity’s Asset Store. “We’ll keep adding to it as we go along,” promises Morris, “it demonstrates our ability to adapt and the fact we’re open to new ideas.”
Elsewhere Mitchell is turning his attention to the possibilities of virtual production. “Mixed reality, live action, CG, game engine, all that integration is like all the planets are lining up at once. We’ll be getting stuck into it and seeing how far it can go,” he promises.
FYI Find out more about the studio’s work at www.audiomotion.com