Engineers at the University of Bath’s Centre for Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research& Applications (aka CAMERA) are developing new techniques to make on-screen animated dogs played by humans more realistic.
The new technique should allow the actors’ movements and expressions to be used to power animated characters.
The team’s goal is to enhance the motion captured by actors wearing individual suits marked with motion trackers and face scanners who are playing dogs on screen.
“We’re going to teach the computer how to replace a human with animal movement, sourcing it from the database… so as a person moves at a certain speed in a certain direction the computer will replace that person’s movement with the animal movement.”
“At the moment, actors have to walk around on all fours, and the computer software changes them into an animal. What we want to do is look at the movements of the human actor and then use a kind of translator to look at a library of real animal data to make the character on the screen move in a realistic way” explained Martin Parsons, the head of the studio at CAMERA
Dogs taking part in the research were fitted with coats with individual reflective markers. These markers have infrared light bounced off of them which is scanned by dedicated cameras to record their position and reconstruct it within a virtual environment.
The centre worked with the Bath Cats and Dogs Home to record eight mixed-breed dogs to start a provisional database of movements with the view to significantly expanding the database over time.
The dogs were tasked with an obstacle course in the studio to track a range of movement.
Simon Lynn, Head of Animal Operations at Bath Cats and Dogs Home explained that “kennel life can become repetitive, so we’re always looking at ways to add enrichment to our dog’s lives whilst they’re waiting to be adopted, and a trip to the CAMERA team at the University of Bath definitely fits the bill.”
“Their carers are with them at all times so we can check they’re relaxed and happy, but we’re sure they are going to love it.”