Who can forget the iconic motion capture performances like Gollum and Ceaser by Andy Serkis or Smaug by Benedict Cumberbatch?
Motion capture (also known as mocap) refers to capturing the physical movements of humans or objects using motion capture suits, cameras, and sensors.
This recorded footage is exported into motion capture software, and that’s where the magic of bringing the characters like Smaug and Gollum to life begins.
What is Motion Capture Software?
Motion capture software is a tool that allows you to record animation, add it to your digital character model, and render your scene seamlessly. These tools can be open-source, third-party (free or paid), or proprietary.
Today, I will share a motion capture software list to simplify your character animation process in animated films or video games.
Importance of Motion Capture Software in the Entertainment Industry
Motion capture software is used in medical applications, sports, entertainment, and even the military. It also helps in validating computer and robot vision.
But the best use of mocap technology is seen in the entertainment industry, especially in films and video games.
The most recent popular names which used motion capture are James Cameron’s epic fantasy film Avatar 2: The Way of Water and Rockstar’s AAA game Red Dead Redemption 2.
Mocap allows filmmakers to create high-quality animated movies with ultra-realistic character movements. Motion capture is often used in previsualization (previs) during pre-production and brings storyboards to life.
Mocap suits, face sensors, and head-mounted cameras allow filmmakers to capture the actor’s entire physical performance, including all the facial and body nuances.
For Game Developers
Motion capture animation is a quick and effective way for game developers to build up a large library of motions for their characters.
Some of the mocap tools, like Unreal Engine, allow the developers to create realistic-looking open-world games that can be explored by the players.
Motion capture software helps animators cut down hours of repetitive animation and gives them captured motion data to model their characters and their movements on.
Some animation studios like Pixar use their own proprietary motion capture software called RenderMan. It has been used in popular Hollywood blockbusters like Jurassic Park, Toy Story, Avatar, Titanic, and even The Lord of the Rings.
How Motion Capture Software Helps in Creating Motions?
There are four different ways to use motion capture technology:
- Optical passive: Here, we use infrared cameras to track retroreflective passive marker motion capture. It is the most commonly used and flexible method for motion capture.
- Optical active: In this method, there are special cameras to track the light from LED motion capture markers.
- Video/markerless: This technique relies entirely on motion capture software instead of markers.
- Inertial: In this method, the subject wears inertial sensors (aka IMUs). These sensors transmit data wirelessly to a computer or smart device. Cameras are only used for localization.
Now, let’s look at some of the best motion capture software.
Rokoko Studio is a popular motion capture software that speeds up your animation workflow by reducing the motion capture to three simple steps – capture, export, or stream.
The software allows you to record, edit and stream character animations captured with Rokoko mocap. Rokoko is completely free for up to 3 creators and offers unlimited cloud storage and real-time preview of your captured data.
However, you cannot use Rokoko’s mocap tools independently of Rokoko Studio. This tool captures raw mocap data from Rokoko Face Capture, Smartgloves, and the Smartsuit Pro. This raw data is then processed by the Studio using advanced inverse kinetic models and filters to create a high-quality animation.
⭐ Download pre-made animation assets in Rokoko’s Motion Library
⭐ Connect and live stream to 3D modeling tools like Blender, Unreal, Maya, etc.
⭐ Supports all formats, skeleton, and mesh options
However, Studio does offer real-time streaming, without any extra lag or latency, to your favorite 3D software such as Maya, Unreal, Unity, and Blender.
OptiTrack Motive enhances skeleton tracking in difficult-to-track situations. Motive runs more than 10 skeletons or 300+ rigid bodies at real-time speed.
The motion capture software comes with positional accuracy of +/- 0.2 mm, latency of < 9 ms, and rotational accuracy of +/- 0.1 deg. Motive processes OptiTrack camera data and delivers global 3D positions, marker IDs, rotational data, and hyper-accurate skeletal tracking.
⭐ Active and Passive tracking
⭐ Native, plug-and-play support for all major digital force plates – AMTI, Bertec, and Kistler
⭐ Precise marker labeling and skeletal tracking even in case of obstacles
However, you do not get a free trial. You have to buy the perpetual license, which gives you 1 year of updates. For each additional year of updates, you need to pay more.
Wonder Studio by Wonder Dynamics is an AI motion capture software that harnesses the power of AI to animate, light, and compose CG characters into a live-action scene.
You can upload your CG model to a single shot or the entire scene, and the system will automatically identify cuts and follow the actor as they go through the sequence.
Popular names in Hollywood are already leveraging Wonder Dynamics’ AI-powered technology. The Russo Brothers are said to be using this tool in their upcoming movie Electric State—the movie stars Chris Pratt and Millie Bobby Brown.
⭐ Advanced retargeting to scale CG characters easily
⭐ Wonder Studio AI automates 80%-90% of objective VFX work
⭐ Free 3D characters from the artist community
Wonder Studio makes it easy for you to add a CG character inside your live-action scene, but the tool does require special artistic and technical expertise. Also, individual or small creators might find this motion capture software a bit expensive.
Autodesk’s MotionBuilder is a 3D character animation software that lets you use a wide range of tools to adjust the nuances of the model’s movement with maximum speed, precision, and consistency.
This live motion capture software offers an interactive and customizable display to help you capture live motion, edit, and replay complex character animations. This software is widely used by professionals who want to work with traditional keyframe animation or motion capture.
You also get interactive workflows with pre-built moves for 3D character animation.
⭐ Real-time 3D engine to create realistic movements
⭐ Seamless integration with 3D modeling tools like Maya and 3D Max
⭐ In-built editing tools to fine-tune animations quickly
Also, keep in mind that MotionBuilder is a popular software for motion capture animation and can be a bit expensive for small creators or individual animators.
If you’re looking for free motion capture software, then FreeMoCap is a good solution. This tool was developed by Jon Matthis as a simple, in-lab research tool before it turned into the large-scale public-facing project that it is today.
The Free Motion Capture Project (FreeMoCap) provides you with research-grade markerless motion capture software for free.
You can connect this tool to free, open-source tools like Blender to accurately record the full-body 3D movement of humans, animals, robots, and other objects.
⭐ Motion capture software for webcam – use webcam recorded footage for motion capture
⭐ Seamless integration with 3D modeling tools like Blender
⭐ User-friendly interface that can be used without any technical assistance
FreeMoCap is a robust motion capture system that can be used by various communities, such as 3D animators, game developers, short film creators, and even athletes, scientists, engineers, and doctors.
iPi Motion Capture by iPi Soft is a freemium motion capture software that tracks 3D human body motions and produces 3D animation. It supports off-the-shelf mocap cameras, depth sensors, facial sensors, and motion controllers.
Create realistic animations in minutes and export them to many popular formats. Integrate with various popular 3D modeling tools such as Blender, Second Life, Autodesk Maya, Collada, iClone, and more.
⭐ Live link plugin for Unreal Engine 5.0
⭐ Supports multiple export formats
⭐ User-friendly interface that can be used without any technical assistance
iPi Motion Capture requires no high-end software or hardware and works well even with the footage captured without a mocap suit.
iClone Motion Live
iClone Motion Live is a full-fledged mocap platform. You can connect motion data streams from popular mocap devices and simultaneously animate 3D characters.
It is a 3D motion capture software that simplifies real-time animation. It has built-in capabilities to animate fully-rigged 3D characters from Character Creator, Daz Studio, or any other standard sources.
Motion Live is the bridge that connects their motion capture hardware (gear) to iClone by creating a “Profile” for their chosen hardware. Additionally, users can choose to export their animations as BVH or FBX.
⭐ Synchronous Full-body Motion Capture
⭐ Saves data in separate motion tracks for easy editing
⭐ Integrates with Cartoon Animator 4
This motion capture tool is mostly used in low-end projects as its affordable and supports various mocap devices for hands, face, and body.
Adobe Character Animator
Adobe Character Animator tracks the actor’s movements and expressions to animate characters in real-time. This motion capture software lets you live stream with your microphone and webcam.
Character Animator is powered by Adobe Sensei AI, which helps you turn any art into an animated character. You can even import art from Adobe Creative Cloud tools like Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator or get started with built-in character templates.
You can save movements as triggers to simplify the animation process and control gestures with your keyboard or MIDI device; however, this feature is not available in the free plan.
⭐ Create a custom character with Puppet Maker
⭐ Export animations in seconds with Quick Export
⭐ Assign keyboard shortcuts to gestures for easy editing
Character Animator is loved by big Hollywood Studios as well as online content creators to bring their animated characters to life.
Xsens Motion Capture
Xsens Motion Capture is a software that makes character modeling and animation easier by capturing movements and expressions in any environment.
The software is available in two variants – MVN Animate for filmmaking and game development and MVN Analyze for research, health, and sports application. You also get cloud-based solutions to store and process data and generate reports.
⭐ 3 mocap hardware options: MVN Link, MVN Awinda, and MVN Awinda Starter
⭐ Cloud solutions to store and process data
⭐ Live integration with MotionBuilder, Unreal Engine, Unity, Autodesk Maya, Houdini, and more
Filmmakers and game developers use this motion capture software to digitize movements and create a smooth motion capture animation. Physiotherapists use this tool to gain insights to improve the well-being or performance of athletes and patients.
Due to the advent of technology, the magic of motion capture is not just limited to films and games anymore. Nowadays, motion capture is widely used in areas of science, medical treatment, and sports.
As more people uncover the benefits of motion capture, the demand for motion capture software is just going to soar.
Motion capture animation doesn’t replace animation entirely; it simplifies the character animation process. They help you record animation, apply it to your character, and render your scene in hours instead of days.
What mocap software you need depends upon your budget and animation requirements. If you are looking for something basic for a lab-research project, choose FreeMoCap. It is free and user-friendly.
However, if you want to develop a high-end project, such as a film with live motion and computer graphics, then choose Rokoko Studio or Wonder Studio.
Next, check out the best motion graphic software for everyone.