Rokoko founded in 2014, has just started shipping its new low cost, high quality MoCap suit. The Smartsuit Pro is a new MoCap suit with sensors woven into the suit, for fast and accurate easy to obtain body motion capture. The company is aiming to shift the price point of high end MoCap as the suit is shipping for under US$2500.
The Smartsuit Pro incorporates the sensors in the suit fabric, which speeds up alignment and reliability. Each of the suits 19 sensors has a gyrometer, compass, and accelerometer. The suit can be self contained in its operation, recording locally or via wifi to a local network. It is the mobility, ease of use and the dramatically low price that sets the system apart. It would not be uncommon to spend two or three times this price for a mobile inertia suit, and often times considerably more.
Rokoko believes it can empower vfx and animation creators with a suit that provides professional capture motion, but does not require professional specialists to use. Independent game developers and film studios are the company’s primary market, but much large studios have also expressed interest so animators can have a local suit for blocking out action, without needing a dedicated stage. Capturing human movement in animation is a tricky task as even a small yet unnatural looking movement can completely break the illusion. It is also important how clean the data is, if the signal is cleaned up, subtle movement can be lost, if the data is noise then it can be unreliable. Suits such as this suffer from ground plane issues with drift and floating. In other words, if the animated movement isn’t 100% accurate it’s most likely unusable, without huge amounts of keyframe effort and specialist cleanup. Rokoko believe the real benefit of their system resides in delivering this clean, unfiltered yet stable capture, while still having a simple setup and operation.
CEO Jakob Balslev points to their advanced body model, and the new very accurate data as the critical reasons why their system works so well in relationship to the ground plane. In the end, any MoCap system needs to rebuild the motion of an interior skeletal system based on just a handful of external points on a body. The solver for any MoCap system is always critical, so initialisation combined with accurate sensors is key. “We have been able to run for a long time without drift, as long as you calibrate it away from metal, (for the magnetometer/compass), the system will run for a long time without drift (relative to the floor)”. The system works with just one sensor for each non-bendable limb, “we experimented a lot with sensor positions, and we have found a balance of calibration accuracy and data that works really well”.
The Smartsuit Pro has
- 19 sensors (PCBs) that each have three components – a gyrometer, an accelerometer, and a magnetometer/compass – that are embedded in the suit at key places on the body
- After creating a user profile with an artists precise measurements in the software, the suit can be setup for extremely accurate data capture in less than a minute.
- The suit is made of high-end sports textiles and mesh for maximum breathability, flexibility, durability and minimum noise.
- With a base price point of $2495 per suit, the Rokoko is very cost effective
- The system is easy to use and the suit can be put on without assistance and calibrated easily.
The company was founded jointly by Jakob Balslev CEO, Matias Søndergaard and Anders Klok in Denmark about 3 years ago. Balslev worked previously at the Danish production company Nordisk Film before training as a producer. Balslev premiered his first feature film, “On The Edge” in June 2014. He has a M.Sc. in Film Production. Søndergaard previously worked as a partner at Mattr, a company that does personalized 3D-printing. Søndergaard has a M.Sc. in Economics and Philosophy. Klok is the central kinematics engineer at Rokoko, he is a self-taught expert in 3D and the originator of the Smartsuit Pro concept. The company moved to San Francisco six months ago and has just started shipping the suit.
In addition, the company was also recently joined by industry veteran Chris Ford, formerly with Pixar for 12 years as a key part of the senior RenderMan Team. Ford is respected the world over, with over 20 years of experience in production. When Ford first saw the Rokoko, and the price of less than $2500, his first comment was “what’s the catch ?” He explained that MoCap “is a key and critical production technology that normally costs much more and yet the market segment has been fairly stagnant…looking at the tech, I was actually pretty impressed. It is a new generation inertia system that incorporates a lot of practical production points but at a whole new price point”. Ford has joined the company as part of their Board of Directors and Executive Strategic Committee. Ford has been consulting and advising the company for a short while now. “We knew he’d be a perfect fit for Rokoko when he shared his perspective on the current state of the motion capture industry. He feels strongly, like we do, that Rokoko’s low price point will lead to democratization of the animation and VFX space” commented Balslev. “At Rokoko the team is seeking to do nothing less than break the fundamental assumption of what it costs to capture and access high quality digital human motion,” Ford explained.
Ford points out that with the sensors being effectively wired (inside the suit fabric) and sewn into position, they are both free of sensor transmission error, and they are almost guaranteed of being correctly placed on the body. “The Sensors are deployed in the suit with magnetically shielded cables in series, so it is also possible to add extra sensors for a prop if needed… the 19 sensors are the minimum but it could be reconfigured for any specialist use” he explains. While the suit contains the sensors and wires, you can remove them for either suit cleaning or suit upgrades.
The system runs in Unity 5, Unreal Engine 4 and MotionBuilder. The companies own SmartSuit studio software runs on Windows 10, Mac OS X, Linux. You can easily integrate the suite with either Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. Either using the company’s SDK’s or Plugin’s for real-time data streaming, depending on which platform or programming language you are developing in.
You can download an .fbx demo file here.
Each suit contains 19 x 9-DoF inertial measurement units, and each is just 9 x 30 x 50 mm. “We worked very hard to make them as flat as possible for comfort and also for fight action or stunt capture” explains Balslev. The sensors were designed so even any cable strain is designed to not place harmful pressure on the sensor-cable connectors.
If running in WiFi mode the system will work up to 100 meters from a base station and it supports both 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz WiFi. It can record locally on the hub of the suit without access to WiFi, making the suit is completely portable and eliminating major limitations and restrictions that come with using a traditional MoCap studio volume solution. In fact, Ford has been wondering if it would not be possible to specially mount the suit inside a ‘dry’ wet suit, so that a team could capture underwater swimming. (Drysuits are normally worn in water below 50 degrees. Dry suits are preferable for colder water, as unlike with wetsuit, the wearer doesn’t actually make contact with the water itself, hence the name).
The battery should provide 6 hours of operation time from one standard USB power bank. The suit is made of durable nylon based fabric with adjustable tightening straps to make it fit most body types. The suit comes in S, M, L and XL, with adjustable straps. The suit weighs less than 2kg with the sensors and the Hub. It can be worn over normal clothes, if artists just want to do a short, quick capture. The suit has designed to be as silent as possible with special attention to the material used on any surfaces that might rub and produce audio that would interfere with sound recording of dialogue.
The company is also working on Smartgloves which they estimate to have ready for delivery in late summer 2017. The development is well underway and results are very promising, according to CEO Balslev. The official launch date for pre-orders of the Smartglove will be released in Q2 2017. The company acknowledges that gloves will be a key addition to the product range, “Gloves, finger tracking with the whole body will be critical and it is coming this year” comments Balslev. Gloves are very well suited to this style of MoCap as hands can often be occluded in ‘lighthouse’ style camera MoCap volumes.
There is another semi-secret project planned for VR use, but the details have not yet been released. But the company sees a lot of growth in using suits such as a full body solution in the virtual world, and “that is the next step for us” explained Balslev.
The other thing the company has built into the suits is an ‘archive’ of the motion. This archive, stripped of any identifying information, is uploaded to the offices of Rokoko and will feed a deep learning AI data set of human motion that will help build newer versions of the solver and improve the system’s capacity to accurately interpret human movement.