Motion capture special effects have been a staple of big-budget Hollywood blockbusters for many years now, but the technology has largely remained out of the reach of truly independent filmmakers. There are commercial motion capture systems on the market, but they’re too expensive for a small scale production. Thankfully, while you may not have the budget to hire Andy Serkis for your next film project, you can probably afford to build your own Chordata motion capture system.
Manually animating CGI characters is time consuming, and usually results in movement that looks unnatural. Motion capture allows CGI artists to animate their models by recording the far more fluid movement of actual human actors. On most Hollywood productions that movement is captured on video with special markers that are worn all over the actors’ bodies. Chordata works a little bit differently, and utilizes a number of IMUs (inertial measurement units) to track an actor’s movement.
The complete system consists of sensor modules that are worn on the body, an SBC (single-board computer) like a Raspberry Pi to record their data, and a second, more powerful, computer where the motion capture data is translated into Blender animations. You can either purchase the sensor modules, or build them yourself using the KiCAD PCB schematics provided on the Chordata GitLab page. While this will likely take some technical skill to setup, the results look very good and it’s likely the most affordable way to work with motion capture.