Kinearx is Coming: Influences

Kinearx will be FIE’s flagship motion capture software offering.  Its currently in development and not quite ready for show.  However, it is taking a strong shape and is becoming functional, and I’d like to explain the goals and underpinnings of the system.  So, I’ll start with a blog entry about influences.

Software isn’t created in a vacuum of knowledge.  In this period of particularly vicious intellectual property warfare, it might even be dangerous to acknowledge any influence whatsoever.  That would not sit right be me in the long run however.  Also, I think acknowledging and explaining influences can keep design and goals on track.  So here they are in no particular order:

  • Natural Point‘s commodtization of the Motion Capture hardware market:  The commoditization of the hardware means one of two things.  Either a wide portion of the consumer market will have NP MC hardware, or a wide portion of the consumer market will have some form of competing commodity MC hardware.  Either way, the market will grow.  And more importantly, the size of the new market will so overshadow the old market, that previously existing systems will become mostly irrelevant.  So it will basically wipe the slate clean.  This means Kinearx is in a good position to come in and take a large chunk of the new commodity MC software market that will accompany the hardware market.  Its important not to lose focus on this target market.
  • Vicon IQ’s generalization and configurability:  IQ doesn’t recognize humans, it recognizes kinematic mechanical models.  It then has useful templates of those models for humans. 
    Generally, every operation exposes just about every parameter you could imagine, and many you just don’t want to know about.  It provides reasonable defaults.
  • Vicon IQ’s flexible processing:  While I think there are some serious flaws in their design, the overall concept of the post processing pipeline is a good one.  IQ stops short where it should expand further.
  • Vicon Blade:  Blade is a combination of IQ and HOM Diva.  The Diva half of it, I’m sure is fine.  The IQ half of it is really disappointing.  In combining it into Blade, they’ve lost sight of what was good about it, and in turn lost functionality.  I’ll be using IQ on Vicon system sessions for some time to come as I suspect a large portion of their existing customer base will be.
  • Giant‘s Autonomous Reliability: Giant’s software systems are proprietary, so you’d have to spend some time on set with them to observe this.  I had the opportunity to spend weeks at a time on The Incredible Hulk with one of their crews/systems.  The specifics of the software aside, the fact of the matter is, they were able to generate extremely clean data from arbitrarily complex takes overnight with minimal human intervention.  What does this look like?  Well, from what I could tell, the operator would scroll through the take, letting the system try to ID the markers (which it kinda did right on its own most of the time anyway).  When they found a frame that it got right, they marked it, and sent it off for batch processing.  The system took care of the rest.  I’d come back in the morning and they’d offload a day’s worth of cleaned up mocap directly to my hard drive.  Were there points where it interpolated the fingers?  Sure.  Did it matter?  No.  To put this in perspective, it was able to do this with two guys freestyle sparring roman greco wrestling style.  So you know, rolling around on the floor grappling.
  • Softimage XSI user interface: XSI has problems.  Believe me, I can list them.  But their UI is something special.
  • Motion Builder‘s Ubiquity:  Motion Builder is an amazing piece of software, but its meant to come into the mocap process too late and isn’t really trying to solve the hard problems early in the process.  Optical cleanup is missign half the tools it should have.  However, in the industry, Motion Builder is synonymous with motion capture.  Unless you are having your mocap vendor do all the cleanup and re targeting, you kind of need it (really big jobs can license software from Giant in some circumstances and Blade seeks to take MB’s place but those solutions have not solidified as general solutions just yet).
  • Motion Builder’s Bad Reputation:  Fact of the matter is, not many people like motion builder.  When I mention it, I get snears.  I’ve had a lot of trouble reconciling the volume of sneers I get from otherwise reasonable professionals, with the software and its production capabilities that I’ve come to know and rely on.  It is my opinion, that MB’s bad reputation comes from the complete and utter lack of production worthy training and demo material.  No one knows how to use it or what is actually in there.  Its all rather well hidden and unless someone trains you and shows you through it, you wont know its there.  Also, at this point it should be a no brainer to plug MB directly into a Maya character animation job.  However, I had to develop a ton of custom tools and workflows to accomplish it for PLF.  Add that to the fact that the 3d industry tends to be more religious and less scientific about its tools and techniques, and well, you end up in a bad spot.

2 Replies to “Kinearx is Coming: Influences”

  1. Most of my XSI issues center around production pipeline issues. For example: in a larger pipeline, you want to separate texturing from shading as the people who should be making shaders are not the people who should be painting textures. XSI’s solutions for separating the two are severely lacking. I’ve had to develop solutions for that separation in the past to make projects deliverable on schedule. I’ve shown those solutions to Halfdan, Soft’s rendering developer and he’s going to try and integrate some of those solutions into future XSI releases. Most of my issues with XSI are of that type. Issues where the otherwise flashy and quick feature set, breaks down when you try to work it into a more robust project with a challenging revue schedule. Understand, I listed XSI’s UI as a positive influence. I just needed to temper it with a condition that I’m not referencing XSI as a whole as the influence. Its specifically the UI that I consider influential.

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