Navigating Now & Beyond: Using mo-cap safely (Creative Assembly)

Using mo-cap safely, by Creative Assembly.

The UK’s largest and oldest games development studio, Creative Assembly, shares their safety measures that have enabled them to re-start their motion capture animation service safely, during COVID-19.

Motion capture, or Mo-cap, has the ability to add realism of movement to your game characters, picking up detailed nuances that wouldn’t otherwise be possible in the animation process. It is the process of capturing real movement and mapping it on to a 3D model.

Creative Assembly’s motion capture studio is a dedicated facility in Horsham, UK. On a normal day it would see multiple visitors; developers, actors, and motion capture technicians, who work together to capture realistic movements for game animations.

Since COVID-19 all of Creative Assembly’s staff have been working fully remotely. For some areas of the business, such as motion capture, there is no virtual/ remote option available. It is an interactive process that requires a specific environment. The motion capture setup involves infrared lights from cameras placed around an environment, which reflect off markers which are placed around an actor’s body, especially in areas of mobility such as joints. These markers are attached to the actor’s body via a special motion capture suit.

Creative Assembly has now re-started its motion capture work, through following best practice guidelines based on the UK Government’s COVID-19 recommendations.

To achieve this, the studio completed a full health and safety assessment based on UK Government guidance; this highlighted specific areas that would require a change in process. These are detailed below:

  • Only one specialist technician is able to be on site at any one time
  • Only one motion capture actor is able to be on site at any one time
  • No entry is permitted for anyone with symptoms
  • Those onsite must bring their own food/refreshments. Bottled water is provided.
  • Signage is placed both inside and outside of the building; focusing on social distancing with floor markings to indicate a safe recommended distance as recommended by Public Health England. This is also present between the technician’s booth and the performance area.
  • During the motion capture shoot, the specialist technician must stay in the capture booth while any actors are in the performance area
  • Where possible, all doors are kept open to avoid any unnecessary contact.
  • Animation lists of required props (such as swords or guns) and suit/shoe size for the actor are requested beforehand so they can be sanitised and prepared ready on site for use.
  • Actors must bring a member of their household with them, in order to take part in a motion capture shoot. This person must attach the reflective markers to the actor’s suit as directed by the technician. This avoids any contact between the technician and the actor.
  • Actors must remove their suit, shoes and reflective markers at the end of a shoot and place these in a designated bag for washing. These are then washed and disinfected.

The studio has found this process to be manageable while seeing their motion capture work continue and minimising risk to their specialist technicians and any actors involved in the work.

Navigating Now and Beyond

This is part of our Navigating Now and Beyond in partnership with Sports Interactive series - guest articles and guides providing technical and practical advice for games companies to navigate working now and beyond the current Covid-19 crisis. 

Find more articles at our Navigating Now and Beyond hub here.