Comic book artists and animators often use posable mannequins or motion capture to help get tricky action postures just right, but transferring the figures to paper or computer screens still involves drawing or learning complicated animation and mo-cap software, not to mention all the cameras, hardware and people in funny suits running around. Last year, we reported on the efforts of a Japanese consortium to create what is essentially an action figure equipped with sensors at several joints that would allow real-time pose generation of on-screen CG characters. Still in development then, it's now called Qumarion and when it hits the market in a few months, it'll no doubt prove to be a major time saver for artists and animators alike.
The prototype Qumarion, designed in a joint effort between SoftEther (University of Tsukuba) and Vivienne (University of Electro-Communications), uses 32 sensors arrayed on 16 joints to capture data and feed it to a computer at a high sampling rate (120fps). There, software currently being created by Celsys, an illustration and comic-production program developer, will almost instantly wrangle an onscreen CG figure using the real world position data captured from the manually-posed figurine and delivered via USB.
"This mannequin was designed by a maker of action figures, so a big feature is, it can move much more than an artist's mannequin," Takao Ito, a graphics developer at SoftEther, told DigInfo. "It's hard to obtain a mannequin that can assume as many poses as this one. I think we've made this mannequin into quite a complete tool, by embedding sensors in it," he added.
With minimal training, graphic artists should be able to generate challenging poses that can easily be traced right off the screen. Ideally, animators will benefit too, by being able to generate key frames for their characters far more easily than the traditional method of clicking and dragging individual body part manipulators (very tedious).
If all goes well, a 3D app (compatible with both Windows and Mac) packaged together with a Qumarion ought to be available in a few months for the reasonable price of US$750. The savings in labor costs alone ought to make most animated film producers stand up and cheer. Who knows? The Qumarion could very well be a real game changer. We're eagerly awaiting the roll-out!
Check out the video from QUMA below to see the Qumarion in action: