Luma Pictures animates monstrous 'Underworld' creature with help of motion capture

Translating concept art and storyboards into the animated mannerisms of a larger-than-life CG monster is challenging for even the most talented animators.

Luma Pictures — the team responsible for character development, animation and film VFX for the Über Lycan in "Underworld: Awakening" — addressed this challenge with the assistance of an OptiTrack motion capture system, installed on-site at its Santa Monica studio.

Luma's animators used the OptiTrack system to record the movements of actor Kris Holden-Reid, as he brought the film's most notorious creature, the Über Lycan, to life. Motion capture was employed both to fine-tune performance points during pre-vis and quickly create realistic reference animations that could be used as starting points for the final keyframing process.

As Luma prototyped character animation and virtual cinematography alongside the film's directorial team, new ideas could be fleshed out in real time and then baked onto a character's control rig for further post-animation in Maya. Filter Foundry created a short to document the process. It can be seen on OptiTrack's website.

One of the film's most high-profile shots, in which Quint Lane (Holden-Reid's human character) violently transforms into a 13ft werewolf, was captured using 12 OptiTrack S250e cameras and a 24ft x 24ft stage designed specifically for the project. Observing the data as it was retargeted in MotionBuilder in real time enabled the team to identify the movements that could be most convincingly translated into the final transformation sequence.

Besides being able to track nuanced actor performances with convincing realism, Luma required a motion capture platform that could be easily incorporated into its existing ecosystem.