How to do Motion Capture at Home: A Simple Guide

November 24, 2021
5 min read

Forget expensive motion capture studios. You can capture the animation you need at home using a simple setup. For animators working from home, a few clever tools can save you a drive into the office. This home setup also speeds up the workflow of solo content creators and indie studios by eliminating the time-consuming process of animating by hand. Full disclosure here, this article mostly highlights the technology built by Rokoko (the people writing this article). But this isn’t pure self-promotion - we just couldn’t find viable options for mocap suits that produced animation at an acceptable quality for professional work. However, we’ve also included some more amateur software solutions for the ultra-budget conscious.

The hardware you need to do motion capture at home

The better your hardware, the easier your life will be. Investing in the best software is one thing, but if you don’t have enough computing power to render computer graphics, you’ll waste hours waiting on renders. Additionally, a motion capture suit can provide you with superior animation that requires less editing in post-production. 

Hardware for professional motion capture at home: 

  • A powerful computer with the following specs At least 16 gigs of DDR4 Ram, Intel Core i7 3.00GHz, A mid to high range GPU.
  • The Rokoko Smartsuit Pro II.
  • Optional: Rokoko Smart Gloves.
  • A tablet to control camera angles.
  • An iPhone to capture facial mocap. 

DIY mocap rigs for beginners:

The above setup can set you back a couple thousand dollars. While that’s infinitely cheaper than the tens of thousands that a mocap studio costs, you might still want something a little cheaper. Here are some options that people have had success with: 

  • “I found a great DIY motion capture rig to be iPi Soft mixed with Xbox Kinect Cameras”. Check out Leigh Williamson’s  $116.90 setup: A PC (or MAC with Windows installed using Boot Camp), Kinect 2 Camera (~$40), Kinect 2 USB Adapters for Xbox One & Windows ($18.24), and a Camera Tripod ($58.66
  • “The new Azure Kinect DK also works but is a more expensive version at $399, unless you have the budget stick with the discontinued Xbox Kinect and Kinect for Windows.” - James West

The best software for motion capture animation

Choosing software is all about your personal preference and technical needs. Over at Rokoko, we’re focused on movement above all else, and our 3D animation software Rokoko Studio reflects that. It’s packed full of motion capture features, pre-recorded movements, and functionality to stream data live into other tools (such as Unreal Engine). You can pick up the free version of Rokoko Studio here.  But when animation is not all you want to achieve, there’s some excellent alternatives. And good news here for the indie creators - a lot of the software has a free version or can be picked up for an affordable monthly subscription. 

All round 3D software for films & shorts:

  • Blender - A free all-rounder used by pros and beginners alike
  • Autodesk Maya - The industry standard for animation projects
  • Cinema4D - Rokoko’s favorite software due to its ease of use

Real-time game engine software: 

  • Unreal Engine - The software of choice for virtual production
  • Unity - A great place to learn how game creation works

You don’t need dedicated studio space to set up a motion capture system

In the past, motion capture was limited to a professional studio. The only way to collect character animation was to load an actor up with colored tracking patches and translate their movement into a 3D program using advanced cameras. Because the Rokoko suit uses inertial motion capture instead of optical or video suits, it’s a mobile motion capture system that you can take anywhere. Performance capture is only limited to the three hour battery life and a wireless connection - if you want to capture motion in your living room or garden, it’s possible. 

How do you capture facial expressions and apply them to a 3D character? 

Facial capture is a little different to capturing human body motions, but it’s not a major speed hurdle in the development of your virtual world. Motion capture technology has advanced so far that you’ve probably already used mocap for your face using Instagram filters!

Download the Rokoko Remote App from the App Store for facial motion capture on iOS phones

The setup for facial motion capture is simpler than you think. All you need is an iPhone with a TrueDepth camera and the right app. With the Rokoko Remote app, Rokoko Studio, and the SmartSuit Pro, you can capture real-time facial capture in Rokoko Studio and sync the data with the full body motion capture suit for a full performance capture solution. This minimal mocap rig is excellent for capturing performances for live streaming (VTubing) and for filming mocap actors who ‘play’ 3D characters in a virtual production project.

Check out this tutorial to see how easy it is to integrate facial capture into your animation projects:

Free 3D Models, assets, and animation libraries for motion capture

There are plenty of places where you can find 3D assets like an animated character, environmental sets, and even pre-recorded motion capture. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Rokoko Motion Library - The world’s largest marketplace of motion assets. You can get the first 100 for free when you download Rokoko Studio. 
  • Turbosquid - The ultimate marketplace of 3D assets for professionals. There’s also a bunch of free assets for you to use right off the bat. 
  • Adobe Mixamo - Planet of useful animations perfect for games

The kind of motion capture you might need to create simple video games

In this example by Melianthe Kines, you can learn exactly what kind of assets you might need to create and capture motion for. In her “Superguy” game, she outlines six basic game characters and assigns the main character 20 basic motion capture movements to build a minimum viable product for the game. These can be compiled into a spreadsheet that makes capturing motion on the day (or finding it from an asset library), relatively straightforward.

Whatever motion capture technique you use, we’re in your corner! 

Now you’re armed with all the knowledge you need to set up your home studio, it’s time to get going on that new game development of animatic for a new series! If you’d like a personalized tour of Rokoko’s mocap system, book a demo here.

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Product Specialists Francesco and Paulina host Zoom demos from the Copenhagen office