Using drones to simplify film animation

December 05, 2018

Drones are going to change the film industry in a major way. Tobias Nägeli, for one, is sure of that. The computer scientist, who recently finished his doctoral thesis with Otmar Hilliges, a professor of computer science and head of the Advanced Interactive Technologies Lab, was able to show about a year ago that spectacular, highly technical film scenes could be shot in a much easier way by using these mini aircraft. In a further project, which he presented at a conference in Tokyo in early December, he demonstrated that drones also have great potential for animated film.

Drones to replace dozens of cameras

"It's a very time-consuming task to make figures look realistic in an animated film," explains Nägeli. "For the figures to appear natural, the first step is to film an actor performing the movements. The second step is then to build the animated figure around this." In order to reconstruct the actor's movements for the 3D animation, they must first be recorded with at least two cameras simultaneously. Sequences of motion that cover a great deal of space in particular create an enormous amount of technical work, so two well-positioned cameras should be able to cover the entire scene. This requires either installing numerous cameras in different places, of which only a few can be used at the same time, or other tricky installations.

This complicated technique may soon be rendered obsolete. Nägeli and his colleagues at ETH Zurich and Delft University of Technology have developed a system that, in its simplest configuration, consists of two commercially available drones and a laptop. The drones follow the actor's every move and automatically adjust their position so that the target can always be shot from two angles. This reduces the amount camera work required, since the cameras only have to be in the spots where they are actually needed. Impressively, the system anticipates the actor's movements in real-time and then calculates where the drones need to fly in order to keep the actor in the frame.

To minimise the volume of data generated, infrared diode markers are fixed to the actor's joints. The drones, which are equipped with a true light filter, record only the light from the markers, greatly simplifying data processing. The system only sees a few points, from which it then determines the body's position and directional movement.

"What makes our system so unique is that it can also reliably capture sudden and fast movements," explains Nägeli. "Of course, this kind of demo system is not good enough to meet the requirements of the film industry yet. But it does offer a promising approach." As the young researcher explains, the system could also be extended with additional drones to capture movement in even greater detail. It is also conceivable that the current approach with light markers could be replaced by automatic image analysis, thus reducing the technical complexity of film production even further.

Sport motion analysis by drone?

The team conducted various tests to show how the system can be used to track human movement over longer distances - something that makes the approach interesting for sport motion analysis. "Until now, it has been impossible to perform a comprehensive motion analysis on runners, for example, because it is much too complicated," explains Nägeli. "With our system, it's very easy now to examine how a runner's kinetics changes over a period of time."

For the time being, this is still just a vision. Now, the challenge is to continue developing the system for practical applications. Together with two colleagues, Nägeli plans to tackle this task at the new start-up company Tinamu Labs. And who knows - maybe he and his drones will soon land in Hollywood.
-end-


ETH Zurich

Related Light Articles from Brightsurf:

Light from rare earth: new opportunities for organic light-emitting diodes
Efficient and stable blue OLED is still a challenge due to the lack of emitter simultaneously with high efficiency and short excited-state lifetime.

Guiding light: Skoltech technology puts a light-painting drone at your fingertips
Skoltech researchers have designed and developed an interface that allows a user to direct a small drone to light-paint patterns or letters through hand gestures.

Painting with light: Novel nanopillars precisely control intensity of transmitted light
By shining white light on a glass slide stippled with millions of tiny titanium dioxide pillars, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and their collaborators have reproduced with astonishing fidelity the luminous hues and subtle shadings of 'Girl With a Pearl Earring.'

Seeing the light: Researchers combine technologies for better light control
A new technology that can allow for better light control without requiring large, difficult-to-integrate materials and structures has been developed by Penn State researchers.

A different slant of light
Giant clams manipulate light to assist their symbiotic partner.

New light for plants
Scientists from ITMO in collaboration with their colleagues from Tomsk Polytechnic University came up with an idea to create light sources from ceramics with the addition of chrome: the light from such lamps offers not just red but also infrared (IR) light, which is expected to have a positive effect on plants' growth.

Scientists use light to accelerate supercurrents, access forbidden light, quantum world
Iowa State's Jigang Wang continues to explore using light waves to accelerate supercurrents to access the unique and potentially useful properties of the quantum world.

The power of light
As COVID-19 continues to ravage global populations, the world is singularly focused on finding ways to battle the novel coronavirus.

Seeing the light: MSU research finds new way novae light up the sky
An international team of astronomers from 40 institutes across 17 countries found that shocks cause most the brightness in novae.

Seeing the light: Astronomers find new way novae light up the sky
An international team of researchers, in a paper published today in Nature Astronomy, highlights a new way novae light up the sky: this is shocks from explosions that create the novae that cause most of the their brightness.

Read More: Light News and Light Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.