Motion Capture Filming Techniques

In 2009, screenrant.com released an article describing James Cameron’s revolutionary new film techniques used in the movie Avatar. Although a relatively old piece, the technology described is still the pinnacle of film techniques today.

The article describes the technology and its finished effect, but only briefly touches on how the technology works. This leaves much of the piece with a slightly empty, unfinished feel. For example; “The way we developed the performance capture workflow on ‘Avatar’ is we have our virtual camera, which allows me to, in real time, hold a camera — it’s really a monitor — in my hands and point it at the actors and see them as their CG characters,” Cameron said… “It’s this amazing ability to quickly conjure scenes and images and great fantasyscapes that is very visual…When you are doing performance capture, creatively it’s very daunting. It’s very hard to imagine what it will look like. But if you can see it, if you can have a virtual image of what is it going to be like, then you are there.”

This is opposed to the following two YouTube clips from the Discovery Networks channel which go into much greater detail the technology used by Mr. Cameron and the makers of Avatar.

http://youtu.be/1wK1Ixr-UmM

http://youtu.be/3pFHgC8tAdo

Despite being not highly informative as to the details of the nature of Motion Capture technology, as well as a highly informal style, screenrant.com does provide an accurate and effective evaluation of it and its projected contributions towards the film industry.

 

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iBrain

Singularityhub.com has released a report of a breakthrough in computational neurobiology, or reading the brain.

According to singularityhub.com, iBrain revolutionises the way in which scientists look at the brain whilst asleep. The technology is also said to be able to help understand other neurological conditions such as depression, schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The iBrain

 What makes the iBrain so revolutionary is its ease of use. Singularityhub.com writes “Measuring brainwaves during sleep normally entails electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings. These types of recordings are made by placing a number of disc-shaped electrodes around the scalp–you’ve probably seen pictures of them and thought of a shower cap with a bunch of nodes sticking out. The problem with this setup when conducting sleep research is that each of the nodes–often 16 or more–have wires attached to them. All of the wires and the bumps on your head make for a tough night’s rest, leaving both the subject and the researchers to suffer. Low got around this by developing an EEG cap that has only a single node. His head harness is lightweight and secures only a single, small box to the head. Better yet, the system is wireless.

Reducing an EEG cap to a single channel is no small feat. The reason so many electrodes are used to record EEGs is to make 3D mapping of the signals easier. A recorded brainwave isn’t interesting unless you know what part of the brain from which it originates. By recording the same signal with multiple electrodes researchers are able to triangulate the location of that signal’s origin.

So how does Low’s single electrode determine a signal’s location without any other reference points with which it can compare? Math. Lot’s of math.

Not only did Low invent a single electrode EEG cap, he invented software that receives the data and, using an algorithm that Low computed himself, can tease apart the multitude of EEG signals from the entire brain and map them back in 3D space. Sound complicated? The algorithm that Low came up with is half a million lines. What’s more, Low’s algorithm quadruples the amount of useful data compared to conventional EEGs, and it also takes out the grunt work of analyzing that data. Typical EEG analysis requires researchers to visually review the data coming in from the multiple electrodes and process it manually. Low’s algorithm automates the data analysis process so researchers don’t have to lift a brain muscle. In a head-to-head comparison (get it?), the algorithm was more accurate than manual methods at analyzing a night’s worth of data and cut the job time down from 30-60 minutes to just a few seconds.”

Low’s contribution was to dramatically simplify the whole process of reading brainwaves, making it easier for both scientists and the general public.

Singularityhub.com presents its piece in a clear, highly informative manner. Its inclusion of extremely detailed technical information, written reasonably objectivley, leaves for little suspicion of bias. The only question of that comes from the over adolation of Lowand his creation, creating a sense of blind worshiping.

However, the piece is presented as a clean, informative article on this innovative new technology.

http://singularityhub.com/2011/05/26/mind-reader-company-valued-at-200-million-in-new-funding-round-video/

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AR Walker

Technology evaluation site engadget.com has released a post about an innotative new device called the A.R Walker.

According to engadget.com, the device, designed by Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, consists of a HTC-HT 02A, or really just a small computer and projector, and a strap, which hook on to a pair of glasses. This projects images onto the glass, giving the wearer a GPS guided map.  engadget.com says “In the demo, turning your head to the left or right would cause an arrow to appear, directing you to walk forward; a mushroom-shaped dude walks in front of you and holds up a sign to let you know when you’ve arrived. As a final touch, looking up (at the sky, that is) changes the screen to show you the weather forecast — pretty clever.”

The A.R Walker in action

 

The site also provides a video depicting the aforementioned demo. However the video is entirely in a foreign language and therefore difficult to understand, though a visual depiction of the A.R Walker’s uses is interesting.

http://youtu.be/9oAOtuRQmJI

The site does appear slightly biased, trying to create a positive image for the A.R Walker. Evidence of this arises when it says ” a wearable augmented reality solution that’s nearly small enough (and reasonable-looking enough) for individuals with an ounce of self-respect to use…”. This is pushing the boundaries of subjectivity as the A.R Walker is clearly still too large and clunky to be worn discreetly and fashionably.

Despite this, the post appears to be relativley objective and accurate about this exciting new device, for which one supposes there must be many projected uses (none of which are mentioned).

Another site, gizmag.com, appears slightly less subjective, and thus comes across as a more reliable source. It apparently harbours no illusions towards the devices impracticality, writing “The glasses don’t come without some inconvenience however, because they must be connected to your mobile phone upon which the AR application in running. The result is a cumbersome mess of wires, though I should clarify the project is still in the experimental stages.”

Gizmag.com also gives more information on how the device runs, as well as the virtual tour experience, saying “For the company’s walking tour demonstration at CEATEC, the application was operating on Docomo’s Windows Mobile based HTC phone, which was then connected to a pair of glasses. I had to stand in a sort of “mock Kyoto” for the demo, comprised of three big screens displaying the street view: one to the front, and one on each side of me. Through your right eye on the glasses’ QVGA display (320×240) you can see an animated mushroom, Docomo’s mascot Docomo-Dake, who guides you on your way. Our demo took us through the streets of Kyoto, and the AR annotations explaining the environment were prompted according to which direction you faced. When you look up in the sky, the eye display shows you weather information. Look to the right and you see details of the restaurant on the right-hand side. Off to the left you’ll see an annotated view of the inn on the left.”

Through the looking glass...

 

Gizmag.com seems to be a more informative and objective site than engagdet.com, although both present reasonably useful presentations of the A.R Walker.

http://www.engadget.com/2010/10/06/ntt-docomos-ar-walker-is-augmented-reality-at-its-finest-video/

http://www.gizmag.com/docomos-ar-walker-is-a-virtual-tour-guide-in-a-pair-of-glasses/16579/

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Invisibility Cloaks

Smh.com has released exciting news of research into what was once only the wackiest of daydreams of J.K Rowling and H.G Wells; Invisibility Cloaks.

Once only the party trick of our favourite Hogwarts student, now invisibility cloaks are set to become a reality thanks to new research conducted into metamaterials and the nature of light.

The theory of bending light around an object began about ten years ago when scientists, according to smh.com, “worked out that it would be possible to make artificial materials with tiny internal structures that would force light or other electromagnetic waves to travel along a desired, curved path rather than bounce off an object. Five years ago, the first of these cloaking devices was built using one of these metamaterials, which have optical properties that simply do not occur in nature.”

Thus, conceivably, scientists created the first “invisibility cloak”,  a model for future research and development.

There are, however, drawbacks. The particle being cloaked has to be smaller than the wavelength of the light being bent around it, hence the use of microwaves, a relatively long wavelength. As such, the use of this technology on anything as big as a human is still in the future.

A variation of this technology, however, has been used to hide something as large as a paper-clip. According to smh.com, this is achieved by “putting it (paper-clip) under a bump in a metamaterial carpet that sits on a mirror. Light hitting the metamaterial is bent in such a way that it appears to be reflected off a flat surface and the bump disappears. This disguises the fact something is hidden under the carpet. These carpet cloaks have been developed for a range of wavelengths and Zhang’s natural calcite crystal prisms are another variation on this theme that works for visible light.”

This is not, however, true invisibility, as a large crystal is still visible, and the object only disappears under polarised light, not too handy in everyday use.

Despite this, scientists remain optimistic that one day, teenagers all over the world will be able to sneak off to engage in night-time tom-foolery just like Harry.

What makes smh.com such a useful and informative source, is its detailed technical information that it provides; “…glued two triangular pieces of a transparent mineral called calcite together to form a prism, which was placed on a mirror. The paper clip was hidden under a bump in the base, like something tucked under a carpet. The pathway of light through the prism gives the appearance that the base is flat, concealing the bump and the existence of the paper clip.”

Written in a professional and objective manner, it appears reliable and trustworthy source for the reader.

The best thing about the article is that it leaves the reader not being able to wait for the release of that magical, but now, entirely realistic object; the invisibility cloak. This effect is created throughout the body of the article, with the ending actually rather abrupt and unsatisfying.

Despite this, it is an excellent article, both fulfilling and informative.

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