Profile: CAMERA – Bath’s £5 million state-of-the-art motion capture studio

As well as film and game VFX, this collaborative research centre is also using mo-cap tech to help in the fields of health and sport
14th July 2016

bath-university-cameraOpened in May with the support of top names from the visual effects industry such as Europe’s leading performance capture studio The Imaginarium (which was set up by Andy Serkis – who played Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy) and VFX software specialists The Foundry, the new £5m CAMERA studio is offering companies the ability to use top-of-the-range motion-capture tech in their research.

“We want to achieve an impact with CAMERA. We want to take our research out into the real world”

 

And when we say top of the range, we mean it. As well as bespoke lighting and infrared cameras, the studio features 10 linked 4K (ultra-high definition) cameras worth £7.5k each. Because the cameras are linked, they all know where they are compared to each other, allowing them to work out exactly where an object is while they capture its visual information.

Hollywood tech for health

It’s an impressive studio, with an impressive research team behind it, but its ambitions are even more impressive. CAMERA stands for ‘Centre for the Analysis of Motion Entertainment Research and Applications’. This means that as well as the more recognised use of motion capture to create visual effects for films, games, VR and AR, CAMERA wants to apply its tech to any field the tech can help with, and it has already started to use it to help rehabilitate people back to health and to let athletes analyse their movements to gain a competitive advantage.

You can see more in the video below:

 

CAMERA is already involved in helping organisations like the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre to help rehabilitating amputees learn how to walk again. The tech can monitor their walking gait in real time, highlighting any potential issues during this relearning process and speeding up recovery times. Also, as the tech captures issues early this should reduce readmittance to hospital due to incorrect use or fitting of prosthetics.

“Even a small positive change can have a large effect in athletics”

 

CAMERA-studio-bathA similar process is being used in the field of athletics where, especially at the professional level, capturing an athlete’s movement in a non-restrictive way can point out small changes in an athlete’s technique which could be made to make real world difference to track times and performance.

dr-aki-solo-camera-bathDr Aki Salo, CAMERA co-investigator (pictured left) explains: “Even a small positive change can have a large effect in athletics”. For example, capturing and analysing the knee angle of a sprinter as they run on a track will allow for more effective training and technique improvements impossible to study with the naked eye. CAMERA is already applying this kind of athletic analysis with British Skeleton.

Academic research done differently

Darren-cosker-cameraCollaboration is key to the CAMERA team, as are results. Dr Darren Cosker, Director of Camera (pictured right) explains that the centre wants to show real results, in timeframes that reflect industry needs: “We want to be reactive. The typical 12 months for a research project in the world of motion capture is too long – we have funding that allows us to react faster – which we need to.”

For Darren the centre needs to make a difference that can be seen: “We want to achieve an impact with CAMERA. We want to go beyond the research paper – we want to take our research out into the real world.” The CAMERA team can also help with getting grants for research, so it’s well worth businesses having a chat with them to see if funding may exist for your research ideas.

They’ve made a good start at being noticed in the real world already, as well as attracting these top names in VFX, health and athletics some of its research caught the attention of BBC news reporter Roland Pease who had his own motion capture close-up at CAMERA earlier this month:

 

What’s more exciting is that it is clear that the centre is involved in a lot more than what was on show at the launch. As Darren explained at the time, “There are a lot of projects in the background already we just can’t talk about.” So watch this space!

You can find out more about CAMERA at the Bath University CAMERA website, or by emailing [email protected]. You can also keep up to date by following them on Twitter: @CAMERA_Bath. And while you are there, why not follow us too? @TECHsparkUK.