Hey! Alexis here again, Technical Artist at Imaginary Spaces.

Took some time last week to test out motion capture workflows with the Microsoft Kinect! The above video is the final product after roughly two days of work; my final verdict is that while the device won't keep up if you want to do somersaults, any deliberate and forward facing movement will get captured pretty well.

After some reflection I decided to go with the story of an average commuter daydreaming about life as a conductor - I'd only need a single character in a mostly figurative environment and I could get away with motion that would show off emotion while not being too much for the sensor to handle.

If you'd like to try it out as well, here's what you have to do,  assuming you're also like me using an Xbox 360 Kinect on Windows:

  1. Install the Kinect SDK v1.8.
  2. Install Motionbuilder 2018. Autodesk has unfortunately removed the Kinect input device in more recent releases.
  3. Plug in your Kinect. If all works out, you should see a bunch of Kinect devices show up in your device manager.
  4. Open Motionbuilder and follow the steps outlined in the Autodesk documentation. It's relevant to note that you might have to switch the MocapCharacter character solver to "MB Character Solver" in your character panel for the device to calibrate properly.

Using the recorded output with a game engine was much less painful than I thought it'd be. Unity's re-targeting is good enough that using the stock Motionbuilder character as a recording source would have been viable - I still took the time to properly rig mine to be able to characterize it in Motionbuilder to be able to preview it properly in DCC. Just follow proper nomenclature!

The rest of it was pretty run of the mill; After wrapping up my trusty humanoid character base in an outfit using Marvelous Designer and surfacing the whole thing in Substance painter I just sent everything into Unity for sequencing!

Workflow

I can definitely see myself using the Kinect again in the future for various projects. It's a cheap, surefire way to get reasonably sturdy full-body animation that doesn't require putting on a suit or fiddling with a finicky recording setup. I wonder if I could get the same results in-engine? Guess that's one more thing on the to-do list!

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