Mo-capturing Sir Simon Rattle

Renowned conductor, Sir Simon Rattle, has been recorded by the University of Portsmouth’s motion capture team who used the technique to record his movements and help turn them into art.

The technique of digitally recording patterns of movement was used to capture the distinguished conductor at the Barbican in London conducting Elgar. The results have been used to create a new brand for the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) to mark Sir Simon’s appointment there as music director and to launch their new season of music.

Sir Simon Rattle and his Mo-Cap twin

Sir Simon Rattle and his Mo-Cap twin

The University Mo-Cap team used special cameras to film Sir Simon wearing a motion capture suit and gloves and using a baton covered in reflective markers to capture the movement of his upper body, arms, hands and fingers. The movement of his left hand’s thumb, index and little finger were also captured to recreate his hand gestures.

The amazing footage was used to create a film showing Sir Simon next to his twin, a 3D animated mirror image. Motion graphics designer, Tobias Gremmler, used this to develop his own unique film which portrays how Sir Simon’s movements are distilled into new brand artwork and for the LSO.

Alex Counsell led the University’s MoCap team to set up the motion capture system in the Choir Room of the Barbican Centre in London. They had just 45 minutes to capture Sir Simon’s movements in between his morning and afternoon rehearsals with the LSO. He said:

“We tested the set-up in advance and had Sir Simon in the suit as soon as he arrived. I think he was bemused by our unusual baton but he was a total professional and when the music came on he simply performed.

Preparing Sir Simon Rattle for Mo-Cap

The team prepare Sir Simon

“A specially adapted digital skeleton setup was used to generate Sir Simon’s movements for the final animation. Using high resolution cameras recording at 120 frames per second meant we could capture extremely accurate data that represented Sir Simon’s movements exactly, and produce the highest quality motion capture possible. Special software allowed real time preview on the day so that Sir Simon was able to see instant playback of his movements after each take. He could also see the ‘motion trails’ which replicated his movements in way he had not seen before.

“As a team we had to get everything right first time and I think we were all relieved when the shoot was over and we had our amazing footage in the bag.”

Alex’s team in the School of Creative Technologies was approached by the LSO’s agency, The Partners, in March 2016 after they had seen the University MoCap website. Alex immediately contacted Vicon, pioneers in MoCap technology, who agreed to partner with the University on the project.

Creating a new visual identity for the LSO

Creating a new visual identity for the LSO

Alex said: “I could see from the beginning that it was an amazing opportunity to be part of something special. After the shoot I knew we had what was needed for the next part of the project and when I saw how the designer had used the footage I was blown away. It’s a unique example of MoCap translated into art and used to embody the essence of a brand.”

Student Joe Ponsford was on his placement year from the BSc (Hons) Computer Animation course and had the opportunity to be a part of the project. He said while he was used to working on MoCap, the difference this time was that it was Sir Simon in the suit.

“It’s not every day you work with someone who has a knighthood! Working at the Barbican was quite a stressful experience – you have to get it right first time – but it was a fantastic opportunity and a memory I will cherish for a very long time.”


Article courtesy of the UoP Press Office

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