Motion Capture Artist

  • Motion Capture Artist

The motion capture artist works closely with the direction team and actors from pre-production through post in creating computer-generated characters who move, interact, and look just as lifelike on the screen as real people. Far beyond just generating a digital cast member, the motion capture artist and his or her crew strive to create a digital actor whose performance is no less convincing than the flesh-and-blood counterpart. The unsettlingly foreign-yet-familiar feel of the alien “prawns” in District 9 is owed to dozens of talented mocap artists (among other visual effects artists including animators, compositors, cinematographers, and more). 


In addition to recording the motion capture, the artist is responsible for setting up shots, fitting the actor with the necessary marker suit, and preparing specialized props. Post-capture, the artist creates a preliminary 3D computer character model using video capture software. With the help of software pipelines like Maya and MotionBuilder, motion capture artists add texture to the scene and edit footage, cleaning up and correcting the motion captured in individual frames. Everything from skin, hair, and clothing to tentacles, horns, and extra limbs is added digitally. What is at first only a wireframe skeleton of a potential character is transformed by the motion capture artist into a living being. 

Skills & Education

A degree in computer animation, graphic design, or a closely related field is a requirement for a motion capture artist. He or she must be a skilled technician and talented artist, capable of translating artistic concepts to the digital medium. Training in computer programming, video production, and fine art will help you to develop the multifaceted skills that are required to work on the industry’s biggest and most expensive-to-produce releases. Becoming experienced in the use of motion analysis software and hardware (like motion analysis and eye-tracking monitors) is crucial. Familiarizing yourself with the most current technology and staying on top of trends in emerging products will give you a leg up in your career. 

What to Expect

This is not a solitary occupation. Like most areas of film and television production, motion capture is a collaborative process. You will work closely with actors, directors, technicians, and other artists. A cooperative attitude and willingness to adapt to changing needs of the production are important. You must be comfortable directing actors and technicians, but also able to take direction and perform professionally. The environment is fast-paced, with no room for mistakes. In digital animation, like all arts forms, the critics are unforgiving and the clients demand their product be flawless. If you thrive under pressure and are detail-obsessed and hyper-organized, you could break new ground in the still evolving realm of computer-generated graphics.


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