Tuesday 9 June 2015

Intel RealSense Hands-on lab


As a mo-cap animator, I was invited this week to an Intel® RealSense™ Hands-on Lab in Berlin. I had the opportunity to discover this new camera and the astonishing features it's offering. Most of all, I was interested in its face-tracking capabilities: eyes, cheeks, shape of lips, expressions, emotions, and so on. Indeed, paired with a motion-capture software like Faceshift, you can get full facial animation and lipsync without any markers needed, as opposed to an optical system.

Faceshift is a very powerful software, but it rely entirely on the camera you are using. I tested it some time ago with the first version of the Kinect sensor, and the results were pretty good. I couldn't wait to see what this one has to offer! We were given a few hours to develop an prototype application using the RealSense camera features.

No app for me, since I'm not from the dark side of programming ;) But I used the time to install a demo of Faceshift and set-up the camera for it. A quick scan of my head transformed a generic head into a 3D model looking disturbingly like me! I refined it by scanning my face, while performing various expressions (BlendShapes): mouth open, frowning, puffed cheeks... I let you imagine the startled programmers looking at me all around! Once finished, I retargeted the face tracking on a 3D head and voilà! Full face tracking in real-time, impressive! I played along with the camera parameters to get the best result possible. And what a result! The high-quality tracking delivered by the camera, paired with Faceshift algorithms met all my expectations. It took me less than an hour to get some results matching industrial standards!

I did not win the top price this day, which was a laptop with an integrated RealSense camera. But still, I was glad to impress everyone with my results and even got a consolation prize, by posting this devilish selfie on Twitter! ;)

A very productive day for sure, I'm really glad I was invited. And I kept the best for last: I was allowed to keep the RealSense camera, so get ready for more exciting projects!

Monday 1 June 2015

It's about time!


No, you are not dreaming... After 2 years of silence, I'm back in the game! Sorry for this, I had my reasons: A great and challenging job on the one hand, and some family action on the other hand, since I am now a happy dad of a little 3D biped (to use field words!). Mommy did an amazing job on the modeling, but the animation part is no picnic, so I'm working hard to get everything smooth :)

Enough with poor excuses! It's about time to dust this blog, get rid of the cobwebs and update my portfolio! Remember, I told you two years ago that I'd worked on two amazing projects: A point-and-click adventure called The Raven, by King Art Games, the amazing German studio that brought us The Book of Unwritten Tales. I worked on in-game animations for the main characters, as well as blocking and camera animation for cut-scenes. Very nice game and thrilling story, I recommend it to all point-and-click and whodunits fans!

After that, I had the opportunity to see one of my dreams come true: Raketenflieger Timmi is a TV-cartoon for children, made by MotionWorks, and aired on the German stations rbb and MDR as part of the show "Unser Sandmännchen", which is more than 50 years old and every German grew up with! Timmi and Teddy, the two heroes, travel through space in their makeshift rocket to visit funny planets. The 3D figures evolve in a handcrafted environment, as made by a child. I animated 4 complete episodes. It was an amazing experience, bringing laugh and joy to a young audience. For a moment, I felt like working on a Pixar movie :)

Finally, I left my freelance work aside and started looking for a full-time job. You know... So I can fill up the fridge once in a while! I found one surprisingly quickly, that had me explore completely new areas. I spent these last 2 years at SportsVF, in Berlin. Our main project was developing an application to reconstruct 3D scenes of any sport event (e.g.: a goal from a football game). We paired it with a second project: an augmented-reality table, offering sportscasters the possibility to visualize and analyse a scene almost in real-time, with a wide range of tools. My main job was taking care of our motion-capture system, directing and integrating more than 500 sports actions. I also designed complex animation networks for footballer behaviours and directed mo-cap sessions for various clients. This has been for sure the most technical job I ever did and I really enjoyed it. I definitely want to keep on exploring and find another job in the mo-cap area.

That's it! You can find more infos about all of this in the projects section. I am now officially looking for a new job in Berlin or some freelance work in the meantime, so feel free to have a look at my LinkedIn and contact me quickly before somebody else does ;)

Have a nice and sunny day! Bye.