Training Camp, 2016. Dual channel HD computer-generated film.
This film depicts a kind of call-and-response exercise routine between a single Roman soldier and a battalion. The motion being performed is a found file, encountered when browsing the online mocap library TrueBones, and was just one of many indexed simply as "Gay". The selected motion was then mapped to an army of preset Roman soldier characters from crowd simulation plugin Golaem.
Although mocap seems like a new technology, it’s as old as the computer itself. In 1964 at New York’s World Fair, Disney premiered their “Waldo Suit” which was the first motion registration system to fix tracking markers to a dancer’s body. Since the 1980s, there has been a steady stream of proprietary mocap systems claiming to offer more fidelity and flexibility with their cost effective, compact and intelligent systems. Yet mocap has still not taken off in the way early adopters imagined. Motion capture files often include a lot of noise that's hard to clean up. They take a long time to manipulate and are not always compatible with traditional keyframe animation.
In this kind of climate, many animators, game artists and VR developers use motions off the shelf, and therefore propagate an index of motions that may date back five, ten or twenty years. With no standardised archival procedure, it's difficult or impossible to track the origins, provenance and ownership of these data sets, many of which will have had close ties to certain academic institutions, proprietary (and obsolete) technologies or long bankrupt or bought-out companies. The material history of mocap data is cloudy: we don't know who created these motions, when they were made and for what purpose. Did they improvise? Who cleaned up the data? Who paid their salaries, or were they even paid at all? Was the dancer simply obeying orders?