Doggie data to aid actors playing animated animals

Scientists at the University of Bath are developing a new technique that will use the movements of a two-legged human actor to drive a four-legged animal character.

BRITAIN (REUTERS) - Snowy the dog is wearing a motion capture suit.

She is working with a visual effects team from the University of Bath to help human actors be more like her.

Martin Parsons, head of studio at Camera, University of Bath, says: "People have done humans, and they've done humans to apes. But when you're trying to go radically different - from a human to a quadruped - then you can't really do traditional retargeting tools. So what we're doing is actually building a database of animal movement. And we're going to teach the computer how to replace a human with animal movement, sourcing it from the database."

Dogs are first suited up in coats with coloured patterns and reflective markers.

These help the ultra-high definition and motion tracking cameras work out where she is in space, and create a 3D reconstruction.

Actors playing animals will still be able to perform naturally, but the computer will automatically take them from two legs to four.

Says Mr Parsons: "They could move around like an animal, but then we could replace their actual movement with the appropriate animal movement. So they would still be playing as if they were an animal, but their directional movement would be completely replaced with animal movement...

"Rather than just taking the actor's gait and putting two extra legs on the back of them, we're actually saying we're looking at how would an actual animal move at that speed and in that direction."

Researchers are now building a library of movement data from different dog breeds.

They plan to expand the project to cats next year and eventually see a time where actors will be able to transform into any kind of animal avatar.