Virtual
Production Lab

Digital Design

Virtual Production Lab -

Working between the real and virtual worlds

Motion capture – the great enabler of virtual production – is encompassing an ever-expanding practice in film and contemporary art.


Motion capture revolutionised cinematic visual effects at the beginning of the 21st century, with Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings as surely one of the most memorable MoCap characters from that era. Since then, the practice of filming actors to create the ‘skeleton’ and movement of digital characters – and the virtual production practice this enables – has quickly expanded from filmmaking and gaming into a wide range of creative disciplines.

Gregory Bennett, visual artist and senior lecturer in digital design, leads the university’s motion capture (MoCap) undergraduate programme and Innovation in Virtual Production research group. These programmes explore the interface between the real and virtual worlds, developing strong pedagogical outcomes and new opportunities in existing creative fields to ignite innovative art and design production.

AUT’s state-of-the-art MoCap studio and production suite enables students, researchers and industry to use and develop emerging digital 3D technologies. From visual effects and animation to performance and installation, experimental practice using these groundbreaking tools is advancing theoretical discourse, discovery and invention.

3D motion capture, virtual cinematography, live streaming, virtual reality and digitally augmented live performance are some of the many practices engaged in Bennett’s research. With such intuitive and visual tools, students and researchers alike are using novel combinations of technologies and practices to explore more complex, flexible and ‘live’ interplays between real and 3D virtual environments.

Summary

Project name

Virtual Production Lab

Department

Digital Design

Researcher

Gregory Bennett

 

Gregory Bennett

Senior Lecturer Digital Design

Gregory Bennett is a practicing artist who works with 3D animation, motion capture, projection mapping and interactive media. He established the first courses in motion capture at AUT, and his current research into motion capture and virtual production, explores a range of areas including dance, performance, fashion, pedagogy, and virtual reality. In his arts practice, he exhibits locally and internationally and is represented by Two Rooms Gallery in Auckland, New Zealand.

Gregory Bennett, visual artist and senior lecturer in digital design, leads the university’s motion capture (MoCap) undergraduate programme and Innovation in Virtual Production research group. These programmes explore the interface between the real and virtual worlds, developing strong pedagogical outcomes and new opportunities in existing creative fields to ignite innovative art and design production.

AUT’s state-of-the-art MoCap studio and production suite enables students, researchers and industry to use and develop emerging digital 3D technologies. From visual effects and animation to performance and installation, experimental practice using these groundbreaking tools is advancing theoretical discourse, discovery and invention.

3D motion capture, virtual cinematography, live streaming, virtual reality and digitally augmented live performance are some of the many practices engaged in Bennett’s research. With such intuitive and visual tools, students and researchers alike are using novel combinations of technologies and practices to explore more complex, flexible and ‘live’ interplays between real and 3D virtual environments.

Caption: STUDY #1 (2015), Gregory Bennett and Jennifer Nikolai

When artists get their hands on this sort of technology, we see how experimental practice can inform the technology itself.

Gregory Bennett

MoCap in screen dance and arts practice

Bennett has collaborated with dancer/choreographer Jennifer Nikolai in a cross-disciplinary research project exploring the creative potentials of MoCap and animation in dance. Tools such as live streaming and virtual cinematography expand performer awareness, shaping an improvisational practice with a very different spatial awareness to the traditional performance stage.

Captured by 24 surround cameras, the dance data is turned into an animated performance in an abstract virtual world, where the digital character now performs the dance. This creative process expands the practice of two different disciplines in a collaborative and exploratory way, to find entirely new expressions.

Their first film, STUDY #1, references drawing practice and the experimental animation of Len Lye and Norman McLaren, and will be screened at several international dance festivals during 2015.

Bennett’s own digital arts practice examines a range of aesthetic and technical issues around translating embodied live performance into digital movement data. By digitally re-constructing three-dimensional space, his work explores relationships between 'real' space and its re-presentation in virtual form. 

In his work Panopticon I (2015), he employs performance capture to animate a colony of humanoids inhabiting grey cellular buildings and landscapes. The life-like figures bring an uncanny realism to the surreal space of the film, where the architecture, plants and machines rotate, loop and pulsate in a mesmerising dance of order and disorder.