Real-Time Motion Capture Brings David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust Back To Life

The iconic 70’s character makes an appearance at this year’s Infinity Festival in Hollywood. 

This weekend the second annual Infinity Festival opened its doors at the Goya Film Studios in the heart of Hollywood, offering guests the chance to attend a killer lineup of panels lead by Hollywood storytelling professionals and go hands-on with groundbreaking 5G, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and immersive technology. 

The event kicked off Thursday evening with an opening party on the rooftop of the Dream Hotel in Hollywood. Among the attendees were VIP’s, event organizers, and Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie’s iconic androgynous sci-fi rockstar character made famous in his fifth studio album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Brought to life via a combination of motion capture technology and Unreal Engine, guests at both the party and the weekend event were able to view the digital model on a massive 8K Samsung monitor and interact with the character in real-time.

Powered by Hewlett-Packard and Intel hardware, the avatar was controlled by a nearby actor wearing an Xsens motion capture suit and Dynamixyz head cam, the 3D avatar mirrored the actions of the performer, giving the model a more natural demeanor. The Dymnamixyz facial tracking system mounted near the actors face captured minute changes in the user’s expressions, adding an additional layer of detail and expression to the model.  

“David Bowie was my inspiration for this piece. In his life, he pushed the boundaries in everything he did. Even after his death, he’s still at the bleeding edge of creativity! And long may that continue,” says John MacInnes, co-founder of MacInnes Scott, the company behind David Bowie Is Unreal.

Image Credit: VRScout

“My lightbulb moment was when I first saw one of the characters I’d created on the page come to life in digital form in the game. The character was as real as anything character you’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster, but the game character existed in three dimensions and you could interact with him. With the quality of the content starting to match that of traditional VFX pipelines, it’s inevitably going to shaking things up.”

“Just look at The Lion King. It made $1.3 billion dollars. It’s Disney’s highest-grossing animated movie ever, and it was made using a game engine. I believe that in the not too distant future the majority of movies will be made this way.”

Image Credit: MacInnes Scott

I had the chance to check out the installation myself while attending Infinity Festival this past Friday, and while it’s definitely an impressive use of the technology, it was still a relatively simplistic demonstration — at least the one shown to the public. While the Xsens suit and head cam accurately tracked the movements of the actor, the Bowie avatar remained consistently stone-faced throughout the entirety of my viewing. Whether or not that was a technical limitation or a choice for this particular demonstration remains to be seen. 

Image Credit: VRScout

Other interesting Infinity Festival installations included a volumetric 3D choreographed dance routine inspired by the film Grease. Using a tablet device, attendees could walk around the scene and view the action from a variety of angles in AR. Also in attendance was another volumetric performance, Kiira Benzing’s Runnin’ starring Reggie Watts, which was available to view on a Looking Glass 3D display

David Bowie Is Unreal was developed by the award-winning team at MacInnes Scott using the Unreal Engine and funded in part by a Mega Grant from Epic Games.

Feature Image Credit: MacInnes Scott

About the Scout

Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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