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The Future of Filmmaking: Mind’s Eye Tribe’s Intro To MoCap (Motion Capture)

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I remember the first time I fell in love with stunts in films. It was the first Spiderman, the Tobey Maguire one, from way back. I remember as soon as MARVEL flashed across the screen and the music swelled, I fell in love with action filmmaking. Of course, at the time I had no idea acting could be an actual career, let alone action filmmaking. Flash forward many many many years later, and I had the good fortune and pleasure to play a female Sith in the Star Wars fan film “The Force And The Fury.” All of my dancing and athletic background culminated in this performance, and I finally realized that I too could be a superhero or supervillain one day. I started taking stunt and combat classes, but I still felt like something was missing. I still wanted my acting to be front and center. Enter performance capture or motion capture, aka) MoCap.

I had the absolute pleasure of attending Mind’s Eye Tribe’s intro to Motion Capture class in February. The short review of this class is 5 stars, A++ and that it opened my mind to an entirely new form of acting and filmmaking that I didn’t even realize existed. The class was well structured, the teacher knowledgeable and well spoken, and the other students were eager to learn, and interested in helping and supporting each other. When they say it’s a tribe, they really mean it. I felt that as soon as I walked in the door.

On a more granular level, I learned about all the different types of performance capture and motion capture. I learned about the audition process, what to expect on set, and the general rules of performance capture. Most of all, I learned how incredibly fun but also incredibly difficult this skill is, and felt a deep desire to master it. One of the most incredible things about the class was the focus on authenticity in storytelling. While most stunt classes I have taken are more about selling the punch or stunt, this class is all about bringing authenticity to the performance.  This is partly because some of the fights can happen further removed from each other because the animators are able to digitally bring the two performers closer in post, but also because performance capture really is all about the performance. They aren’t just looking for someone to sell a punch, they are looking for someone to bring a story to life, whether it lasts 3 seconds or 30 seconds.

photo courtesy of Mind’s Eye Tribe

If you’ve read this far, it’s probably because you’re truly interested in this new artform so let’s back up and get into the nitty-gritty.

So, what’s is the difference between performance capture and motion capture? Well, today, they are probably used interchangeably but MoCap is the ancestor of PCap. Motion Capture was developed first and is the overall action of capturing an actor’s body movements. The reflective balls you see on Mocap suits were often restricted to the performer’s major joints and wasn’t capturing any facial movement. In 2004 with The Polar Express, Beowolf (2007) and then Avatar (2009) they started to use more advanced technology which started to capture the actor’s performance as well. Hence, performance capture, or PCap was born! There were lots of other incredible things I learned such as the 4 different types of PCap/MoCap, but I’ll just let you take their class and learn it for yourself.

All those technical terms aside, let me gush one more time about the Mind’s Eye Tribe class and community, and give you more information about them. I honestly felt like this class was one of the best acting classes I’ve taken in a long time. Yes, you heard me right, acting class. We went through different exercises and activities that tied together voice acting, performance, and the rules of MoCap. This focus on storytelling, discovery, and authenticity truly showed me where I shine, but also the gaps in my own toolbox. I walked out of that class with a ton of new things I want to learn, but also the overwhelming feeling that this is the future of filmmaking.  I know for sure that this will certainly not be my last MoCap class. In fact, I plan on going to a new one next weekend! I am completely hooked, and just like my acting career, I won’t stop learning and growing until… well, ever.

More Information: Once you take the intro to MoCap class, you can then sign up for a ton of their other workshops including their Action Series, Sword Series, Tactical Series, Creature Series (fantasy, monsters, alien characters, etc), Cinematic Series. They have classes on every weekend but they rotate so if you see a class you want to take, jump on it! It may not be available again for a few months. Did I sell you yet? Check out their class list and hope to see you in class!

Deborah Lee Smith

About Deborah Lee Smith

Deborah Lee Smith is an award-winning actor, producer, and founder of “More Than You See”, a non profit organization dedicated to sharing stories and resources surrounding the daily struggles of mental health. Recent projects include “Here Awhile” starring Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect), and “Last Three Days” starring Robert Palmer Watkins (General Hospital). Deborah is also a regular contributing staff writer for the entertainment website “Ms. In The Biz”.