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The Graphic Film Company Relies on Markerless Mo Cap for Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D


Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D
Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D

Los Angeles-based The Graphic Film Company recently relied on iPi Soft’s markerless motion capture software to deliver visual effects for Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D, a 3D animated reboot of the original 1968 horror classic. The software enabled the company to create massive amounts of zombie action and seamlessly integrate it with the its existing workflow.

“There are a scant few examples of animated horror films, let alone ones that honor a classic like Night of the Living Dead, but this project is very special,” said Michael Nikonov, iPi Soft’s chief technology architect.

Produced by Hollywood filmmaker Simon West (The Expendables 2, Con Air, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider) and Jib Polhemus, and directed by Krisztian Majdik and Zebediah De Soto, Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D is a 3D animated retelling of the 1968 George Romero-directed zombie classic.

The highly-stylized film, with a look somewhere between 3D animation and a graphic novel, centers on a group of desperate survivors fighting to stay alive barricaded in an abandoned apartment building. Confined, cut off from the world and under constant attack from the undead hordes closing in around them, the six main characters struggle to survive, while also confronting their own sense of compassion and humanity.

Undertaking a completely 3D animated feature of this scale on an indie film budget, required an innovative workflow that relied heavily on motion capture, which Anthony Hoit, The Graphic Film Company’s chief systems administrator and stereographer/technical director on the film, said was 90-percent of the production.

Hoit explained that the project first began to take shape about three years ago when production began at L.A.’s Giant Studios, where they shot the principal motion capture with the main cast (including actor Tom Sizemore) using a traditional motion capture stage set up with sensor suits.

From there, the project moved into post with Hoit and The Graphic Film Company’s team of as many as 20 animators and visual effects artists using iPi Motion Capture to create much of the zombie action seen in the middle and background scenes.

For Hoit, it was iPi Soft’s ease of use and high quality motion data captured that provided the technical advantage from both a creative and a budget prospective.

“What most impressed me was how easy it was to take an idea, capture it with iPi Motion Capture, clean it up using 3D animation tools like Motion Builder or Maya, and drop it into a scene,” said Hoit. “We’re talking a total time from concept to scene file of about 30 minutes. That’s pretty amazing.”

With members of the post team acting the movement, they were able to capture the motion right in the studio and composite it onto one of the many animated zombie character models they had already designed. Because iPi Motion Capture easily integrates with all of the leading 3D animation tools, they were able to take complex sequences and finish them in much less time than it would have taken with traditional CG animation techniques.

“Postproduction technology is changing very rapidly and integrating new software like iPi Motion Capture into our pipeline has helped streamline and speed our postproduction process,” said Hoit. “One of the aspects of our company that is different than a lot of others is our forward-thinking approach to adopting and creating new technologies. That mindset is one of the reasons why we were able to complete 90-minutes of complex 3D animation on the budget of an independent movie.”

Night of the Living Dead: Origins 3D will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16. It is scheduled for theatrical release in Fall 2014.

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