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How to recreate Gollum with four consumer camcorders

Thursday, August 29th, 2013 | Posted by Jim Thacker

Fabrice Visserot, former lead artist in Eurocom’s facial animation team, has decided to put some career down time to good use by creating one of the most impressive one-person tech demos we’ve seen in ages.

The video above shows Visserot re-enacting Gollum’s famous ‘split personality’ sequence from The Two Towers. According to his website, the animation is purely driven by the motion capture, with no manual clean-up.

Even more impressively, that motion capture was recorded on a homebrew set-up created using nothing more than four Samsung HMX-H300 consumer camcorders.

Creating a home facial capture studio
According to Visserot’s website, he chose the HMX-H300 as “the cheapest cameras I could find at the time with manual control over the exposure and focus”.

Although the HMX-H300’s rolling shutter and lack of proper sync capabilities marginally reduced capture accuracy, Visserot was enable to track 120 facial markers at 120fps.

Not every part of Visserot’s set-up was consumer-level, however. The mocap data itself was generated with Movimento, originally a $19,000 application when RealViz released it in 2006.

The package was later discontinued when Autodesk acquired the developer.

Created in Max, Maya, Mudbox and Arnold
Visserot also wrote a custom Maya tool to stabilise the motion capture and ‘sculpt’ the motion to match the proportions and flow of the CG character, which was modelled in 3ds Max and Mudbox, and rendered in Arnold.

The facial rig uses 120 joints drive a first layer of animation, finessed using corrective blend shapes and vector displacement. Visserot used Mudbox to generate the vector displacement maps.

All in all, it’s an amazing piece of work. Visserot even does a pretty darn good job of emulating original Gollum voice actor Andy Serkis.

Read more about the Gollum tech demo on Fabrice Visserot’s website

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