Thursday, March 1st, 2012 Posted by Jim Thacker

IKinema releases IKinema Action 2 for Maya

IKinema has released an update to its mocap plugin for Maya, newly rechristened IKinema Action 2.

IKinema Action 2 (it used to be plain ‘IKinema’ but has presumably been renamed to avoid confusion with the company itself or its games middleware solution of the same name) provides a real-time solution for streaming, retargeting, marker solving or editing capture data.

One of the unique selling points of the plugin is that it enables users to stream mocap data directly into Maya rather than bringing it in via MotionBuilder. Action is compatible with Vicon and Xsens mocap systems.

The software is in use at Framestore, Disney and ILM and now leading UK mocap studio Audiomotion. IKinema’s technology also forms the basis for the new IK solver in modo 601, relased yesterday.

The news release below is unusual, in that it presumes (perhaps correctly) that you don’t already know what IKinema Action is, so it focuses more on what the software can do than what’s new in version 2.

From what we can see from the website, that’s primarily the new StretchIK solver for cartoon rigs, however.

IKinema 2 Action is available now for Maya 2009 and above for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux, price £890. That figure will change at the end of March, so we’ll update when we find out what the new price will be.

Updated 2 March: The price quoted above (£890/$980) is actually the new price. Until 1 April, the software is available for its original price of $495 for a node-locked licence or $742 for a floating licence.

Industry heads are turning to IKinema for its powerful full body solver, and advanced animation processes. Leading studios, the likes of Framestore, 20th Century Fox, Disney, and Industrial Light & Magic have since integrated IKinema Action to help with their motion capture, marker solving, and retargeting work. Now, Audiomotion Studios, UK motion capture experts are fast realizing the advancements made to their pipeline using IKinema’s technology.

Action enhances Maya’s toolset, and outperforms other solvers for speed and robustness. After realizing the artists’ need for increased flexibility to bone manipulation, StretchIK became an important addition to the newly released 2.0.

Always looking to advance their pipeline, Tim Doubleday, Audiomotion’s Creative Director comments. “In the past we’ve relied on MotionBuilder for our body solving from markers and more recently we’ve added Vicon’s Blade software into the pipeline. These solutions work well but still limit some body movement, mainly getting the arms and clavicles to move naturally as well as the spine and neck.”

Audiomotion makes use of Action’s advanced features for a one to one match of an actor’s skeleton. The spine and neck stretch capabilities come into play where the rig behaves more naturally, and especially for hard to solve poses.

Doubleday points out, “A classic example of this and one which is very common in videogames is when the actor is in a squat position with their shoulders hunched forwards. There are a number of things that are affecting the rig, the position of the hips and the bend of the knees. There is also a lot of compression on the spine and finally there are the clavicles which are arched forwards.”

He found that traditionally individual input was required to achieve better results, for example, manually keying hip position, adding pull to arms to bring clavicles forwards. He goes on to say: “By using IKinema’s full body solver and the new stretch feature, this becomes less of an issue.”

Doubleday’s testing of 2.0 beta found StretchIK a time-saving addition. Scalable bones increased the look of his animation, and aided the solver for complex moves, “Our goal is to try and match what our actors do as closely as possible and IKinema takes us one step closer to achieving this.”

Enabling the user to perform direct changes to skeleton and animation assets within Maya’s viewport, Action provides a simplistic and manageable environment. Smooth and speedy integration are key ingredients to pull a studio to its feet, taking Audiomotion only a couple of weeks. Feeling like he’s just ‘scratching the surface’, the more Doubleday uses Action the more ideas are revealed, “I’ve recently being animating fingers using IKinema, and we’re looking to use it for real-time streaming from Vicon Blade.”

On comparisons between IKinema to other products, Doubleday comments, “We’ve used both MotionBuilder and Vicon Blade in the past but IKinema offers a lot more control and flexibility when it comes to full body solving. We’ll definitely offer it to our clients and continue to use it internally.”

Read more about the features of IKinema Action 2

Download a trial version of IKinema 2