- Associated Press - Sunday, October 9, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Gaming and animation students at Oklahoma Christian University are using cutting-edge technology to capture live motion and impart it to characters on the screen.

“Your body moves in ways that you can’t even comprehend sometimes,” said Jeff Price, professor of gaming and animation. “Being able to track motion in real time with this kind of system, you capture all those little nuances in your movement. That brings an air of realism to a character.”

OC’s gaming and animation program has grown in six years from 15 to 95 students, according to the Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/2dvXnDm ).

The program was taken to a higher level this semester with the opening of the Advanced Visualization Lab featuring the latest motion-capture and virtual-reality software and equipment, Price said.

During a recent demonstration, junior Nick Ewing, of Allen, Texas, wore a full motion-capture suit dotted with markers from head to toe. A circle of infrared cameras tracked his every movement and projected the moving dots on screen.

Those movements were associated with a figure on the screen so the figure moved in tandem with Ewing.

“Somebody using this tracking technology can record somebody pretending to be Godzilla and then marry those two together. So then the animation can take place. And it’s much more fluid looking,” Price said.

It’s a big step up from the somewhat jerky look of frame-by-frame animation, he said.

Moviegoers saw actor Andy Serkis’ movements in the computer-generated character Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy.

But it was a 2009 film that put the technology in the spotlight, said Jeff Beavers with OptiTrack motion-capture systems.

” ‘Avatar’ really got people interested in this kind of technology,” Beavers said. “Pretty much that whole movie was filmed in a giant hangar in Los Angeles where they just had a massive system like this.”

“We offer one of the only four-year degrees in the state and in the region for gaming and animation,” Price said, “and having a system like the mo-cap system allows us to really be on industry standards.”

The program was included three times on The Princeton Review list of Top 25 game schools, coming in at No. 14 last year. For 2016, the survey looked at 150 institutions in the U.S., Canada and abroad, and ranked the Top 50 schools with Oklahoma Christian at No. 29.

The new lab also has virtual reality gear and augmented reality gear. The head-mounted display (HMD) systems give students the illusion they are in the game.

Students can earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in gaming and animation or a Bachelor of Science in computer science.

But applications for the mo-cap and HMD technology reach well beyond the art and design department, said Price, the department chair.

“We want other people on campus and people in the community to come and use this type of technology,” he said.

Practical uses for mo-cap technology include analyzing how a pitcher throws a baseball or the movements of someone with a disability or medical condition.

Virtual reality and augmented reality can be used in training situations, from how to operate machinery safely to military simulations.

Price said the Federal Aviation Administration uses the same game engine used in the OC program for air traffic control simulation.

“It’s exciting to see game technology or animation technology used in ways that are even beyond those industries. That’s what I think is the most exciting,” Price said.

He has begun talking with people in various industries who are interested in partnering with the lab to create new training tools or applications.

“It is my goal for us to have an opportunity to really work with our community and make it a better place, where my students are creating things that help society,” Price said.

“To connect this sort of information with real time data and to be able to visualize that, it’s a futuristic thing that we’re doing here at Oklahoma Christian.”


Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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