From medicine to the movies and back

17 Feb 2017

His company has created computer generated images for Titanic and Paddington, turned Coldplay into Apes, and helped improve the lives of children with severe disabilities. Now he’s also imparting his knowledge of motion capture technology to the next generation of animators and filmmakers.  

Dr Tom Shannon from Vicon Motion Systems visited SAE this week, walking students through his revolutionary technology.

“You may or may not know, but the largest company in the world that does optical motion capture is based here in Oxford,” said Dr Shannon, whose company has won an Academy-Award, an Emmy and several Queen's Awards for Export & Innovation.

Dr Shannon discussed with students the process of motion capture, which involves recording human movement and turning it into digital images.

“Initially this technology was used for clinical gait analysis,” Dr Shannon explained.

“In 1996, the director of Mary Reilly starring Julia Roberts wanted a realistic way to capture Mr Hyde emerging from Dr Jekyll.”

From the hills of Hollywood, Vicon was called upon to assist and the Oxford-based medical technology became a powerhouse in the entertainment industry.

Students learnt yesterday how Vicon is now being used to capture complex facial movements, and turn live actors into animated characters.

As it advances, experts believe more cinematic work will use the Vicon system to create digitally animated extras rather than hired actors.

The picture above is courtesy of the Press Association.