Motion Bank: Two

Re-imagining Choreographic Ideas

Posts from the “Motion capture” Category

Preview: Bebe Miller Company, Memory Set

Posted on November 24th, 2013

I am very interested in the layers of remembered events we pass through daily.  Humans are built on memory.” —– Bebe Miller

Image from Video of Verge Redux, January 2013. (Pictured from Left: Bebe Miller, Angie Hauser, Darrell Jones)

As we work to complete our TWO project and prepare the assets for publication in the interface developed by Motion Bank, I thought it would be nice to post a few images and quotes from choreographers Thomas Hauert and Bebe Miller. In a series of posts starting today I will sample what we will premiere next week.


The Motion Bank interface is set up in “sets” that are devised by the makers but they also hope that in the future, visitors to the site will be able to make their own preferred sets of related information. The four sets that we have curated for this premiere on Thursday November 28th focus on a handful of the mind/body strategies that these makers use in creating performance improvisation. For example, Bebe Miller has a longstanding interest in memory and the histories we carry in our bodies. One strategy she and her company have devised over the years is a way of working they call Redux.


In our Memory Set for Motion Bank, we have video, textual scores, information graphics, and two interactive games that bring you into an encounter with Miller’s work and the possibilities of memory as rich resource for creativity.

Screenshot from Redux Interactive

There is an aspect of improvisation that asks you to shuffle through the various layers of right now in order to respond directly to the situation. We as a company have invested many years in researching this relationship between memory and the dynamics of body/mind/place/time. Redux is one example of this. ” —– Bebe Miller

Risky Weight in Bebe Miller’s work

Posted on July 12th, 2013

One of the ongoing interests in our project is Bebe Miller Company’s use of what they call Risky Weight. In developing our terminology, Norah and graduate research assistant Malory Spicer have been compiling descriptions of Risky Weight from the dancers, Bebe, Talvin Wilks the dramaturge, and our consulting Laban Movement Analyst Melanie Bales. When reading these descriptions I was drawn to this definition of Risky Weight: the whole weight is a little more at risk and less linear and sequential to the body.


As we were working on this concept, Norah asked me about the possibility of tracking center of gravity in motion capture data and adding this information to our understanding of Risky Weight, a concept that has to do both with the viewer’s perception and the dancer’s use of his or her weight and gravity. To open this description further I assumed that this means creating situations when a performer’s body gets close to losing its balance, subsequently gaining stability.


In researching center (and line) of gravity and base of support in relationship to risky weight I discovered several perspectives on the estimation and perception of body balance. The precise biomechanics based estimation requires knowing the body weight and considering percentage of that weight associated with particular part of a body (see calculations detail in this ASU Biomechanics explanation).  The visual perception perspective, based on the qualitative approach to this problem in animation is reflected in the collection of tutorials at the Animation Physics website.  It demonstrates that a less precise approach to estimating center of gravity is still valid as long as the main principle is followed:

The body is off balance when the Center of Gravity (CG) is outside the Base of Support (BS). Thus the most stable position is when the two overlap (ie the person is laying flat on the floor), the next best thing is when the CG is directly above the BS.


Since Motionbuilder (our motion capture processing software) provides a basic operator which can estimate the CG (not as precise as biomechanics approach, but perhaps close enough), I used it to visualize the relationship of Center of Gravity, Line of Gravity (vertical line passing through the CG into the ground) and Base of Support. This exploration in Bebe’s work seems useful since the risk the performer takes is that of falling, which happens when their body is off balance.


In order to establish the BS I connected each foot’s ball and heel joints of the mocap skeleton into a rectangle stretched between the two feet.  The BS is reduced to a triangle when one of the joints is off the ground and to the area of one foot when the other foot is lifted. My threshold for when the foot is considered to be off the ground is set to 20cm to avoid excessive flickering caused by frequent shape change for the base of support, this can certainly be adjusted for higher precision if necessary.


This quick study may reveal that the qualitatively observed risky weight aspect of Darrell’s performance probably does not come from the state of physical imbalance. The occurrences and durations of this state are not that significant. Again, I am inclined to hypothesize that the viewer’s anticipation of the body becoming off balance is what creates the impression of Risky Weight but there is more to be explored here.


– Vita Berezina-Blackburn, Animation Specialist/ACCAD

Momentum in Bebe Miller’s work

Posted on July 8th, 2013

In examining the motion capture work from our January residency with Bebe Miller Company we are becoming interested in the possibility of tracing the momentum transfer through the body. The paths of momentum transfer reveal patterns of movement sequencing in the body. In both Darrell’s and Angie’s performances it is evident that several motions often happen concurrently. Performative tendencies that focus on simultaneity and dis-coordination of body segment motions are likely to interrupt viewer’s ability to anticipate movement and thus create fresh and surprising performance qualities.


There are a number of ways to approach visual representation of movement sequencing, and I thought it might be interesting to see this by making visible the sequences of joint rotations.  To set up this visualization I hypothesized that the initiating joint would rotate first, sending the waves of sequential rotations to the other parts of the body.  In the video of Darrell’s performance it is easy to notice many instances when sequences of joint rotations are initiated simultaneously or with minor offsets in time . I have used color coding to present two types of joint movement analysis.  The red figure indicates angular/rotation speed of joints (A) (the brighter the red the higher the speed), the green figure indicates linear speed of joints’ locomotion (L). As opposed to joint rotation speed, visualization of the linear (joint translation through space) shows a more even speed value distribution that is more sequential.


Since these may be a bit hard to notice at high playback speed of the captured motion this movie is at 1/4th speed.


While working on ideas about momentum I ran across a video on momentum transfer in parkour.   In this video, the second jump comes as a surprise. In order to get additional momentum to make the second jump possible, the landing position after the first jump had to be exaggerated… At a quick glance the shape of the body at the time of the first landing seemed to be that of trying to slow down.  By exaggerating this pose through leaning back and further lifting the arms backwards, it is possible to gain additional momentum. This hidden quality of getting the additional momentum is very intriguing as it also serves as a way of hiding anticipation of subsequent action. This triggers parallels between the animation concepts of motion anticipation and exaggeration and Bebe Miller’s ideas of “interrupting the inevitable” as well as “furthering”.


– Vita Berezina-Blackburn, Animation Specialist/ACCAD

Animation and Choreography in the classroom

Posted on June 18th, 2013

The relationship between choreography and animation is symbiotic. Each time Norah and I collaborate across our disciplines, we reaffirm the desire to construct a course that explores both choreographic and animation approaches to movement, by integrating both dancers and animators. (I don’t know of any example of such a course existing in college curricula, but if you have knowledge about it – please send us a note.)


This Motion Bank project has inspired us to try an exercise in getting animators and dancers working together. Using our two co-scheduled Spring 2013 courses (Expressive Animation and Interdisciplinary Creative Research Seminar), we designed an experience for our animation and dance students that engaged them with Thomas Hauert’s Careful Scientist exercise.


We began by introducing the students to Thomas’s exercise by looking at a video of his performance.  In the Careful Scientist exercise, Hauert defines a limited set of instructions or rules for moving the body. He defines the rules of the system in such a way that they challenge mind/body habits.  In order for the students to better understand the work, concentration and coordination necessary for this exercise we had them practice some of the basic concepts by trying these movements in groups with others assisting.  Next we presented the students with some of the data of the Careful Scientist that we had motion captured during one of Thomas’s residencies at ACCAD. This provided a rich data resource of 3D positions and timings that describe the movement.  We then challenged the students to reuse existing motion captured movement data to re-imagine and design a new system of relationships, driven by existing movement data to become a new movement phenomenon. Three outcomes from that assignment follow,  accompanied by the students’ explanations.


Flowers by Maddy Varner and Daniel Diller

Concept: “We are using the data of an unnatural movement process and placing it on a natural environment. We are creating movement in the animation that is driven by external forces (like wind) while the careful scientist is propelled by internal choices. “

Tech Notes: “Upper Arm Pointing data occurs on the X and Z axes of the shoulder joint and is assigned to the direction of the flower stems movement (making them look like they’re being blown by the wind). Shoulder Rotation data occurs on the Y-axis of the shoulder joint and is assigned to the wilting and blossoming of the flower heads. Elbow Flexion data occurs on the Z and X axes of the elbow joint and is assigned to the growth of the flowers. Forearm Rotation data occurs on the Y-axis of the elbow joint and controls the color of the flowers. “


Spork! by Jonathan Welch

Concept: “I used a motion capture of the Careful Scientist by Thomas Hauert to create a visual parody on the hybrid theme prevalent in art and technology work. All the motion is a combination of the Careful Scientist, at different speeds and directions, with altered key frames to influence the gestures and correct for problems translating a human’s motion to the altered anatomy of the characters. The combined motion is intended to be dis-articulated, awkward, and hyper extended; alluding to a dysfunctional parental couple whose behavior is compounded through their child. “
Tech notes: “To start, I sped up the motion capture data, duplicated it, translated it forward, and attached both to the spoon. Then I duplicated the motion again, and broke it down into key frames in places where the hand went through the head and moments that I decided to make the existing gestures more like an argument. I wanted the fork to have a slightly different personality, so I took the key frame motion path, duplicated it, reversed it and attached the motion to the fork. The spork’s motion is the same as the spoon, without the argument key frames, and not quite as fast. “


Ontology of Thomas Hauert’s ‘Careful Scientist‘: Judith Butler’s reading of Derridean “Citationality” by Carolin Scheler and Kaustavi Sarkar

Concept:  “Dance scholar Susan Leigh Foster describes improvisation in dance as ‘bodyful’ dwelling in the perceptual gap of the conscious and the unconscious. Continuing the quest of the unknown through digital inscription of dance, we argue that digital ontology exists in corporeal materiality of the performing body as performatively, affectively and digitally mediated in the animation of Hauert’s Careful Scientist. Through Butler’s reading of ‘citationality’, in which ‘matter is constructed not as a site but as a process of materialization that stabilizes over time to produce the effect of boundary, fixity, and surface we call matter’, the digital is ontologized in Hauert’s performativity.”

Tech Notes:

Diagram to explain motion capture data mapping to 3D geometry

Diagram of motion capture data mapping to 3D geometry

ACCAD animation specialist and motion capture expert Vita Berezina-Blackburn has continuously pushed our Center in thinking about unconventional ways to use captured motion. As an animation artist and collaborator on Bebe Miller’s Landing Place her work demonstrated the aesthetic beauty that can result from expertly combining captured motion and form. Take a look at some of Vita’s work from Landing Place.


– Maria

Careful Scientist Choice and Timing Analysis

Posted on June 16th, 2013

In an effort to make visible the choices that each performer makes in performing the Careful Scientist exercise, we devised a motion capture analysis algorithm to track data captured in different performers execution of the Careful Scientist.   OSU graduate research assistant J. Eisenmann designed the algorithm which is run on the motion capture files and identifies which action is happening on which arm and over what amount of time (in frames).   An example of the data list that the algorithm generates from one of Thomas Hauert’s motion captured performances of the exercise:   Who   Frame, Action,    L/R side ———————————— Thomas,1591,3_ElbowFlex,L, Thomas,1645,1_UpperArmPointing,R, Thomas,1877,4_ForearmRotation,L, Thomas,2086,3_ElbowFlex,R, Thomas,2262,1_UpperArmPointing,L, Thomas,2470,2_ShoulderRotation,R, Thomas,2766,4_ForearmRotation,L, Thomas,2955,3_ElbowFlex,R, Thomas,3154,1_UpperArmPointing,L, Thomas,3478,4_ForearmRotation,L, Thomas,3533,1_UpperArmPointing,R, Thomas,3751,3_ElbowFlex,L, Thomas,4007,3_ElbowFlex,R, Thomas,4190,4_ForearmRotation,L,   After the algorithm generates the data list, we then…

Motion Capture for Analysis

Posted on May 14th, 2012

We have done several optical motion captures with Angie and Darrell.  In our January motion capture session, they were both asked to start with some improvisation as Bebe directed them towards her choreographic interests. This was a session intended to capture some of Bebe’s choreographic tendencies as a numeric representation. As we have found in the past,  the visual reduction aspect of motion capture, in which only the motion capture “skeleton” represents the body,  is most helpful when reading complex motion.  Analysis of the numbers, values and their relationships will take us longer.  We are currently pouring through this data, which contains many frames and layers of information on joint angles, timing and spacing. What is optical motion capture? – Our optical system uses…