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The Biggest Motion Capture Studio in Canada Just Opened

A hefty and healthy visual effects, animation, and games industry has been building in Vancouver over the past several years. Now that industry looks set to benefit from a new motion capture studio – the largest commercial facility in Canada.

Behind the studio is a partnership between Vancouver Film School (VFS) and startup Mimic Performance Capture. The location will be available for students from VFS to use, while also operating as a commercial motion capture facility.

Cartoon Brew spoke to both VFS and Mimic to find out more.

The studio is located at VFS’ film production campus in Vancouver’s Gastown neighborhood. Here, the capture volume is 32,000 cubic feet (40’ x 40’ x 20’). The set-up involves 40 Vicon Vantage cameras, four head-mounted cameras from Standard Deviation, four HD reference cameras, and audio recording services.

The capture studio under construction.
The capture studio under construction.

There are also three 40-foot stunt beams available, since many motion capture sessions often involve stunt work. Other facilities include a foley stage, greenscreen room, green room for actors, an on-site workshop, prop storage, and office space. The capture stage is located three stories underground and is therefore away from traffic or weather noise.

The performance capture studio came about after VFS explored several options for an industry collaboration to provide motion capture at the film campus. The chosen partner, Mimic Performance Capture, is led by president Graham Qually, who had worked in motion capture for several years at Rainmaker Entertainment and Ubisoft.

A view of the capture volume.
A view of the capture volume.

“Graham and VFS have a shared vision to take a giant leap forward in cultivating a world-class performance capture talent pool in Vancouver,” Ted Gervan, vice president of education at VFS, told Cartoon Brew.

“Unquestionably, both the film and gaming industries are booming, both here in Canada, and globally,” added Gervan. “In the history of filmmaking and game design, there has never been a better time to build a career. As a result of the boom, the demand for trained vfx and game designers is at an all-time high and this unique partnership with Mimic, which is the first of its kind ever for any film school in the world, was created to capitalize on this. We want to expose our students to cutting-edge technology that the film industry is going to rely on for tomorrow’s future blockbuster film, TV, and gaming products.”

Workstation set-ups adjacent to the volume.
Workstation set-ups adjacent to the volume.

Already a number of companies are booked in to use the space – the intention is to run the studio as a commercial operation – but it will also be available for student use.

“We are a world-class studio, and we want to stay a world-class studio that is at the fingertips of the students,” said Qually. “Students of VFS will have full access to the facility as well as courses designed and taught by Mimic staff as well as mentorship provided by Mimic staff.”

Close-up view of the Vicon cameras.
Close-up view of the Vicon cameras.

“In addition,” continued Qually, “qualified VFS alumni will also be employed by Mimic on commercial projects for several roles including camera operator, HMC operator, video editor, audio (recordists, engineers, and boom operators), motion editors, actors, and prop masters, for example.”

The facilities will have no shortage of potential clients. Some of the biggest visual effects studios now have major operations in Vancouver, including MPC, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Digital Domain, Double Negative, Image Engine, and ILM. Animation studios are also in the vicinity, including Rainmaker, Animal Logic, and Nitrogen Studios (recently acquired by Cinesite). Not to mention the games studios that are also entrenched in the Vancouver area, with EA and Capcom among the major employers.

  • Bobby Wilson

    for big movies like dreamworks/pixar/illumination level, is mo-cap still used heavily? i dont see the point of mo-capping a cartoon character like the minions

    • GraphEditor

      None of the companies you named use mocap in their final work, other than occasionally for previs/storyboard purposes. It’s primarily used in VFX for hyper-realistic humanoid motions, or for realistic video games.