Dog and Dinosaur
When BBC producers decided to create virtual characters for Dog &Dinosaur-a talk show "hosted" by two animated characters who interact withlive guests-they turned to budget performance capture.
The Dog and Dinosaur characters were created by San Francisco-basedProtozoa, which produced the first 20 episodes at its San Francisco studioin realtime. Protozoa used its proprietary ALIVE performance animationsoftware in conjunction with the magnetic Ascension Motion Starmotion-capture system to animate the show live to tape. Eventually,production will switch to the BBC's London headquarters and the "amazinglyinexpensive" Protozoa system will go with it, says Jeremy Daldry, aproducer for BBC Choice, the network that hosts Dog & Dinosaur.
"The BBC chose this technology because of their economic dynamic," saysBrad deGraf, founder of Protozoa and an early pioneer of digitalperformance animation. "The system allowed them to produce 20-plusepisodes, with the two characters on screen for more than 15 minutes perepisode, at a very low cost. We did 10 complete episodes in two weeks,averaging about 200 shots a day. The reason this is possible is because,once the character models have been built, there is no more hand animationinvolved other than occasional tweaking."
Protozoa used Nicheman animation software to build the initial models ofthe two characters. The company then used ALIVE to "wire" the models sothat they responded instantly to data from the motion-capture stage as oneactor performed most of each character's movements. Protozoa was able toanimate the two characters in realtime and combine them with live-actionguests appearing on video screens to "chat" with the hosts using a crew ofjust six to seven people. ALIVE instantly renders the animation and usesphonetic recognition technology to provide instant lip-synch.