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Muybridge, Motion Capture and Gaming

posted Jan 30, 2013, 10:29 PM by Ellen Pearlman

Muybridge, Motion Capture and Gaming

In 1878  Eadweard Muybridge used stop motion photography to settle a bet, thereby launching a new era in photography and film. You could say it was gaming that led the charge, as the impetus was initiated by former California Governor Leland Stanford’s wager to prove that a horse lifted all four of its legs off the ground when running. 

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Muybridge’s trotting horse with all four feet leaving the ground simultaneously, 1878 

Stanford gave Muybridge $2,000 to validate his hunch, but it took six years and $50,000 for the wager to be finally won. During that time Muybridge had to invent hyper sensitive photo emulsions and design special flexible and fast shutters. At one point engineers from Stanford’s Central Pacific Railroad were called in to calibrate a trip wire to catch the motion of a horse’s body. On June 15, 1878, after a test run Muybridge developed his photo plates proving once and for all that all four of a horse’s feet left the ground simultaneously when running.

This discovery caused a schism in the art world. The sculptor Auguste Rodin hated it, feeling reality had triumphed imagination, while painters Edgar Degas and Thomas Eakins sought to emulate the precise, realistic depiction of bodies in motion, embracing the changes in technology.

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Man and horse fitted with mocap markers in House of Moves studio

In 2012, House of Moves, a motion capture studio in Los Angeles outfitted a man astride a horse for its new game, Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the first time a horse was depicted up  in such a manner. 

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Muybridge photo of a jockey atop a horse

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Still from Black Ops II Trailer

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Skeletal outline of man and horse on motion capture grid from House of Moves Studio

So it appears that once again it is gaming that is propelling a new type of composition and interactivity, especially as it pertains to horses!

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