What is motion control?

This term refers to a special effect technique that is used in particular in film productions and video productions. The result is the possibility to perform repetitions of the object and camera movements in different recordings. This comprises a programmed camera drive.

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Post-production and compositing

In post-production, these can then be subsequently cut into a compositing to produce certain effects. The compositing refers to the composition of the individual film recordings, which represents a partial discipline of post-production. This includes, among other things, all activities dealing with the reworking of films and videos. By means of motion control, scaling of camera movements or drives of the actors and models can be combined.

For the first time, this technique was used in the film Star Wars on a larger scale, and in this way it represented a turning point for the use of visual effects. Since then, the motion control technique has evolved into a standard process that is used in multi-faceted films.

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Development of the first motion control rig

In the film industry, the model making has a long tradition in particular. But even then, the implementation was sometimes proving difficult. In case the models are too small, they seem to be unrealistic. Larger models of the same real objects, however, bring more difficulties. For example, these can be harder to move for the shots. Another solution would be to put the camera in motion instead of the model. This, in turn, could prove to be a bigger problem, as these partially massive devices are sometimes even harder to move.

This problem can be solved partially thanks to a higher recording speed of the films. As a result, the image scenes in the rework are slowed down. The model movements have a multiple smoother effect and cause an optical illusion. Though the implementation of such a procedure is very costly, because special devices, such as a high-speed camera, are used for this purpose. In order to solve the problem of disillusion differently, the cameras were attached to motor-driven rigs. This achieved the possibility to move the camera easily and precisely. As a result, the first motion control rigs were created that could create convincing illusions.

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Motorized camera cranes

These rigs are nowadays mostly based on motorized camera cranes, which are operated through a computer. The camera movements can be preprogrammed and saved so that they are executed at different speeds and step by step. In particular, these systems are used to achieve realistic images for animated scenes. In general, motion control systems consist of three simple design methods – the XYZ systems. In addition to the well-known camera cranes, there are other models, such as the dolly, boom or swing system. All of these systems are similar and have a film camera on a camera head, each with two or three rotation axes. Panning, rotating and other camera movements can be performed easily with these systems. These functions can be operated by the control system of the motion control rig. These features usually include the apertures, the zoom, the sharpness as well as the recording speed. In the high-quality system, other accessories, such as a turntable or effects, can be operated in the same way.

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The film material of the recorded scenes is overlapped in the reworking or, if necessary, joined together. Numerous image layers can be combined with today’s progress in digital compositing to create an optimal result. The precondition for this is, however, the exact match of the camera movement and perspective. The scenes should also be identical in both temporal and spatial terms, as otherwise unwanted proper movements in the image will appear.

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Motion control symbiosis

With the development of the technology, among other things, symbiosis with 3D programs were developed, which merge real recordings with computer-based illustrations, such as three-dimensional backgrounds. In this respect, there is the option to export motion data from motion control recordings to a computer system. Using the 3D program, post-production can take place easier and faster. Already on the set, the film recordings are usually stored and transmitted to the system by means of data storage. In addition, real-time transmission is already possible for the control of the compositing. Likewise, the import of 3D motion data into the control computer of the motion control system can be accomplished.

In order to ensure a successful implementation, extensive preparation is necessary. Not only the appropriate instruments and equipment are decisive for the project, but also the use of an expert team is required. The professional handling of the corresponding 3D programs, the motion control systems and other devices determine the actual success of the effect.

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