Skip to main content

Plask - Free, Brower Based, Motion Capture Using Only a Webcam

Plask lets you motion capture full body movement with only a webcam.
Plask lets you motion capture full body
movement with only a webcam.

Companies that produce 2D and 3D animation software seem to be very focused on using motion capture right now to speed up the animation process.

 Unfortunately full body motion capture equipment, while very effective, is still quite expensive for someone like me who doesn't have a budget for such equipment.

So, when I heard about Plask, a free, browser based, app that can capture full body motion capture data from an imported video or webcam, it was only natural that I would want to give it a try.

I was hopeful that I would be able to use it with my Reallusion apps, iClone7 or Cartoon Animator 4, both of which support motion capture data in their workflows.

Plask's creators claim their app is easy to learn, while I generally would agree, it took me a while to locate their video tutorials. 

For some reason they're listed under the 'Help' section of the manual. I would highly recommend they be put in their own section under a heading like 'Quick Start Video Tutorials'. There's nine videos that'll take you a little less than ten minutes to watch, giving a complete over view of the app.

I'm not going to run you through every feature. My goal was to see if I could capture some full body motion data and export it for use in iClone7 and/or Cartoon Animator.

[Update: At the time of writing this article I wasn't able to bring motion files into iClone7 and Cartoon Animator. A couple of weeks later I discovered someone who worked out how to do this and wrote a follow up article: How to Use Plask and Reallusion's 3DXchange to Create Full Body 3D Motion Capture Animation for Cartoon Animator. You should still read this article if you want to know how Plask's motion capture features work.]

Video Capture

Plask Video Capture Interface.
Plask's Video Capture Interface. Had to redo this capture
because I think the overhead light was too bright, causing a
loss of face detail. Plask wouldn't read the capture.


The video capture interface is by far the easiest part of the application to work out. It's possible to import videos as well but, if I was going to use an app like this, it would be to make completely custom motions on the fly.

Simply click the record button (Plask gives you a countdown to get in position). Stop recording, then select the section you want and click the Extract motion button. Plask can only capture data from one person in shot at a time.

It takes a minute or so but, once your capture is done you're taken to the viewport animation window where your motion file is stored at the bottom of the library window on the left hand side.

The Viewport and Exporting Your Motion

Plask's Viewport Window.
The Viewport window with one of the default characters performing
my captured motion (highlighted in blue in the character folder).

In the viewport window there are four default characters to choose from. I believe you can also import your own models and use the retargeting system to make them compatible. I used the first default character by simply dragging my motion file into its folder.

Plask also gives you all the tools you need to edit and refine motions, which seem to work pretty much as anyone used to 3D animation would expect. Moving nodes in the window, to create or modify keyframes in the timeline. As my main goal was to export a motion capture file, I didn't spend any time refining my captured motion.

You can only export motions if they're attached to a model, hence why I added mine to the first model. To export you right click on the model name in the library and select export. Then name your file and select what format you want to export in.

Currently you can only export as FBX, GLB, or BVH

Importing into iClone7 and Cartoon Animator 4

Character Model Imported into iClone7 as a prop.
Although this looks like a character in iClone7
it's essentially an animated prop.

Since there's no way to export just the motion data from Plask. As mentioned you have to export the character model with the motion data animation. Which seems to be the intention since Plask lets you edit and refine motions right in their app.

Which is fine, I guess, but most applications you would import your 3D model into are perfectly capable of editing and refining motions too. The strength of Plask is its ability to capture motion data from a single video source - no motion capture equipment required.

Importing the character into iClone7, the only compatible format was .FBX, essentially making the character an animated prop.

I'm not knowledgeable enough with 3D animation to find a workflow from Plask to iClone7 that would get the motion capture data into an actual iClone7 character body, so Plask is mostly useless, unless you want some animated background extras in a scene.

Since Cartoon Animator only supports two kinds of motion capture files, imotion, and rlmotion, Plask wasn't really useful there either. The best I could do was export my character prop animation from iClone7 as a Popvideo file and import that into Cartoon Animator 4.

iClone7 animated prop exported into Cartoon Animator as a Popvideo.
My character prop animation exported from iClone7 as a
Popvideo file into Cartoon Animator.

Is Plask Any Good?

I'm sure Plask is great with other applications like Maya, Blender, UnReal Engine etc. but not being able to export just the motion capture data in a format that could be used with either iClone or Cartoon Animator makes Plask very limited.

Which is a shame because the actual motion capture is really very good. Below is a GIF animation of my raw motion capture data (incidentally this animation was made from my iClone Popvideo export into Cartoon Animator 4).

GIF animation of my actual, unedited, motion capture.
This is my actual motion capture with no editing of the data
to fix things like limbs passing through limbs etc.

At best I could use it, as I mentioned, for background 'prop' characters in iClone, or maybe as a reference that I could overlay my Cartoon Animator characters on while I key frame their movements.

If Plask could perhaps work with Reallusion to make their app compatible with both iClone and Cartoon Animator, it could really be quite an awesome addition to the toolbox - especially since it doesn't need any expensive motion capture gear.

As it stands it's probably better suited as a tool to use with Blender, Maya etc. Definitely an app to keep your eye on for future updates.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Inochi2D - Free Open Source 2D VTuber Avatar Rigging and Puppeteering Software (Part 1)

Inochi2D Creator - Free Open Source VTuber Software. If you've been looking for a way to live perform as a 2D cartoon avatar on camera, whether it be for a live stream or for pre-recorded content like educational videos, then VTuber software is a low cost (or even no cost) option worth looking into. In my previous post, How to Become a VTuber - 2D and 3D Software for Creating and Controlling Your Avatar , I took a brief look at the relatively new but completely free and open source Inochi2D  which I thought showed great potential for my own needs of creating a live performance character rig for my own TET Avatar that I use for all my promotional materials. While it is possible to live perform my character using Cartoon Animator itself, Reallusion's MotionLive2D capture system isn't great - with lip sync in particular. More importantly though, I can't exactly teach people how to use Cartoon Animator if I'm using Cartoon Animator to control my Avatar. What is Inochi2D

Wonder Unit Storyboarder - Free Storyboarding Software for People Who Can (or Can't) Draw

Wonder Unit Storyboarder.  As an independent and solo animator I'm always tempted to try and skip storyboarding my animated shorts because they're usually only single scene sketch comedy type jokes. As a result I have many unfinished projects that kind of petered out due to having no clear finishing line. Storyboarding your productions, no matter how small, gives you a step by step guide of every shot that needs to be completed (no planning shots as you animate). It also allows you to create an animatic that gives you a rough preview of the finished production. In short, you shouldn't skip storyboards as they, generally, increase the chance of the project being completed. Disclaimer - I'm Not a Fan of Storyboarder Upfront, Wonder Unit's Storyboarder  is not my preferred storyboarding software. However it's completely free, has a number of very compelling featu

Daz 3D Launches Daz AI Studio - AI Art Generation Made Easy?

Daz AI Studio uses 3D content to influence 2D text to image generations. B etter known for their completely free, 3D animation studio, Daz 3D have launched their own browser based, AI text to image generator, Daz AI Studio . All you need is a Daz 3D account to get started for free. Upgrade to a Premium plan for a small monthly fee for additional features.  At the time of writing Daz AI Studio is still in Beta so there are some features, yet to be released, that are standard on other dedicated AI image generator sites. While Daz AI Studio only produces 2D images, what makes it unique is that it has been trained on 3D content that helps guide the output. In particular you can select actual 3D character models as part of your settings and get fairly consistent images of that character every time. The About page suggests you'll also be able to select 3D environments and lighting settings to further influence your generations but these options were currently not available, as shown in t

Dollars Mocap: Full Body Webcam Motion Capture (Including Hands and Fingers) For iClone and Cartoon Animator

Even though I should be further away from the camera Dollars Mocap MONO still does a good job of  tracking my arms, hands and fingers. Ever since I wrote my series on becoming a VTuber , discovering it was possible to do full body motion capture, including hands and fingers, with just software and a webcam, I've been on the look out for any motion capture software that can bring that functionality to Cartoon Animator. Dollars Mocap is a low cost motion capture application with a free trial that I learned about through the YouTube Channel Digital Puppets  and their test video . It can record full body, upper body, arms and hands, and facial mocap from a live video source or pre-recorded video. Investigating further, I discovered not only does Dollars Mocap have a free iClone7, iClone8 character profile file download (look for it at the bottom of the main program download page), so you can use the saved motions with iClone8, they've also got a demo video for how to convert your

Prome AI Sketch Render Tool - Your Tradigital Clean Up and Colorist Artist for Character and Background Design

Random character head, Biro sketches drawn by TET (left). Render by PromeAI (right) using Prome's Sketch Render tool set to 'Comon:Cartoon, Render Mode: Outline'. W hile I don't do New Year Resolutions, one of my plans for the year ahead is to do more of my own art. Specifically character design drawn in an actual, physical sketchbook.  To that end, I have been spending the last half hour of most days drawing a page or two of random biro sketches in my sketchbook and posting the pages to my Instagram account  (this link will take you to one of my posts). These sketches are mostly practicing my skills because I don't really draw regularly anymore. Here is a tip, if you do this kind of sketching, and push yourself to keep doing it, you will see many drawings that could be taken further, even if you don't have anything they're suited for just at the moment. Which is where my second favorite AI Image Tool (after Leonardo.ai )  PromeAI comes into play. PromeAI

Moho 14 Released - Still the Best 2D Animation Software for Indy Animators on a Budget

Moho 14 Released. Regular readers know I am a Reallusion, Cartoon Animator advocate through and through. Hands down I would recommend Cartoon Animator 5 first over Lost Marble's Moho 14 to anyone who is just starting in 2D animation, is a team of one, or just needs to animate as quickly as possible. However, feature for feature, Moho is, arguably, the best 2D animation software for the rest of us who can't justify a Toon Boom Harmony , or Adobe Creative Cloud subscription (and even with their applications Moho is very competitive on features). You can get started with Moho Debut for just USD$59.99 which is a cut down version of Moho Pro but it still has the most essential features needed for 2D animation. While Moho Pro is a whopping USD$399.99 (Cartoon Animator, which only has one version, is just USD$149.00) upgrades to new version numbers come down to a quarter of the price at USD$99.00. Even though Reallusion just released features like Motion Pilot Puppet Animation and

Featured Artist: Zack Buchman, Furry Puppet Studio - Bringing Awesome Back to Puppetry

Straight Outta Oregon: Old Man Puppet Design. P uppetry is, perhaps, one of the original forms of character animation. In many ways we've come full circle with both 2D and 3D computer based animation making use of digital 'puppet rigs' in order to animate characters more efficiently and allowing computers to do more of the grunt work of 'tweening'. In this feature interview I take a look over the fence into modern, real world, puppet design and creation with Zack Buchman, the Creative Director and founder of Furry Puppet Studio , based in SoHo, New York. The studio, specializes in designing and fabricating custom puppets for the entertainment industry. TET: Hi Zack, tell me a little bit about Furry Puppet Studio? What does the studio do?  Zack Buchman. Creative Director and Founder Furry Puppet Studio. We design and produce custom puppets primarily for clients across various industries like television, advertising, and the music industry.  Alongside conceptualizing