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

Featured Animator: Christian Haynes - 'Zack In Time' An Original, Independent, Animated Series on the Rise

Christian Haynes - Zack In Time.  If you've ever wanted to create an animated TV series staring your own original characters and stories then Los Angeles based writer, director, and animator, Christian Haynes is taking those next steps of putting together a team, developing a pitch/trailer for their series, Zack In Time. Featuring professional studio quality animation, they hope the show will get picked up by an animation studio for an official series. The path he and his team are taking is one you could easily follow as they deal with real life commitments, and building a following on Instagram and Tik-Tok showcasing their work behind the scenes. TET: Tell me a little about yourself. Who you are, and why you started animating? My name is Christian Haynes and I've loved animation ever since I was a kid. I would constantly be drawing cartoon characters from TV shows and movies and making my own little homemade comic strips.  As I got older, I became a lot more interested in st

Shotcut - Free Open Source Video Editor for Windows, Mac, and Linux

Shotcut Open Source Video Editor. I've been on the hunt for a while now for the best, free, open source, video editing application out there. In Shotcut , by Meltytech , which has versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux, I think I may have found a real front runner. This won't be a feature filled review, rather it will be my first impressions after having used Shotcut on a few of my YouTube videos so far. One of my key criteria for a video editor is the ability to import any video format directly into the project. This may seem like an odd focus initially but having convert video to something your video editor can use is annoyingly time consuming, and it creates a new generation of footage, potentially with a loss in quality if you don't really know much about video format specs (that's this guy right here!). Shotcut will happily work with my OBS recordings (.FLV), and .MOV, .MP4 files that I get from two different cameras. Not only that but Shotcut doesn't hold me up

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

Make Disney/Pixar Style Characters with Reallusion's Character Creator and Toon Figure Bases

The Extraordinary Tourist Classic Coat outfit created using Reallusion's Toon Designer for CC3. I've talked before how I've wanted to get into 3D Disney/Pixar style character animation since I first saw the animated cutscenes for the very first Tomb Raider game back in 1996. It's why I initially bought Reallusion's iClone 3D studio app as soon as I could afford a computer that would run it. But then Reallusion released their 3D Character Creator (CC) for iClone and I wanted to create my characters with that (and I did try with Bat Storm ). But the focus of CC was realism, even with ToKoMotion's stylised body morphs . Now with Reallusion's Cartoon Designer bundle for CC3 which features two packs, Toon Figures , and Toon Hair , designing Disney/Pixar style 3D characters just got a whole lot quicker. The two packs are the bare essentials for creating Toon style characters. Five body morphs (2 male, 2 female, and one adolescent body morph that w

Tips on How to Create Background Scenes in Reallusion's Cartoon Animator Using Your Content Library

This background is made from a mix of props from six different content packs. One of Reallusion Cartoon Animator's selling points is that it can speed up your animation workflow with its time saving features. Among those features is the software's Content Library, a collection of premade, characters, props, scenes, motion files, and more, that either came with the application or you've added with purchases from Reallusion's Content Store or Marketplace .  If you've been following along, I've been reviewing applications I'm using in the process of creating my latest animated short featuring my original characters, Mia and the Tourist (and their replica, sentient, R2-D2 droid). Previously I wrote the script with KIT Scenarist , and drafted a storyboard using Wonder Unit's Storyboarder . In this post I'll show you how I designed my backgrounds for my animation using my extensive Content Library collection. I'll give you tips for making your own sc

Learn Moho Pro 12 Free Using SmithMicro's Own 104 Video Tutorials Sorted into a Logical Order of Progression

So you've bought Smith Micro's Moho Pro 12 along with the Moho, 10 hour, 104 Video Tutorials Add On pack so you can get learning right away... only you can't. For whatever reason, the video tutorials aren't sorted into any logical order of progression making them hard to follow. Yeah, I've been there, only I've done what Smith Micro should have done and sorted all the video tutorials into a logical order of natural progression for you. That is, each tutorial builds upon what you learned in previous videos and you won't suddenly come up against some feature you've never used before, unless that feature is what the video tutorial is about.

KIT Scenarist - Free, Open Source, Screenwriting Software that Helps Research Your Ideas Too

KIT Scenarist Script Writing Software's Mascot, Alexander Cat. While you can write a script in any word processing app, if you're writing stories (screenplays) that feature characters and dialogue, a dedicated script writing app can save a lot of time formatting, letting you focus more on the actual story. Script writing apps are also very useful if you plan to send your screenplays out to production companies, or if you're collaborating with actors and other production people, who are used to scripts being in a particular standard format.  [Note: In case you're wondering there are reasons scripts follow a standard format and are always written in Courier (typewriter) font, including but not limited to; being easy to read by actors, plenty of space for notes, and the general rule that one page of a script (in this format) equals approximately one minute of screen time.] KIT Scenarist , in my opinion, is one of the best script writing apps out there for ease of use, simp