PORTLAND, Ore. MEMS inertial measurement units enabled the life-like animations in the films "Iron Man" and "Alice in Wonderland."
Actors wearing a MEMS motion suit from Xsens Technologies B.V. (Los Angeles and The Netherlands) pre-visualized the movies for film makers.
Analog Devices worked with Xsens on the project. "Our collaboration with Xsens is a terrific example of a very innovative way of using very-high-performance motion sensing technology to address entertainment, sports, medical and many other new applications of MEMS," said Mark Martin, vice president of Analog Devices' MEMS and Sensor Group.
The partners have working for a decade using inertial MEMS sensors to solve a number of problems like active stabilization in ground vehicles, submarines and aircraft as well as for virtual reality simulation and training. The common element is the inertial measurement unit (IMU) Xsens makes out of MEMS sensors.
"We are using five ADI sensors and a Blackfin processor per IMU," said Hein Beute, Xsens motion suit product manager. "We have been working with ADI to build IMUs for a variety of applications."
The traditional way to track actors motion is with a black suit dotted with reflective markers--white dots--which unfortunately only work well in a dark studio with dozens of camera surrounding the scene. Unfortunately, even in a dark studio, an actor's body shields some of the white dots some of the time leaving holes in the tracking data, which have to be manually filled in during post-production which can take days or even weeks to perform.
Unlike traditional special effects black suits dotted with reflective spots, Xsens' body suit uses 17 IMUs to track body orientation during action sequences. Actors wear the motion suit under a regular costume to simultaneously capture their motion. Each of the 17 IMUs used by the battery powered motion suit have three ADI high-speed single-axis gyros that track rotational motion, two high-speed two-axis accelerometers to track linear motion, plus magnetometers to provide a heading.
Game producers are also using the Xsens suit to create animated characters. "Game makes are using our suit for its quick turnaround time, which enables them to create characters, levels and motion scenes all at the same time, instead of waiting for days or weeks to get the motion data back from a post-production house," said Beute.