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Back to School: Media X introduces new performance capture course

Aug 30, 2018

Pacific's digital media program, Media X, added a new course to its list of classes that get students ready for 21st century media careers.

This fall, students can take Introduction to Performance Capture, taught by actor, director and professor, Gary Armagnac. Using performance capture sensors and cameras, movie technicians record an actor's performance and then use it to create an animated version of the actor. Movie fans often recognize performance capture, or motion capture, from the "Lord of the Rings" movies from the early 2000s, which used the technique to create the character of Gollum. Now, it's used widely in motion pictures.

"It's pretty much what you see in 90 percent of the films you see now - anything from Marvel to Disney to Pixar," Armagnac said.

In Armagnac's Media X course, students will learn basic staging for the camera and shot selection. They will also have an opportunity to perform on camera wearing the performance capture gear. There will even be a unit on stage combat.

Armagnac said there are not many schools that teach performance capture and the ones that do tend to focus on the technology. That is where Pacific's performance capture course stands out, he said, because when everyone working on a film understands the actor's process, they can create more believable characters.  

"It's invaluable what an actor can bring to a role as opposed to just an animator," he said.

Armagnac organized the course based on his own experience in the film industry after working with professionals on performance capture. He had the opportunity to work with and direct performance capture artists from well-known films such as "Avatar" and "Iron Man" in workshops at this summer's MoCap Summit in Los Angeles.  He also worked at Pixar Animation Studios this summer.

"(I worked) with some of the most amazingly creative and wonderful people on the planet," he said. "I'm bringing back a wealth of information that I never would have learned anywhere else."

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