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Q&A: Vicon's Jeffrey Ovadya

By Daniel Restuccio
April 3, 2013
Q&A: Vicon's Jeffrey Ovadya Jeffrey Ovadya is the newly appointed US sales director for Vicon Motion Systems. For the past five years Ovadya was Vicon’s business development manager and sales engineer.  He’s also worked as an electrical engineer at Raytheon Space and airborne systems and holds an engineering degree from UC Santa Barbara.

Post Magazine sat down with Ovadya to find out what’s new with Vicon (www.vicon.com), get his take on his new position and his insight on the state of the motion capture industry.

Post Magazine:  What's exciting about your new position?
Jeffrey Ovadya:  Everything. Interestingly enough, everybody thinks about Vicon and motion capture and they automatically go to entertainment, and that's obviously a field that we both have a lot to do with. At the same time the most intriguing thing for me is actually the biomechanics side, because every day I recognize that our systems are being used to treat children with cerebral palsy, that are going into corrective surgery, for orthopedic students, for sports injury prevention.  The life science side is really fascinating to me.  However, I'm also equally fascinated with everything that goes into 3D graphics and visual effects.

Post Magazine:  In your view, what is the state of the motion capture industry right now?
Jeffrey Ovadya:  It's a really interesting time for motion capture.  Every day some new, ingenious, homegrown motion capture system is popping up. For Halo 4 they're using a Kinect system to do reasonably accurate body data capture that's incredible. What amazes me is that there are so many people getting their hands involved (with motion capture) because it's so relevant to everything that happens.  No sports video game comes out without it.  Just about every action movie uses some form of motion capture. With the current state there are many levels for people to get involved (with mocap) and Vicon recognizes this. If somebody asks, "Why should I get a Vicon system versus a Kinect system?" It really depends on the need.  One of the things that we're trying to do is to make sure that we have entry-level systems as well as the highest end possibilities for our customers.

Post Magazine: When you talk about systems at different levels are you talking resolution, accuracy, cleanliness of the data?  Could you expand on that a little bit?
Jeffrey Ovadya: Definitely, . so in my opinion, the resolution race is essentially over.  You look around and everybody's got a one or a two or four megapixel camera. We have a 16 megapixel camera that nobody can really touch.  So we offer entry level and upper echelon offerings based not necessarily on resolution. Resolution's going to contribute to your data based on the size of the area that you're trying to capture.  The most important thing is the algorithms that go into our reconstructions,  -- that give you the most quality back-end data. Even if you have an entry-level one megapixel camera you're still getting a Vicon system.  All of your data is going to be clean, you don't have to worry about gaps, or any of the post work.  It's all there for you.  

Post Magazine: So you’re saying Vicon is not just about the hardware it’s more of a systems approach.  Can you explain how that works, The components of the system.
Jeffrey Ovadya: Sure. You have your cameras, whether it's a one megapixel Bonita camera, or a state of the art 16 megapixel T-series camera, a T160.  The cameras are state-of-the-art.  They have custom sensors built, custom lenses built for us. Let's say you're in the animation field and you get (Vicon’s) Blade.  Blade is going to take the data from either of the cameras, and it's going to process it using our core algorithm, which has been completely restructured in Blade 2.0 to produce by far the best real-time, rock solid, robust data out there. Because we've come to the point where no feet swapping, no arms flailing around -- just perfect real-time data.  With multi-character calibration, in Blade 2.0, you can have all eight subjects out and calibrate each character individually while they're all out on stage. You can actually be in either a Bonita, or T-series environment, and have your actors rolling around on the floor, high-fiving, hugging  -- (doing) intimate scenes, close-up fights,  -- and not have any drop outs because of occlusion, no marker swaps.  In fact, Blade 2 is so robust now, that you can pull off markers from your actors.  Let's say a couple of markers fall off in the middle of a pretty deadly, four subject fight scene -- no problems, no hand swapping, no feet swapping, no arms flailing around - just perfect real-time data.  From that point, you're getting the full benefit of Vicon system.

Post Magazine: Can you tell me about some of the super-high resolution technology particularly where you are actually able to get facial motion capture, and fingers as well. That’s a big deal now in motion capture.
Jeffrey Ovadya: Right, so full performance capture is one of the reasons why people will buy a Vicon system, because the T-160 enables really what no other motion capture camera can in that you have the resolution to be able to get very, very small, one millimeter, two millimeter hemispherical markers on the face, on the fingers.
 
There are quite a few Vicon installations that are using these cameras and very, very high camera counts.  Sony, EA, Imaginarium, ILM.  As far as the largest T-series, T-160 systems out there, ILM is one of them, EA Vancouver is one of them, Imaginarium is one of them, and House of Moves has 196 T-160s just on  Stage 2.

However, we have announced, and will announce more details about our new Cara system.  The Cara system is a head-mounted camera system that is going into production shortly.  We're at the point where we're going to demonstrate production, Cara head-cam units to the public, at Game Developers Conference. All of the Cara head-cam units come with four individual one-megapixel cameras, and Cara is completely independent of your Vicon system.  It's plug and play and operational with Vicon systems as well, and processing can be done in Blade, however it's meant to be completely independent.  If you have a large performance capture stage and you want to add precision face tracking capability, you can get a Cara system.  If you have no motion capture at all, but want to do some facial capture, you could also get a Cara system.  

Post Magazine: One of the things that we chatted on the phone is your intent to transform the Vicon culture. So what's been the Vicon culture and what are you hoping to transform it into?
Jeffrey Ovadya: Vicon is a brand name that everybody recognizes.  They recognize us for being what they think is a large company with big name clients across the board,  -- and that's true -- but our bread and butter are the small clients -  the clinics, the hospitals, the universities - whether they're using it for life science or animation.   People don't necessarily know about the fact that we're actually kind of a small company, with just around 100 employees.  Granted we have four worldwide offices, and we actually ship systems to 70 countries, but everybody thinks of us as this nebulous, large entity.

What I'd really like to do is put a face to the Vicon name. Vicon will go out on site and visit customers and prospects - anybody that's interested in looking at a system - getting a hands-on demo with a system.  If you ever have a problem with Vicon, you can always call our support team and we'll come on site and fix any of your issues. Every substantial Vicon system comes with an on-site installation and training, where we send an application engineer on site to train you for two to three days. I want people to recognize that Vicon isn't just a company, but it's an amalgamation of people that are part of creating one of the most innovative systems out there in motion capture.