CULVER CITY, CA — Xsens (www.xsens.com) is an innovator in 3D motion-tracking technology, and is based in The Netherlands, with an office here in the US in Culver City, CA. The company’s sensor fusion technologies enable a seamless interaction between the physical and the digital world in consumer electronics devices as well as professional applications such as 3D character animation, motion analysis, and industrial control & stabilization. The company recently previewed its new MVN line of affordable, production-ready solutions, which start at $12,000, at the Siggraph 2014 show in Vancouver, Canada.
Featuring two fully redesigned systems and a 4.0 version of its software, Xsens reports that its new MVN product line brings faster set-ups, cleaner data, and tougher materials designed for daily use in demanding production environments.
Here, with the new line now officially released, product manager Hein Beute offers more details on the company’s new MVN system.
POST: What makes Xsens’ new MVN product line production ready?
HEIN BEUTE: “We redesigned the new MVN product line to reinforce key features needed to achieve production quality mocap data. The new Xsens MVN engine delivers: cleaner data, no drift during tracking, smaller sensors, height tracking, and more. All aspects that held our last MVN system back from truly breaking through its previs capabilities to handle full-on production work.”
POST: What kind of output does Xsens MVN provide?
HEIN BEUTE: “MVN Studio can export motions to different file formats, including: .MVNX, .FBX, .BVH, and .C3D. MVNX is an open file format based on XML. Motions can also be exported as movies to .M4V, .AVI. MVN Studio can also stream its motions live over a network to its supported plugins; Autodesk MotionBuilder, Maya, Unity3D and other applications using the MVN Studio streaming protocol; UDK, CryEngine.”
POST: Is MVN Studio compatible with the core software solutions? Will the data work with different pipelines?
HEIN BEUTE: “Ready-made pipelines are available for Autodesk MotionBuilder, 3DS Max, Maya Houdini, Cinema 4D and various others.”
POST: Do you have to clean up data after a mocap session? Is it easy to do?
HEIN BEUTE: “With the old MVN system there was already minimal clean-up, as there are no gaps in data. The main part that needed cleaning was related to the lack of height tracking. Now that the height is also being tracked, the data is really clean and may only need a touch up in complicated motions.”
POST: Who is the target market for the new MVN product line? What makes it specifically for professional animators?
HEIN BEUTE: “The new MVN product line can be used by anyone doing film production, animation, VFX, game design, movement analysis or general human motion measurement. MVN has always been easy to operate, the new MVN is even easier and does not require a room or studio, which is ideal for animators who want to focus on their creative process and not be limited by technical restrictions.”
POST: Why would a customer choose MVN Link vs. MVN Awinda (or vice versa)?
HEIN BEUTE: “MVN Link (a mocap suit with on-body wired tracker) is a fully-featured option for professional motion capture in rugged situations; on stage where real-time performance needs to be guaranteed or on-set where redundancy is import due to the pressure of production. MVN Awinda (a strap-based, wireless mocap system) is geared more for animators at smaller studios or VFX professionals who want to quickly capture motions and need a more accessible solution. This makes it is also ideal for education.”
POST: How much will the new MVN systems cost, and is that the suit or a complete configuration?
HEIN BEUTE: “Bundles of the new MVN lines start at $12,000 and come as a ready-to-go system. Each setup is customized for our customers’ unique needs and comes with a motion capture hardware (MVN Link or MVN Awinda) and software to match (either MVN Studio or MVN Studio Pro).”
POST: Why are you able to offer the MVN product line at a lower price?
HEIN BEUTE: “As Xsens is wholly owned by Fairchild Semiconductor International, Fairchild’s ample resources have allowed us to reach our common goal of making better mocap technology more accessible for our customers. This backing has also allowed us to significantly drop our prices, while also accelerating our development cycle. Now whether it’s ten people working on a big budget picture or a freelancer working out of their garage on an animated short, we can meet their needs.
“Licenses for MVN Studio are available as yearly subscription or lifetime. A subscription license lets you pay as you go to get access to the latest version of MVN Studio. This means greater flexibility and a lower up-front investment.”
POST: What can users expect from the future of Xsens and MVN?
HEIN BEUTE: “Support of the previous MVN system will continue, but sales of that model will be discontinued with the release of the new MVN line. Xsens is going to keep pushing the boundaries of camera-less motion capture and continue our goal of making production-quality motion capture more accessible worldwide. With this new technology hardware platform we can further improve and implement new findings for the Xsens MVN Engine.”
POST: What’s the difference between optical and inertial motion capture?
HEIN BEUTE: “Optical motion capture is based on very different technology and has very different characteristics. A big advantage to inertial motion capture is that it can be taken anywhere and is incredibly flexible. Xsens MVN also has an extremely fast setup time of only ten minutes with a four second calibration. This means it is very easy to be used by animators and it does not require specially trained operators.
“Optical setups are generally very complicated to setup, and can take a lot of data cleanup after a user records with it. Our systems produce very clean data which reduces time spent on a project and overall cost of ownership.
“Xsens MVN Engine has been regarded by users having a nice solve and we think this is due to the fact that with an inertial mocap system you actually capture motions; accelerations (accelerometer) and angular acceleration (gyroscopes).
“Acceleration is the rate at which the velocity changes over time’, which is motion! Optical systems derive their motions from positions of markers per captured frame and often need to filter the data to remove jitter.”
POST: What sets Xsens apart from other motion capture systems?
HEIN BEUTE: “Xsens has been leading the way in inertial motion capture since 2006 through its investments in innovation and is still doing this today. Creating a basic motion capture system based on inertial sensors (gyroscopes, accelerometers) is not very difficult. As an example, people placed mobile phones on the body to track the orientation of the body segments and thus having a very basic motion capture system. Xsens has always focused on providing a tool for professionals who have high requirements in terms of ease of use, robustness, motion capture performance. We have a proven track record in providing a professional tool, next to outstanding service and support. Check out our clients!:
POST: Do you think the studio format works for everyone or is this more of a niche solution?
HEIN BEUTE: “We have a lot of customers that are studios: The Third Floor, Unexpected, Microsoft Studios, and many more. With their feedback, we’ve really been able to hone down on a great solution for production work that is affordable for smaller studios. We have many smaller studios who realize that they need efficient tools they can rely on to be successful.”
POST: How large is Xsens’ customer base?
HEIN BEUTE: “We have over 500 customers worldwide; recently we have seen a growth of smaller studios integrating MVN into their production pipelines.”