Hollywood Reporter House of Moves Blurb

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The following appeared in the Hollywood Reporter on December 23, 1996. The citation is DiOrio, Carl (1996-12-23). Motion-capture firms get busy. The Hollywood Reporter.

A fledgling venture in Venice, Calif., is wholly devoted to one of the latest trends in digital effects _ motion capture, in which movement of human or inanimate models is tracked for use in computer-generated imaging. Tom Tolles, co-founder of House of Moves Motion Capture Studio, says feature film and television applications for the process only recently reached the critical mass needed to support a company devoted entirely to such work.

"Motion capture got a lot of press a while back, but there was very little to show for it," Tolles said. "But we've gotten to the point where there's going to be a lot to show for it very soon. It reminds me of where 2-D computer-generated effects were about 10 years ago." With motion-capture systems, effects supervisors direct the scanning of human actors or animatronic creatures for precise shapes and movements, which then are imported into computer-modeling environments. Some of the biggest visual-effects houses have begun using the process in feature-film work, such as when Industrial Light & Magic employed motion-capture technology to create galloping animal stampedes in Sony's effects-driven movie, "Jumanji."

"Motion capture has been around at least 10 years in a primitive form," said Jeff Pickett, creative manager at Calabasas, Calif.-based Triad Systems International, a computer-engineering firm that provided motion-capture consulting to ILM for "Jumanji." "Now, it's starting to take a lot of production off the set and put it into the computer." Founded in 1982, TSI has also been involved in digital film restoration and more conventional computer-generated imaging, in addition to doing motion-capture consulting for clients including the Walt Disney Co., DreamWorks SKG and ABC. "We supply the technical expertise on a consulting basis," Pickett said. "We're hired guns."

By contrast, House of Moves partners Tolles and Brett Gassaway constructed a business plan based solely on motion-capture work. They've sunk $250,000 into motion-capture equipment and assembled a staff of six to run it. The company is particularly hopeful about getting work from TV producers and is already working on its first series, Hanna-Barbera's "The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest." "We enhance our clients' ability to create or direct the performance of their digital character," Tolles said. "We (use) state-of-the-art ... techniques to bring the characters to life in the computer-graphics portions of a show." Since opening for business in the spring, House of Moves also has landed two jobs on unspecified feature films set for summer release. Confidentiality agreements prohibit the company from identifying the releasing studios, Tolles said.

Potential film applications for motion-control range from completely animated features to hybrid projects involving a mix of live action and computer-generated imaging. "The ability to direct the performance of your digital characters is where we're going," Tolles said. "You want your digital characters to run around and play with or fight with other principal characters in a scene, and that can even be live-action characters." Tolles, who is House of Moves' president and motion-capture supervisor, and Gassaway, the company's production manager, both formerly worked at Viewpoint Data Labs, a maker of 3-D computer models. Tolles has been active in high-end animation for more than 10 years, while Gassaway's background involves a specialized expertise in scanning natural facial features into digitized images.

"This method of character animation allows for real direction of real actors, thus providing the human nuances of movement that traditionally are difficult to key frame," Tolles said. The company also has taken aboard clients that will use the process in the creation of TV commercials, music videos and video games, he added.

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