Walking the dog? Motion monitor to aid actors playing pooches

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[November 30, 2017]  BATH, England (Reuters) - From a poodle's strut to a basset hound's lolloping gait, scientists plan to capture the movements of different breeds to make on-screen animated dogs played by humans more authentic.

At the University of Bath's Centre for Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research & Applications (CAMERA), scientist are developing a new technique that will use the movements of a two-legged human actor to drive a four-legged animal character.

They aim to enhance motion capture - a technique made famous by actor Andy Serkis in the "Lord of the Rings" and "Planet of the Apes" - with actors wearing special suits marked with motion trackers and face scanners, so that their movements and expressions can be used to power animated characters.

"We're going to teach the computer how to replace a human with animal movement, sourcing it from the database," Martin Parsons, the head of studio at CAMERA, told Reuters.

"So as a person moves at a certain speed in a certain direction the computer will replace that person's movement with the animal movement," he added.

The dogs taking part in the research wear coats fitted with reflective markers, which have infrared light bounced off of them. The light is scanned by special cameras, which records their position in three dimensions and allows the animal's movement to be reconstructed on a computer screen.

Eight mixed-breed dogs, recruited from a local sanctuary, have taken part so far, but the University of Bath researchers aim to expand the database significantly over time.

(Reporting by Matthew Stock; writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; editing by Alexander Smith)

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