TAFE NSW Newcastle unveils Rokoko Smartsuit Pro bodysuits to help students learn about motion capture technology

Make a move: Advanced diploma in screen and media student Biddy O'Sullivan wears the Rokoko Smartsuit Pro bodysuit. TAFE NSW has spent about $10,000 on five suits. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Make a move: Advanced diploma in screen and media student Biddy O'Sullivan wears the Rokoko Smartsuit Pro bodysuit. TAFE NSW has spent about $10,000 on five suits. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

TAFE NSW Newcastle has invested in five ninja-like bodysuits –  similar to those used to bring Gollum to life in The Lord of the Rings trilogy –  to help students build “future proof” skillsets.

Acting, writing and screen and media teacher David Brown said TAFE had spent about $10,000 on the Rokoko Smartsuit Pro bodysuits to help students learn Hollywood-quality motion-capture technology.

“We are the first institution in Australia to use this with students in an educational setting,” he said.

“This is cutting edge and the vanguard of this field.”

The suits capture actors’ movements using an array of 19 sensors connected to WiFi.

Each of the sensors is equipped with a gyroscope accelerometer and magnetometer, which enables the capture and animation of arm, leg and body movements.

Performing arts, music and digital media teacher Matt Gill said using the suits, which have been shipped from Copenhagen, meant actors could perform in any setting and were not restricted to working within a motion capture studio.

“It’s a more simplified [and affordable] version of what [performance capture actor] Andy Serkis uses,” he said.

Wearing the suit, actors are able to interact with their real or virtual environment in real time.

Their movements can also be transferred on to an animated character.

“Now you don’t have to be an animator or 3D modeller to create a new character for a film or game,” Mr Gill said.

“It can also be used as a next level storyboard – you can create film in animation and make sure it all works before outlaying significant funds to put the film into production.

“It’s a good testing ground.”

Mr Brown said teachers would formally embed the technology into the curriculum for acting students in either term two or three this year and for digital media students soon afterwards.

“As we play with and learn from it, new things will be discovered – and that’s where ideas begin,” he said.

“It’s about changing their paradigm and their view of the world in relation to artistic output.

“We’re riding the digital wave so we’re not swamped by it. We’re trying to stay on the board.

“We’re future proofing with it – we want students to be familiar with this technology so when they encounter it in the industry it’s not going to be a problem for them.”

Mr Gill said the technology would broaden students’ skillsets for jobs they may not have considered or that may not have been created yet.

“It’s multi-disciplined,” he said.

“The more knowledge they have of new technology and how it can be incorporated into their chosen field the better off they’ll be.

“They can find their niche.”

The arrival of the suits follows the September 2017 unveiling of new 360-degree sound editing technology.

It’s part of a refurbishment of the Music and Performing Arts faculty, which now provides virtual-reality headsets, 360-degree cameras and microphones, Dante networking technology and a 48-channel SSL Duality sound desk.

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