Virtual camera offers instant image processing

A Scottish group of games researchers is launching a ‘virtual camera’ that mimics techniques pioneered in James Cameron’s Avatar. Based on a Nintendo Wii-like motion controller, it will cost under $200.

Using Cameron’s Simul-cam, the image is processed in real-time as it’s recorded, before it reaches the director’s monitor screen. This allows actors in motion-capture suits to be instantly seen as the blue Na’vi characters, without days spent creating computer-generated images.

And by hooking up a virtual camera – where a computer enhances what a film camera could achieve – to a highly-accurate motion-controller, the University of Abertay Dundee researchers say they’ve been able to do the same. Their Motus system, they say, allows completely intuitive, immediately responsive camera actions within any computer-generated world.

“What the Simul-cam technology allows is a kind of augmented reality, where the computer-generated world can be seen immediately,” says technology lecturer Matt Bett.

“What I wanted to do was turn this on its head, and bring this power to home computers. Using a new Sixense electromagnetic motion controller, we can now manipulate a virtual camera in any virtual environment – be it a film, an animation, a computer game, or a simulation tool for teaching.”

“Within games, watching and sharing replays of the action is hugely popular. What our development allows is replays to be edited exactly as if they were a film, zooming in, panning the camera, quickly and easily creating a whole movie based on your gaming,” says project associate Erin Michno. “For online games enthusiasts, that would dramatically change what’s possible.”

Motus will work on any home PC, and is expected to launch early next year.