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April 12, 2004


Brian Rausch Talks About Motion Capture

One of the most talked about aspects of Sony's Rise To Honor is the motion capturing used, in particular, that of martial arts legend Jet Li. This interview with Brian Rausch from Sony America details some of the processes and thoughts that went into the game. Remeber you can read an interview with Jet Li here or the review of the game here.

Jet Li. He's da man...
You worked with Jet Li for the motion capture involved in Rise to Honour how was it?
I knew from the first time that Jet suited up that I was really going to enjoy the shoot. Jet had a genuine interest in the animation and the character in the game. The first thing he asked is “why” he was going through Hong Kong fighting pretty much everybody he saw. He really wanted to generate a style and a character that fit the game.

Jet also showed an incredible amount of dedication to the project when he personally recaptured every move we had done up to that point. He wanted to make sure that every motion in the game was his motion. We had already captured over 1000 moves for the game with other talent and we happily started over when Jet joined the project.

How long did it take to complete all the moves, did Jet take long to practise?
Jet was like a machine, he has an incredible mastery of his movement and could hit any mark. There were times that Jet would kick and Cory Yuen (his choreographer) wanted him to kick a little bit higher. Cory would grab Jet’s foot and put it about 2 inches from his own face. Jet would kick again and his foot would stop about 2 inches shy of Cory’s face in the exact spot that Cory and Jet had decided he would kick (and this was at full speed!). This showed the incredible amount of trust that this team had for each other.

As for the amount of time it took to complete the moves there was quite a bit of “on the fly” choreography involved so there were times when we would wait for 10-15 minutes in between takes. However, on the moves that didn’t require the high level of action choreography such as character navigation moves we were capturing about 40 animations in an hour.

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Damn... that looks like Jet Li!
Were all the fight sequences pre-choreographed or did Jet change things as soon as he got started?
The only time that fight sequences were “pre-choreographed” is when Jet’s team would come in and “rough out” some action shots on tape for him to look at, or the motion capture group would need to test how the equipment would function through mesh walls and other stage props we had built.

In the end no matter what was decided on tape Jet was able to take it one step farther, adding in that little flair that adds so much impact to these motions.

The Motion Capture Studio has been around for some time now – what other projects have you worked on there?
Socom, Gameday (annually), Syphon Filter, MLB (annually), Shootout (annually), Final Four (annually), Gamebreaker (annually), Faceoff (annually), Cool Boarders, Jet X2O, Star Wars Galaxies (Sony Online Entertainment). My memory fails me so there are most likely several more that I have forgotten.

Which has been the most interesting project so far – is it a sports game, martial arts, or something a bit different?
This is the impossible question to answer. Every shoot has something that is a little different and very exciting. A few of the highlights have been the wire rig capture that we did with Jet Li for three weeks. Actually sitting and chatting with the Navy Seals was also incredibly interesting. Tackle animation for Gameday is always a highlight, as it’s definitely out of the ordinary and at times a nice challenge to complete. We also work with many star athletes each season, which is always interesting. Working on Star Wars Galaxies was another great project due to the talent we worked with and the variety of the motion that was captured.

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Nice backgrounds.
Have you had to work with any particularly interesting (or difficult) characters?
The Rise to Honour character posed some interesting challenges and problems. Jet fought with many different weapons. All of the weapons need to be retargeted to “in-game” props and remain in the characters hand. This isn’t necessarily a difficult process but it can be very time consuming when dealing with scaling issues of your real life actor to your CG character.

What on Earth do you study to become involved with motion capture? Do you need any specific qualifications?
You study motion... motion capture isn’t an exact science and data often needs to be rebuilt due to marker occlusion and other inherent issues. There are different facets of the motion capture process as well. We have on staff animators that will take acquired motion that has been retargeted to cg character and animate over it to line up game environments, props and deal with character model penetration. This requires timing, the knowledge of how a human (or dog, cat, horse, elephant... you get the picture) moves. Is there a school that you can go to too learn motion capture? I honestly don’t know.

What is important for motion capture artists is to have the ability to troubleshoot. Again this isn’t an exact science and no matter how much you plan you are definitely going to be faced with the unexpected.

Jet Li's web site can be found at:
Sony can be found at :

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview. If you have any comments or questions E-mail me at :