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Salford Uni to host BFI-funded motion capture filming pilot

The University of Salford is to host production company Grey Moth in April as it pilots a new, experimental way of making films with cutting edge technology at a lower cost.

Grey Moth will be working at the uni’s MediaCity campus as it trials its new virtual production techniques, developed by Grey Moth’s Daniel Garden and Charles De La Mare.

The approach uses tools such as Move.AI, MetaHuman and traditional 3D animation techniques for motion capture (mocap) filmmaking without the participants having to wear the distinctive mocap suits.

A ring of synchronised iPhones will capture the actors’ movement, who will be wearing go-pro cameras, with the footage from the phones then collated into a single stream that can be developed within the gaming engine Unreal. The hope is that this method will open up previously cost-prohibitive technology to filmmakers working at all budget levels.

The result of the project will be a short film, funded by the British Film Institute (BFI) Network, called Into the Betaverse, a science-fiction, comedy drama that will be a mix of mocap and live action as the characters move between scenes in the betaverse and the real world.

Following three days of shooting, a workshop Into the Betaverse: Making Movies with Unreal Engine will take place on Friday April 5 with Film Hub North presenting the findings to filmmakers, animators and those across the Manchester area with an interest in new filmmaking technologies.

Roger McKinley, creative technology and content manager for the University’s Technical Services team, said: “We are delighted to be hosting Grey Moth and to provide a space that can help take this fascinating project to the next step.

“This project is another feather in the cap of this University’s burgeoning reputation as a home for experimental filmmaking and groundbreaking filmmaking techniques which are going to become key tools for how films are routinely made in the near future.”

Chuckie McEwan, head of production at Grey Moth and producer for Into the Betaverse, added: “The filmmaking landscape is so challenging for newcomers and indies. We are excited to share our budget-friendly approach to motion capture, and also to be sharing this exclusively with Manchester-based filmmakers in the exact setup we’ll be using for filming our BFI Network and Film Hub North-funded short film.”

The workshop will consist of a presentation on the project’s findings, followed by a Q&A with the Grey Moth team and then a demonstration of the mocap setup in a practical session before some networking to end the day.

Into the Betaverse is co-written and co-directed by Manchester-based award-winning duo Varun Raman & Tom Hancock, known professionally as Parallel Madness. It was developed as part of Film Hub North 2022, and was awarded funding from the BFI in 2023.

The filmmakers will also be in attendance for the workshop, which which will take place in the Digital Media Performance Lab from 10am to 4pm.

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