Rokoko World’s Largest Mocap Marketplace Interview with Jakob Balslev, Rokoko CEO & Founder
March 25, 2020 – Today, Jakob Balslev talks to VFX Online about his experience of Rokoko World’s Largest Mocap Marketplace and VFX/Animation Industry.
Motion capture has always had a steep barrier to entry, but what if you could simply select a mocap clip created by a Hollywood VFX studio or a AAA game developer, and drop it directly into an existing project? Today, Rokoko makes that possible by opening up its “Motion Library” marketplace to the public via the free-to-use Rokoko Studio, granting users access to thousands of professionally created mocap assets from studios behind major productions like Wonder Woman and League of Legends, each for $6 or less. The Motion Library will also be available natively within Maya 2020.1 at launch.
Rokoko, Headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, and with a core team located in San Francisco, Rokoko’s vision is to give all creative teams access to quick, non-intrusive and intuitive animation tools. After completing a successful Kickstarter campaign, Rokoko immediately embarked on designing and producing its flagship Smartsuit Pro, which has now been shipped to more than 60 countries and is used by international giants like Netflix, Sony, 20th Century Studios, Microsoft, Ikea, Volkswagen and more, to small indie game and film studios across the globe. Today, Rokoko offers a range of tools that are all designed to make professional 3D animation tools accessible to everybody, regardless of budget or technical expertise.
// From Jakob Balslev, Rokoko CEO & Founder
Tell us a bit more about the news from Rokoko.
We created the Motion Library – the world’s largest marketplace for selling and buying motion capture assets – and we made it available to all creators who need it. They can either access it natively through our plugins in Unity and Autodesk’s Maya, or they can download our Rokoko Studio software for free and use it there. Million-dollar motion capture assets are now accessible with just a few clicks, and available for purchase for either $3 or $6 per asset. There are even 150 assets that are completely free, and once someone purchases an asset, it’s theirs to keep and reuse.
Share something about Rokoko “Motion Library”? How did it begin?
Since founding Rokoko, our plan has been to create a specific range of tools designed to make professional 3D animation accessible to everybody, regardless of budget or technical expertise. We started with our inertial motion capture suit, Smartsuit Pro, because high-quality custom motion capture was out of reach for the vast majority of creators who needed it. It was the most acute “hair on fire” problem that we knew we could offer a solution to.
Furthermore, our plan has always been about uniting users rather than competing with the existing players on the mocap scene. It is one of the main reasons we are so excited about the Motion Library. It is also one of the many upcoming features in Rokoko Studio that invites all mocap creators, regardless of what systems they are using, to jump in and contribute to a growing ecosystem.
Regarding the origins of the Motion LIbrary, the Smartsuit Pro solved the problem of giving quick and easy access to personal and custom mocap. Next up was finding an even quicker and more effortless way to find high-quality character animation. If you can’t afford a suit (or optical system), or if you aren’t able or willing to perform the movements yourself, the world’s largest marketplace of motion assets can help.
When we began development, we knew of a few existing motion asset archives online, but they typically varied in quality and selections, and weren’t centralized. Most importantly, they were static and not evolving. Our idea was to create a marketplace that was constantly growing and changing, so creators and users (many of whom could be on both sides of the marketplace) could start interacting. They can help each other out, building relationships and collaborations.
To make sure the quality was flawless from the get-go, we decided to start with professional motion capture studios as publishers to ensure that all assets were AAA-quality. The idea was that we could gradually open the Motion Library up to more creators as we go, while still ensuring that the quality is great. That way, the marketplace can start growing exponentially and we’ll begin to see a more iterative and interactive process around what assets are created and displayed. That’s the great thing about the marketplace – demand will steer supply and pricing, and ensure that the assets being created are the ones users want.
So far, the Motion Library has only been available in Unity, and as a result we’ve seen the highest demand centered on simple, loopable, game-ready assets (idles, walk cycles, run cycles, simple punches, etc). Now that we are opening up the marketplace to a wider audience — including Maya users, who are the most advanced in the industry — we expect to see increased interest in the more complex and cinematic collections we have. Some of the assets from publishers like Centroid (the mocap studio behind Wonder Woman, Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk and more) are very unique, and something only professional performers in a mocap stage can perform. But those kinds of assets also require a high skill-level in order to be implemented in an effective way. That’s exactly what we expect from Maya users, and we are super excited to see them enter the arena!
What type of mocap assets are available in the mocap marketplace? How is it helpful for users?
It’s a wide selection of assets. Basically anything from simple walk and run cycles to super complex, more cinematic assets with a lot of acting and “uniqueness.” Some of the assets also have finger capture. At the moment, all assets feature a single character and are focused on the body, but the option to add multiple character and facial capture assets are both on the way.
Some of the animation assets available to purchase in the marketplace would take hours, days even weeks to keyframe animate, and would require a very expensive system and professional mocap actors. In the Motion Library you get it all for next to nothing, and you can use them directly in your project. Some of the assets are very complex and unique, and a huge cost-saver. But generally, I’d say that the challenge in character animation is often capturing those subtle human movements that are so hard to define – things like a sense of breath in the body and capturing the way every bit of our bodies are connected. It’s often the less “bombastic” animations that are the most unique and useful. The performers behind the assets in the library are world class dancers or actors, and that really shows through in the data.
The Motion Library is available in Unity and Maya 2020.1? Share something about that?
The two plugins we have now are for Unity and Maya, but we are planning to broaden this out to all the major 3D platforms. Regardless of what software you use though, the Motion Library is available to you today through Rokoko Studio.
Rokoko Studio has a super intuitive and accessible interface that users will understand instantly. All they need to do is install the software and then download the assets as FBX files through the Motion Library, and then import those assets into their desired 3D software.
What challenges did you face when creating the marketplace? Any fun stories from behind the scenes?
I think the biggest surprise and realization is that there are literally NO rules or standardization of any kinds in this industry. As relative newcomers, we had expected that at least the high-end industry would have some common ways of structuring their workflows and structured naming conventions, but no, almost every project and publisher does it in their own way. That makes our job a bit more tricky, but at the same time it really underscores the need for the ecosystem we are building, and our mission of uniting the industry around one central hub for all work with character animation and motion assets.
What are the latest additions to the Rokoko Motion Library Marketplace?
We added some really cool native features in our Maya plugins, where you can download a clip directly to your project and timeline. Plus, we generally made the Maya plugin as integrated as possible. Other than that, we recently signed some new and really cool publishers like Blue Faces and Target3D, and are very excited to see how the users will like their assets.
How can someone download and access the Rokoko Motion Library Marketplace?
They can go to motionlibrary.com to find all the info they need. Download links for Maya, Unity and Rokoko Studio, plus a technical Guide with tutorials for how to use it are also available.
How do you make sure you are always being helpful to VFX artists to game developers?
We will keep making video tutorials and inspirational user stories highlighting the Motion Library and showing what can be achieved. We find that seeing other like-minded creators working with these tools is by far the best way to get new people to join and understand the potential. We try to create our tutorials completely from a user’s perspective, and try to get as many artists as possible to share their stories. We are also trying to pick up all the feedback we can and implement it into the product at a fast, iterative pace to make sure users are heard, so they know that their voices matter.
What does the future hold for Rokoko?
2020 will be the year where we start broadening our scope and building tools that are “system-agnostic.” We want to focus on bringing in all motion capture creators, rather than competing with other solutions. We will start launching more features on our Rokoko Studio software that will make it appealing for users of other systems to join our ecosystem. We will also make sure that Rokoko Studio works with all these different tools, and that you will benefit from our entire platforma and range of products when you join. By the end of this year, we want to be a centralized motion capture hub that works across systems and unites the entire space.
We would like to thank Jakob Balslev for the great interview. If you would like to know more about Rokoko, go to www.rokoko.com