Unsurprisingly, the 2017 R&D statistics revealed that Information and Communication was the sector with the highest percentage of R&D claims. 27% of all the claims submitted were from this industry, which includes developments in motion capture technology.

This is an unexpected story from the Centre for the Analysis of Motion, Entertainment Research and Applications (CAMERA) who are based in the University of Bath. The purpose of this organisation is best described by its own homepage: “It exists to accelerate the impact of fundamental research being undertaken at the University in the Departments of Computer Science and Health.”

One of their current R&D projects is creating a library of animal movements, using motion capture technology, in order to make animation of animals as realistic as possible.

You’ve probably seen some of the behind the scenes footage from Planet of the Apes, which shows how human actors are transformed into their screen ape characters using motion capture technology. Despite our genetic closeness, this process was still filled with the difficulties of reconciling the detailed differences between human and animal movements. So the animation of other animals is even less likely to be realistic, if human mimickery is the only way to capture it.

Dogs as R&D researchers

A PhD Researcher involved in the project, Sinead Kearney, said: “In order to learn how animals move, we first need data of these animals. The majority of motion capture research focuses on humans, so very few datasets of animal motion are available. We decided to tackle this problem by recording some animals ourselves. We started with dogs, since it’s straightforward to get them into the studio, there is a wide range of body shapes across different breeds, and dogs can be directed to perform various tasks. By recording the dogs performing each of the selected tasks, not only do we learn how dogs move in general, but how their movements differ from breed to breed.”

How do they actually capture their motion?

The dogs wear special coats that are covered with reflective markers. When infrared light hits these markers, cameras record the position of it in 3D. There are cameras all round the studio, so every aspect of the dogs’ movements can be seen while they are having fun on the agility course. All the digital information is then processed so this canine movement can be recreated on screen.

How do the dogs feel about being on screen?

The dogs are all from the nearby Bath Cats’ and Dogs’ Home and are waiting for rehoming. The Head of Animal Operations there, Simon Lynn, said:

“This is such an innovative project for our dogs and team to be a part of. It will be so beneficial for the dogs taking part as it is great socialisation for them – meeting new people and seeing different sights and sounds. Kennel life can become repetitive so we’re always looking at ways to add enrichment to our dog’s lives whilst they’re waiting to be adopted and a trip to the CAMERA team at the University of Bath definitely fits the bill. Their carers are with them at all times so we can check they’re relaxed and happy but we’re sure they are going to love it. Not only that but the donation towards Bath Cats and Dogs Home’s work will help these dogs find new homes and help us to save many other unwanted animals in our area.”

A definite win-win! A University of Bath article on the research concludes; “As well as informing the research at CAMERA, the data collected during the shoots will be used as part of collaborative research and developments projects with industrial partners to drive the next generation of tools and processes across the visual effects and games industries.”

Bet you’re trying to figure out how to incorporate playing with dogs into your R&D projects now. Even if you can’t, you can assuage that disappointment with the knowledge that you are probably due R&D Tax Credits for your work. The exciting world of motion capture technology is innovative by definition; all we have to do is match your genius to HMRC’s R&D regulatory requirements. In 2017, the average R&D claim for a business in your industry was £65,199. Imagine what you could do with that. You’ve nothing to lose by making an enquiry on 0330 0539 112, or email us at info@dsmranddtaxcredits.co.uk.


Jamie Smith