Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Space Industry and Business News .

Smooth moves: how space animates Hollywood
by Staff Writers
Paris (ESA) Jun 08, 2012

IKinema Action can produce accurate and realistic animation for complex visual effects sequences in film and video games. Most recently, it was used to produce accurate and realistic animation for complex visual effects sequences in the film Wrath of the Titans, a fantasy film sequel to the 2010 film Clash of the Titans. Credits: IKinema.

If you've been to see Wrath of the Titans, then you've watched it in action. A computer programmer is using software he developed to control spacecraft to help animators make more realistic computer games and movies. Originally designed to help guide satellites, the software now helps computers to render human movements smoothly and realistically.

It turns out that movements controlled effortlessly by our brains - picking up a cup, touching our toes or doing a little dance - take a lot of computing power.

"If you want to move your arm, you have to compute the angle of all the joints and the movement of the muscles," says Alexandre Pechev, CEO of IKinema.

The human brain makes this happen near-instantaneously. But animators creating computer games or movies must often break the body down into parts, calculate their moves and then put the components back together - often resulting in choppy, unrealistic animation.

Using the mathematical routine he developed, the program at the heart of IKinema's software crunches the numbers much more efficiently.

"If you have a human, you don't have to cut the body into six individual chains and then stitch it together later," Alexandre says. "What we do is move the whole body."

The result, he says, is a program that can create realistic moving bodies in video games or on the movie screen.

"It works on any chain. Horse, cat, alien, scorpion, face or flower - it doesn't matter what you're animating."

The software can be incorporated into video games and Hollywood studios like 20th Century Fox, Disney and ILM have all worked with IKinema's software.

Spin-off from spacecraft guidance
The software was originally intended to guide spacecraft that use 'control moment gyroscopes' for attitude control. They consist of spinning flywheels, tilted using gimbals, to produce torque that can turn a spacecraft.

The best-known application of these gyroscopes is the International Space Station, which has four big units.

Less well known is the Turkey's first remote sensing satellite Bilsat-1, launched in 2003. It includes an experimental payload of two small control moment gyroscopes developed by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. together with Surrey Space Centre, supported via ESA study contracts.

"We recently participated in the development of a complete control moment gyroscope hardware and software system for medium-size satellites, done by the French space agency CNES in cooperation with EADS Astrium SAS," Rene Seiler from ESA's Mechanisms Section in ESTEC explains.

"The first result was for the Pleiades-1 satellite launched in December 2011 by CNES. Here, two gyroscopes give the spacecraft exceptional agility."

So even though Pleiades-1 was designed for picking out targets on Earth's surface, the gyros can easily turn the spacecraft to snap other overflying satellites. On 15 April 2012, it took a picture of ESA's Envisat orbiting 90 km higher.

But in a twist that researchers are still puzzling over, there are a few positions where the gyros hit dead spots, called 'singularities'.

"In some particular orientations, you can't generate torque to rotate the spacecraft," explains Alexandre.

As a graduate student at Surrey Space Centre, he wrote software that would coordinate the motion and eliminate these singularities.

Yet his software, developed for use in space, has never left Earth. "Satellites with gyros are exotic creatures," he says. Most satellites still rely on reaction wheels to adjust their attitude.

But Alexandre had the idea to use his software to control a different type of motion: robot movements on screens. With the help of a technology transfer demonstrator grant from ESA's Technology Transfer Programme (TTP), he was able to confirm it worked.

"The funding was crucial to verify that my idea to spin off the space software had real commercial potential," Alexandre adds.

"Then a Royal Society of Edinburgh Fellowship from STFC made it possible for me to develop it into a near-commercial product, which was the baseline for starting IKinema.

"Today, our Action product is used by many film and computer game makers."

STFC is the UK member of ESA TTP Broker Network responsible for promoting terrestrial use of European space technologies.

Most recently, IKinema Action was used to produce accurate and realistic animation for complex visual effects sequences in the film Wrath of the Titans, a fantasy film sequel to the 2010 film Clash of the Titans.

ESA's Technology Transfer Programme Office (TTPO)
The main mission of the ESA Technology Transfer Programme is to facilitate the use of space technology and systems for non-space applications to take advantage of Europe's investments in space research and developments to strengthen the competitiveness of European industry, and at the same time demonstrating the benefit of the European space programmes to Europe's citizens.

ESA TTPO is responsible for defining the overall approach and strategy for the transfer of space technologies and systems, including the incubation of start-up companies at ESA business incubation centres and related funding.

The office has transferred over 260 technologies since the programme start and is supporting directly and indirectly around 100 new start-ups a year.

TTPO has also initiated as a limited partner the Open Sky Technology Fund, a euros 100 million venture fund which invests in start-ups using space technology.


Related Links
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

Artemis keeps talking the talk
Paris (ESA) Jun 05, 2012
Although ESA's Artemis telecommunications satellite has officially completed its mission, it still has plenty to offer. Reaching its working orbit almost 11 years ago after an arduous journey, Artemis continues to communicate with Earth. After almost 11 years in orbit, it is a fact that the Artemis mission has been successfully completed. To meet the demand of its operational users, ESA decided ... read more

Smooth moves: how space animates Hollywood

Skeleton key

Apple courts developers vital to its popularity

Phones, tablets transform handheld game market

Indian border force eyes sat-phone upgrade

India Plans To Launch First Military Satellite

Boeing Demonstrates SATCOM on the Move Between Australia and US

New Mobile Antenna from ASC Signal Designed For Rapid Deployment by Defense and Commercial Users

Another Ariane 5 begins its initial build-up at the Spaceport

Boeing Receives DARPA Airborne Satellite Launch Study Contract

Sea Launch Delivers the Intelsat 19 Spacecraft into Orbit

SpaceX Dragon capsule splash lands in Pacific

Boeing, Raytheon and Harris to Pursue GPS Control Segment Sustainment Contract

Revamped Google maps goes offline for mobile

USAF Awards Lockheed Martin GPS III Flight Operations Contract

Lockheed Martin Completes Navigation Payload Milestone For GPS III Prototype

Mosquitoes Fly in Rain Thanks to Low Mass

US calls on EU to abandon 'lousy' carbon tax on airlines

Boeing Delivers Final Wedgetail AEW and C Aircraft to Australia

EADS sees S. America entry with Chile deal

Unique approach to materials allows temperature-stable circuits

Integrated sensors handle extreme conditions

The first chemical circuit developed

Copper-nickel nanowires could be perfect fit for printable electronics

Taking action for GMES

CryoSat goes to sea

S Korea to develop geostationary satellite for environmental monitoring

LiDAR Technology Reveals Faults Near Lake Tahoe

Urban wasteland: World Bank sees global garbage crisis

Consumption driving 'unprecedented' environment damage: UN

Sweden may have to import garbage

Wildlife groups sue US over lead bullets

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement