Drones shake up the film industry

Zurich – Producing realistic animated film figures is a complex task. But now, researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have found an approach to reduce the effort required. Their method uses drones instead of stationary cameras.

Drones could soon play the lead role in the animation of film figures, announced the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in a statement. Producing realistic animated movement has so far required stationary cameras to film the movements of an actor. To reconstruct the movements for the 3D animation, the actor must be recorded with at least two cameras simultaneously from different perspectives – and such work demands a great amount of effort.  

Now, thanks to a system from researchers led by Tobias Nägeli – who recently finished his doctoral thesis with Otmar Hilligens of the ETH’s Advanced Interactive Technologies Lab (AIT) – and colleagues from Delft University of Technology, such effort could be set to dramatically reduce. The method consists of two drones that follow an actor’s every move – and can even anticipate their movements in real-time to then fly in order to keep the actor in the frame.

“What makes our system so unique is that it can also reliably capture sudden and fast movements,” explained Nägeli in the statement. Although the system is not yet good enough to meet the requirements of the film industry, he added, “it does offer a promising approach”. Nägeli now plans to work with two colleagues from the new startup company Tinamu Labs to develop the system further.

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