Monday, July 04, 2005

Getting it Wrong. Again.

CSI: Miami just aired an ep where they tried to somehow tie in Tony Hawk, video-games, and motion capture all into one episode, and barely managed to get the Tony Hawk (guest-star) part right.

A lot of people (I guess mainly actual crime-scene forensics experts) complain that the tech on the show is mostly fictional, that it's based somewhat in reality but they "trump" it up a bit to make the episodes flow faster. An example is that they don't use the chemical spray Luminol to make bodily fluids reflect black light; they just use some amber plastic to look at stuff bathed in black light and suddenly it glows. Saves a lot of scenes with spray-bottles.

So it is with no surprise that they completely botched the parts which encompass motion capture. In no particular order:

1). They had a sixteen camera rig set up to capture a guy skating on a half-pipe. The cameras were only set to 9 feet, and aimed down. In other words, they were capturing the flat of the ramp at the bottom, not the action at the top. To get a half-pipe captured properly (and all the crucial data in this case is above the lip of the half-pipe), you'd need about a 32 camera rig, with 16 of the cameras aimed up above ten feet. They weren't even spread out optimally for floor coverage.

2). The software used wasn't Vicon's IQ'd or Bodybuilder. They intentionally showed it was Vicon's cameras, but didn't use Vicon's software.

3). At one point, they attempted to prove that there were two different skaters skating, one on Thursday night, and a different one on Friday. They used some fictional software which evidently measured the biometrics of the data to determine that one guy was 6'4" and one guy was 6'2". All the tech had to do was check the template file from the mocap setup each night, and it would have told him that there were two different actors in the suits. No need to go outside of the mocap software to solve this mystery. In fact, he couldn't even have displayed the same data side-by-side for comparison without loading the separate template files; the data from Friday wouldn't play on Thursday's setup file if it was a different actor.

4). They showed the murder (of Tony Hawk) was recorded on the mocap sofware. Tony Hawk was not wearing any mocap sensors, and was in casual clothing at the time of his character's murder. The data cannot be recorded if you're not wearing sensors in key areas of your body.

5). Nevermind the fact that in both nights (Thursday and Friday) the actor was in the studio alone. Someone needs to run and monitor motion capture equipment. You don't just click "record" and leave it run for a half an hour. Someone knowledgeable needs to set it up, and run it.

6). The "solo" data that was being recorded would have had to be recorded in one long, continuous take. For this reason, I immediately suspected a motion capture data editor as the murderer, because nobody wants to clean up a single half hour long take. In fact, I'm pretty sure there isn't a system in existance that could fit that file in RAM.

I know it sounds like pointless nitpicking (hey, it is, but it's fun), but they had to buy or borrow/rent the cameras from Vicon. All they had to do was ask a Vicon tech to come in and set everything up, and consult on the show for a day. He could have fixed all of those problems in ten minutes.

But I don't really expect Hollywood to ever go out of their way in search of the truth or to attempt to get facts straight. That might require some effort on their part.

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