Answer: He makes them.
Yup, mad genius Troy McFarland
has been staying busy in the shop. Turns out that there really aren't any legit Assault Rifles floating about, so when it comes to helping your mocap team turn out the best character performances possible, you gotta start from scratch, roll up your sleeves, and do it yourself.
Before we turn Troy loose to talk some good old fashion shop, we should note that you're better off not trying this at home. Any
of it. Troy's what you might call a trained professional. The steps outlined below are not meant to be instructional in nature, but rather a look over the shoulder of our maniacal mocap maestro as he makes magical music by marrying metal and make believe. Come along, won't you?
Troy here, the mocap guy at Bungie. One of the things I love about my job is the variety. One of the more extreme things I get to do on occasion is make props for the studio. A good prop will add weight and realism to a performance.
We were using a red gun AR-15 for our Assault Rifle in the studio for a while. While the weight of this prop was great, it had two problems:
- The shoulder and hand positions are not identical to those of our in-game Assault Rifle. (Not a huge deal, as our animators are awesome and fix this stuff up all the time.)
- The thing is a solid mass, and blocks my markers. Less cameras can see them. This slowed down my delivery, because I had to spend more time cleaning up the data.
So, how do you make a see-through gun that is still weighted realistically? Plexiglas won’t work for mocap. It’s essentially a lens and either reflects light or distorts it, adding even more noise. The best solution is to make a real world wire-frame prop.
I picked up about 30’ of ¼” cold rolled steel rod. Then, I found a pistol accessory for a popular console from the 80’s at Goodwill. That, along with some scrap metal in my shop, cable ties, gaffers tape and paint, was all that was need to make this prop.
Heated up corners and bent wire frame with my oxy acetylene kit. Thought this would be easier than cutting and welding corners. It seemed like a good idea, but ended up taking a lot of time. Still, rounded corners work better for talent comfort.
I welded with my mig welder. If I had brazing skills, that might have been a better solution.
Gun’s gray plastic is completely ornamental. And part of it was in my way. Unscrewed and sawed off excess.
Used notch in gun to help secure it. Added spacer at that point.
Welded spacers into place.
Added barrel, and welded scrap metal inside if for extra weight.
Added shoulder stock addition and carefully added scrap metal weights inside to balance gun. Total weight: just under 6 pounds.
Attached grip by drilling holes and using zip ties. Painted gun.
Gaffers tape on grip, pipe insulation on barrel grip.
Leo, one of our kick-ass animators, shows off the finished product. Check out how we can see his clavicle and wrist marker from this location. The end result: Cleaner and faster data, better hand location, better base moves for the team to start with!
Of course, you won't see the real end result of Troy's hard work until Halo: Reach ships in September, but hopefully this inside look at prop fabrication inspires you to get off the couch and do something constructive with your hands. And no, we don't mean that
kind of something. Get your mind out of the gutter.
Before we go, we wanna drive the point home - safety first. When you begin any project that could result in serious burns, impalement, or even death, you should consult with adult experts and take any and all precautions necessary to ensure a safe working environment. Troy also notes that if you want to scale the Assault Rifle blueprint up to the correct size, each grid square is measured at 1x1 inches. The full print out should measure up to 36" x 16.02".
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