Capture Day!

After months of planning and two days of setting up equipment, Capture Day finally took place on 27th September 2017. The team arrived early to make sure the systems were up and running ready for the conductors and ensemble.

Bob Dimmock from Vicon setting up the additional motion capture cameras prior to Capture Day.

Three conductors – our own Ben Oliver, Holly Mathieson  and Geoffrey Paterson were captured in turn, each having rehearsal time with the ensemble prior to giving two performances which were both captured.

Ben Oliver in full capture mode!

Thanks to Vicon’s generosity in lending us additional cameras and devices for the capture system, as well as technical support to optimise the system, we managed to obtain high quality face, body and hand data from the conductors.

Conductor Holly Mathieson being marked up by Dan Halford

In addition to the Vicon motion data, we have video of the conductors and ensemble from 7 cameras (including a 360 degree video) in various locations, plus motion data from a Kinect 2, audio recording from stereo and close microphones and muscle data from four wireless EMG devices on the conductors’ biceps and triceps.

Conductor Geoff Paterson with markers and EMG sensors on view.

The day ran very smoothly, with help from Harry Matthews, Beth Walker and Sergiu Rusu (student and recent graduates) to help with unsticking and sticking markers amongst other activities!

Richard Polfreman and Dan Halford keeping an eye on the tech!

We are deeply grateful to Bob Dimmock, Phil Bacon, Matt Oughton and everyone at Vicon for all their help and generosity in making this day a success. We’d also like to thank Geoff and Holly for being such willing guinea pigs, and also our ensemble, for their wonderful patience and playing: Anna Durance (oboe + electronics); Vicky Wright (bass clarinet); Julian Poore (trumpet); Joley Cragg (percussion); Liga Korne (electric piano); Aisha Orazbayeva (violin) and Dan Molloy (double bass).

Finally, of course our thanks to The British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust for their funding of the project.

A Visit from Vicon

This week we were especially pleased to welcome a team from Vicon Motion Systems to the University. Vicon are a world-leading developer of motion-capture systems and they came to show us their face capture technologies to explore their potential use in our Capturing the Contemporary Conductor research project  – Richard Polfreman (Music), Benjamin Oliver (Music), Cheryl Metcalf (Health Sciences), and research assistant Dan Halford. Vicon mo-cap systems are used in biomechanics research as well as the entertainment industry, where facial expression capture is used to drive animated characters to bring them more realistically to life. Previous studies of conducting have highlighted the importance of facial expressions in communicating to the ensemble, and so we are interested in capturing this information in addition to body motion and beyond simple video recording.

Matt Oughton (EMEA Sales Manager), Dami Phillips (Technical Sales Engineer) and Katie Davies (Support Engineer) arrived at the motion capture lab with two boxes of kit which we were keen to unpack and try out as soon as possible. First was their brand new Cara Lite system, recently announced at SIGGRAPH 2017. This two-camera based system can be used markerless with analysis software to model the movement of the wearer’s face once recorded. The system certainly felt lighter than the previous Cara system, and this version is designed to be customisable to different client needs.

Research team member, composer and conductor Dr Benjamin Oliver wearing the Cara Lite motion capture system.

Next we tried the original Cara system, a complete 4-camera true 3D marker-based solution providing complete 3D motion data from the markers on the subject’s face. The marker layout is up to the user, and so this can be customised for the particular level of detail needed.

Engineer Katie Davies helping Research Assistant Dan Halford try on the Cara face capture system.


The Cara headset fitted very snugly and felt secure and comfortable. Heavier than the Cara Lite, but the openness of the camera mounts facilitated a clear line of sight to the score for conducting. The fact that the end result of the processed capture is the 3D motion data of markers (as the body motion data is) may be helpful.

Dr Benjamin Oliver practicing with the Cara headset

Depending on the application, the main Vicon system can be used without a headset to capture facial expressions, but whether this is appropriate depends on the range movement of the subject, the number of cameras in the system, the other markers being captured etc. For the Capturing the Contemporary Conductor project, we are carrying out tests to decide which option will work best for us!

Our grateful thanks go to Matt Oughton and the team at Vicon for bringing their amazing systems to show us, it was a very interesting and helpful meeting.