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A Dome Packed With 480 Cameras Captures Detailed 3D Images In Motion

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If you've ever watched behind-the-scenes footage of a film with extensive visual effects, you've probably seen actors wearing ping-pong ball covered motion capture suits bringing digital characters to life. But researchers at Carnegie Mellon have come up with a better way to capture 3D motion that can be implemented almost anywhere, even inside an entire stadium, without the need for those awkward suits.

The secret behind the new system is to use cameras, lots and lots of cameras, to visually track thousands of points and estimate their motion over time. The testbed for the new tracking system is a two-story geodesic dome that the researchers filled with 480 cameras across its entire inner surface that allows the accompanying software to track an estimated 100,000 different points in motion.

The 3D tracking is so accurate that it can actually capture the motions of every individual particle in a handful of confetti tossed into the air. But accuracy is only half the benefit of this new system. Because it uses off-the-shelf camera technology, it can be scaled up almost indefinitely. So instead of just relying on 2D footage for instant replays at a sporting event, in the future referees could have access to an instant 3D recreation of a touchdown and study it from every angle. [Carnegie Mellon via Gizmag]