Expressive Motion
Candidate: Alyssa Lees
Advisor: Chris Bregler and Davi Geiger


Since the advent of motion capture animation, attempts have been made to extract the seemingly nebulously defined attributes of 'content' and 'style' from the motion data. Enabling quick access to highly precise data, the benefits of motion capture for animation purposes are abundant. Yet manipulating the expressive attributes of the motion data in a comprehensive manner has proved elusive. This dissertation poses practical solutions that are based on insights from the dance community and learning attributes from the motion data itself. The culminating project is a system which learns the deformations of the human body and reapplies them in exaggerated form for enhanced expressivity.

While simultaneously developing efficient and usable tools for animators, the result is a three pronged technique to enhance the expressive qualities of motion capture animation. The key aspect is the creation of a deformable skeleton representation of the human body using a unique machine learning approach. The deformable skeleton is modeled by replicating the actual movements of the human spine. The second step relies on exploiting the subtle aspects of motion, such as hand movement to create an emotional effect visually. Both of these approaches involve exaggerating the movements in the same vein as traditional 2-D animation technique of 'squash and stretch'. Finally, a novel technique for the application of style on a baseline motion capture sequence is developed.

All of these approaches are rooted in machine learning techniques. Linear discriminate analysis was initially applied to a single phrase of motion demonstrating various style characteristics in LABAN notation. A variety of methods including nonlinear PCA, and LLE were used to learn the underlying manifold of spine movements. Nonlinear dynamic models were learned in attempts to describe motion segments versus single phrases. In addition, the dissertation focuses on the variety of obstacles in learning with motion data. This includes the correct parameterization of angles, applying statistical analysis to quaternions, and appropriate distance measures between postures.