Ben’s passion for production began at an early age, with his heart set on attending Christ Church University film school. Since his ambitious beginnings, Ben has gone from Assistant Editor at London Post, to Pipeline Director at Weta Digital, and beyond.
In 1996, Ben co-founded a motion-capture bureau called Centroid. For 10 years, he managed a permanent studio, mobile rig and traveled on-set around the UK and Europe.
As time went on, Ben diversified his remit to include virtual production and software development. He pioneered the use of real-time motion capture and digital puppeteering techniques to enhance the speed, accessibility, and directability of CG production.
Now, Ben is bringing new ideas, innovation, and experience to the Animatrik team as Performance Capture Supervisor.
Six questions with Ben
Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I began my career as an editor in TV post-production, but became aware of motion capture in the mid-90s. I was employed by a studio called London Post at the time. Another company, known as Law Design, regrettably went bankrupt and so were selling their mocap system. Two other colleagues and I looked into system, thought ‘that’s interesting’, and bought it.
We started our own little motion capture service bureau based out of a storage locker. We did short form shoots for promotions, music videos and such to begin with. It grew, and grew, and grew until we had a full time, fully functioning company.
What are some of the biggest projects you have worked on during your career?
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed doing on-set motion capture in sync with the principal photography for feature films. Just last year, I had the chance to work on Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in Paris.
I was involved in all three Planet of the Apes movies; which meant a lot of travel, outdoor sets and generally being very active to capture all manner of movements.
While at Weta Digital, as technical director of their motion capture pipeline, I had the chance to work on post-production for Avatar. The team had pretty much finished shooting by the time I arrived.
Those are definitely my favorite projects.
What are you most excited to work on during your time at Animatrik?
The facilities at Animatrik are fantastic, as is the location. It was a bit of a dream to come and work in Vancouver. I’ve only ever flown here briefly for projects in the past. It’s a busy hub of video game companies and creative agencies, with lots of opportunities. I can’t wait to get involved.
What specific expertise do you bring to the Animatrik team?
I’ve been in this business for 20 years so I’ve seen a lot of things – worked on lots of different projects and scenarios, for many different companies.
My experience with both motion capture and editing puts me in a unique position. I know how to streamline the handoff between phases of production. After all, Weta Digital originally hired me to work on Tintin – because it was a fully CG world. I’m perfectly placed to monitor the transition between data capture, creature creation, and final rendering. That’s what I can bring to Animatrik.
What really excites you about performance capture today?
I can’t wait to tackle more augmented and virtual reality. My personal experience consists mostly of feature films so I haven’t had much chance to work in video games, or in other areas. I’m looking forward to the variety Animatrik offers in its portfolio.
Just last week, I started testing a new collection of ‘pucks’ – AR gear that will be used in the largest interactive reality experience to date. A world record-breaking project, and I get to be a part of it.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I like being active in the great outdoors; hiking, walking, photography and being sociable. In fact, my hobbies often align with my work. I’ve had many chances to set up motion capture outdoors with optical systems, mostly using active markers rather than reflective balls. The latter doesn’t work so well due to interference from sunlight – especially when shooting with cars and other glossy surfaces. Basically, I spend a lot of time keeping busy in the fresh air.