Emotions in Motion

The history books show that Daniel Boone passed away on Sept. 26, 1820 at his country home near present-day Defiance, Missouri.

And let history also show that Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson brought the famed explorer back to life on Oct. 28, 2015, in Room 454 of the Wallace Building.

No, it was not some kind of presidential séance, but a demonstration of just the latest tool in EKU’s Gaming Institute to prepare students for new frontiers of game development

After a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the crowd assembled in the hallway watched as Benson entered the new, cutting-edge Motion Capture Studio and began to wave his arms and kick his legs. At the same time, a nearby television monitor showed an image of Boone, as depicted in a famous campus landmark, begin to gyrate accordingly.

With the addition of the Studio, the University’s Gaming Institute, the first of its kind in the Commonwealth, now employs the same technology that Hollywood and game studios use to capture actor performances in movies and games.

“Our students will learn directly how to capture live performance and manipulate the data for use directly in games,” said Institute Director Dr. George Landon. “Student games and animation will directly benefit from recording actors instead of manually trying to manipulate human figures to animate them.”

But the Motion Capture Studio, designed by Organic Motion Inc., is not the only new feature on the fourth floor of the Wallace Building. The Institute also boasts of a new Game Development Studio, where a four-member game development team is preparing an educational game for Spring 2016 release in the Apple App Store and Google Play Story, and a Game Play Lab, which gives students the ability to play and critique each other’s games in an accessible environment.

“These new additions to our facilities will continue to keep our program at the forefront of academic game design in the state,” Landon said, “as well as make us competitive nationally with the best programs in game design.”

The Motion Capture Studio, aka Virtual Reality Lab, can record the movement and actions of up to four individuals at the same time and apply them directly to 3D models to be used in video games and movies. “This is exactly the same technology used by Warner Brothers and other studios,” Landon said.

The studio will also be available for a fee to Kentucky’s growing game development industry. “We will be the only motion capture studio in a multi-state region, and the first in Kentucky, offering this type of service,” Landon said.

Several industry representatives were present for the ribbon-cutting ceremony, including Wes Keltner, founder of Gun Media, of Lexington, who noted he was just leaving House of Moves in Los Angeles when he received an invitation to the event.

“If there’s something that we need to get done, it’s exciting to know we’re only a 25- to 30-minute drive to come down here and use this technology,” Keltner said. “It’s pretty awesome that this is happening here. This is a program that’s moving forward.”

Said Benson before he brought Boone back to life: “I can’t think of anything we’re doing at the University that has more application to the here and now and what students want.”

EKU is home to the Commonwealth’s first bachelor’s degree program in game design. The Interactive Multimedia option within the baccalaureate degree in Computer Science develops students’ expertise in game design, 3-D modeling and animation, graphics programming, and multimedia systems. The Gaming Institute focuses on the design, development, and publication of video games within an academic context. The University also offers a minor in Interactive Multimedia.

For more information about EKU’s Gaming Institute, visit gaming.eku.edu.