Thank you to @ninjeska (Jess Watson, Aus) on Twitter for raising the subject of how to deal with beards during motion capture.

The enquiry was this –

“Uh.. bit of an odd #Mocap question, but how would you deal with guys whose beards obscure markers? :S @ ThatMocapGirl @Vicon @mocapsolutions.”

This sparked off an internal conversation and me running around the office trying to find men with beards. The obvious problem with a beard is that for facial motion capture it is highly likely to obscure facial markers or be problematic when sticking them on to the beard (and removing the markers again) and have possible inaccuracies.

The next issue is if the beard is of the larger Brian Blessed, Dusty Hill or Chris Stapleton style beard, then it could easily block body markers around shoulders and upper chest, whilst these can be fixed in Blade, it would be easier to find a solution that means less reworking.

The easiest solution would be to shave the beard off completely. However the pogonophile community is fairly attached to their beards and with current fashion, it might be harder to persuade them to trim or remove them. The other problem with beards comes in when they can’t be cut for religious or medical reasons. Here we would need to find a suitable alternative to removal. If facial capture is not required then the beard could be tucked into a balaclava or snood, this would contain it.

As for facial capture using the Cara rig, the ideal would be to shave or at the very least trim the beard. A well-maintained beard (washed, conditioned, oiled and regularly brushed and tidied) should pose fewer problems for motion capture as it is in some ways will respond to facial movements in much the same way as the face underneath (a close trim approx. 10mm hair length max). The other option would be to put the markers in the hair (as close to the skin as possible) using 3D markers with 3M double-sided tape and reposition them in Blade. To capture lips, it is highly recommended that the hair is trimmed away from the lips and use of a strong mustache wax to position the hair as far away from the lips as possible will assist in keeping them clear.

For those who would not be able to tame the beard and if re-positioning them in Blade is not an option then, you could use markers on stilts, there would be a need for cosmetic adhesives to be used and a lot of care to take them off again, but it would give the capture equipment something to track, no solution is going to give you the same results as a clean-shaven face, but if the need arises then these would be the option.

However, if you need to capture a beard and its movement, braids and beads as markers should do the trick.