Learn Martial Arts like in the Matrix
November 1, 2010 8:40 AM   Subscribe

Best way to create virtual Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructional software?

I'm exploring ways to create a software version of the various BJJ instructional books that are now on the market. Most of these books feature step by step photos of techniques taken from 2 simultaneous angles. The photos are accompanied by commentary to varying levels of detail.

These books are fine but they are lacking in several areas when compared to "live" instruction and actual drilling. As John Danaher puts it, BJJ is a game of inches, and learning tools should be precise enough to allow for zooming, rotating, weight distribution overlays, speed controls, shuttle controls etc.

I'm contemplating using the Unreal Engine for this, with perhaps the Havok physics engine. I'm even thinking of paying a studio for mo-cap as a starting point for the animations. However, the preceding plan will take a lot of time.

The question (finally!) is: is there a better and/or quicker way of building this software? Maybe with Poser? Blender?
posted by growli to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Could you find clips of MMA fights where the technique you want to illustrate is used and put the overlay on that or a freeze frame to explain things? Just to critique my own idea, you'd probably have to get permission from whoever owns the footage (and they might only want a small plug for their organization), you probably wouldn't have as much control over the camera angles as you'd like, and you might have to sift through a bunch of footage so it might not save you time but it might be cheap.

It would have the advantage of showing the techniques in real use rather with an opponent who is not cooperating rather than the clean idealized scenarios you see in most martial arts instruction videos.
posted by VTX at 8:51 AM on November 1, 2010

It might be least problematic to do what they did on Backyardigans; use live action video reference to key pose the characters in Maya. I don't think I've ever seen convincing mo-cap animation of two figures together. Usually, it's just separate captures of karate or kickboxing moves.

From my limited experience in high school wrestling and my yellow belt in judo, I think that weight distribution overlay is probably the most important thing to get across to the student.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:57 AM on November 1, 2010

Response by poster: VTX: it's not a bad idea to use footage. For example, Marcelo Garcia has an instructional website based on footage of him rolling, with clips interlinked into a database of categorized techniques. Both the MMA footage and dojo footage sound quite costly in terms of production values and interactivity, however.
posted by growli at 9:00 AM on November 1, 2010

From what I've seen the Kinect for Xbox 360 is intended at least partially for this kind of thing. I don't know if it could track two people or not.
posted by cmoj at 9:50 AM on November 1, 2010

I'm even thinking of paying a studio for mo-cap as a starting point for the animations.

Easier said than done. These will be link-up animations of two actors where marker balls will be 100 percent obscured on every single take. EA Sports has dozens and dozens of animators just for doing this kind of clean-up work.

Mo-cap is fine for stand-up fights. BJJ ground work will be a nightmare.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:10 AM on November 1, 2010

I don't know that the added value you'd get out of motion-capture or other expensive CG work would be worth the incremental benefit. I'm perfectly happy doing freeze frames on my own, and usually, just seeing the other side of the position is enough to learn it well enough to drill with someone more experienced.

I use iBJJ on the iPhone and I am happy with it except for two things - it needs more content, and it needs a true reverse camera angle instead of the mirrored version they have.

Also, have a look at Roy Dean's DVDs - they're pretty useful, just video and talking through the exercises. I like Marcelo's stuff as well, and sometimes some of the other students at my school also record themselves after class, in lieu of writing notes. The Flip Mino/iPhone 4 is great for this.

Let me know when you have a beta program, so I can apply. ;-)
posted by bashos_frog at 3:26 PM on November 1, 2010

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