The music video for Slowdanger's Body, My Body

Overview

Role: Lead Software Engineer

Tools Used:CMU Panoptic Studio, OpenFrameworks 0.9.8, C++

Collaborators: Anna Henson, Catherine Luo, Jessica Mendenbach

Intent

Body, My Body is a music video that I and 3 other teammates produced for the independent performance artist group, Slowdanger.

The overall message behind the song is that bodies are always deteriorating, so we wanted to use the technology in this project to emphasize that fragility. The video features several different types of motion and image capture technologies to be able to represent the physicality of the performers but also in a way that allowed us to add our own manipulations.

Process

I specifically worked on animating the point cloud data of Slowdanger's dance performances, recorded in Carnegie Mellon University's Panoptic Studio dome. Each of the dances lasted about 4 minutes each, and the video data came back processed into Polygon File Format (.ply) files representing each frame of video. Because each frame of point cloud data came in as a separate file, the next step became a matter of determining a pipeline to render and play back these frames.

Slowdanger performing inside of the Panoptic Studio dome

At first I attempted to construct meshes from the point clouds using the Poisson Surface Reconstruction algorithm in Meshlab, an open source 3D mesh processing software. From here, I exported the mesh as a 3D .obj file. I wrote a Python script to automate this process of reconstructing and exporting point cloud frames into meshes. The idea was to import each of these .obj files into the Unity3D engine using Mega Cache, a Unity plugin that creates animations by preloading and swapping 3d meshes per frame. However, the issue with this pipeline was that Unity could not import the texture data for the meshes correctly, since Meshlab exports textures as .mtl files rather than image files. We could not find a way to automate generating image files of the mesh textures from Meshlab, and we didn't like the look of the texture-less meshes for the project.

Next, I moved onto rendering the point clouds using the openFrameworks C++ toolkit. The application that I wrote loads in a variable number of .ply files and loops through the meshes and renders them each once per frame. The application also included a keyframed timeline to introduce camera movement during the point cloud rendering. The point clouds are rendered against a green background, serving as a "green screen" to overlay the animations over a black background in the final video.

Test screengrab of the openFrameworks app rendering point cloud data

Product

The final video (at the top of the page) is featured on the Misc Records YouTube channel and on Slowdanger's Facebook page. The music video was also used as a promotion for Slowdanger's exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Art, for their Third Thursdays feature.