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Jan. 14, 2014 12:15 pm

This Baltimore high school’s motion capture studio used for Bully! game development

It was the introduction of the motion capture studio at Frederick Douglass, and Federal Hill 3D animation and game studio Bully! Entertainment was there to capture the movements of two Baltimore Blast players for its new mobile game, "Pelé: King of Football."

Denison Cabral, left, waits as junior Emmanuel Lewis attaches the markers to the motion capture suit.

Shortly after noon last Thursday, the all-time leading point scorer of the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer team strolled into Frederick Douglass High School to get suited up.

But Brazilian Denison Cabral wasn’t there for an exhibition match. Instead he was inside the school’s motion capture studio performing bicycle kicks and headers while donning an all-black outfit to which round, gray markers were affixed by velcro.

Cabral, left, with Baltimore Blast teammate Lucas Roche inside the motion capture studio.

Cabral, left, with Baltimore Blast teammate Lucas Roche inside the motion capture studio.

It was the introduction of the motion capture studio at Frederick Douglass, and Federal Hill 3D animation and game studio Bully! Entertainment was there to capture the movements of Cabral and teammate Lucas Roque to inform the graphics of their new game, “Pelé: King of Football.”

PeleScreenshot

A screenshot of Bully’s new game.

The mobile game recreates Pele’s soccer career from childhood to professional life. Players, by flicking their finger across their tablet and phone screens, control Pelé as he kicks and heads soccer balls toward different goalies. In production since June, Pelé’s movements have thus far been illustrated and animated by Bully’s in-house team of programmers.

But to get more real-life movements, Bully enlisted the help of Frederick Douglass High School’s motion capture studio. Frederick Douglass junior Emmanuel Lewis was in charge of manning the computer software and in-studio cameras that were used to digitally record Cabral’s and Roque’s movements.

Lewis, a student in the Frederick Douglass High School RAMP program, gets a credit for his motion capture work on “Pele.” RAMP, according to its director Lynn Patterson, is a career-track program for students interested in recording, arts, media production and game development. In addition to their typical high school science, math, English and history classes, RAMP students take courses in such subjects as 3D modeling, photography and web development.

“This is our STEM offering,” said Patterson, who has been an instructor at Frederick Douglass High since 1998.

mocapstudio2

Frederick Douglass High School’s broadcast room doubles as the school’s motion capture studio.

Bringing Frederick Douglass High School and Bully together was nonprofit Code in the Schools, known for sponsoring after-school game development programs at city public schools. Code in the Schools cofounder Michael LeGrand, a veteran of Big Huge Games who took a severance package once the company went belly-up, was hired by Bully over the summer.

“We had a meeting with Baltimore City Public Schools in the fall about how to bring tech industry partners into schools,” said Gretchen LeGrand, Code in the Schools cofounder (and Michael’s wife).

The motion capture studio inside Frederick Douglass High ended up being the ideal fit. Typically, Bully heads to New York City for its motion capture needs, said Chris Coscarelli, project manager for the new “Pelé” game. By doing its motion capture work locally, Bully not only saves money, he said, but also gives students a chance to leave their mark on a game in development.

Lewis

Lewis manning the computer control’s inside the motion capture studio.

As for the game itself: A global release to both iOS and Android is scheduled for late February, Coscarelli said. “Pelé” will be free to download, but in-app purchases — to upgrade Pele’s standard kick to a fireball kick, for example — will cost players money.

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Andrew Zaleski

Andrew Zaleski is a freelance journalist in Philadelphia and the former lead reporter for Technical.ly Baltimore. Before moving to Philadelphia in June 2014, he was a contributing writer to Baltimore City Paper and a Tech Check commentator for WYPR 88.1 FM, Baltimore city’s National Public Radio affiliate. He has written for The Atlantic, Outside, Richmond magazine, Washington City Paper, Baltimore magazine, Baltimore Style magazine, Next City, Grist.org, The Atlantic Cities, and elsewhere.

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