Plotting a Course for Natural Motion

Natural Motion (NM) is a spinout company through Isis Innovation, the technology transfer arm of the University of Oxford. AP Benson worked with NaturalMotion to help them establish their business in the competitive and vibrant games programming and motion picture animation marketplaces.

AP Benson worked with the NaturalMotion management team to develop their exciting new technology, which promised significant cost savings and increased realism to the production of video game, television and film animation.

Torsten Reil, one of the founders of NaturalMotion, said "The AP Benson approach to technology business development helped NM to improve the positioning and presentation of our product to our future clients and to investors. The research undertaken by APB assisted us in further firming up and refining our business model and proposition as we sought early support from investors and partners. APB were of great help to NM in planning a development schedule and a series of achievable milestones that both fitted our investment levels at the time and helped to prove our business model to potential investors."

NaturalMotion Ltd is the creator of Dynamic Motion Synthesis, a break-through in 3D character animation. Dynamic Motion Synthesis creates high-quality 3D character animation in real time by combining artificial intelligence, biomechanics, and dynamics simulation.

The business has grown from strength to strength and actively markets, sells and supports its products globally to customers in the film, games, post production and broadcast markets.

With customers such as Sony Europe, Sony America, Moving Picture Company, The Mill, Giant Killer Robots, CIS Hollywood, Namco, Konami, Rainbow Studios, Blitz Games and Tigar Hare Studios, NaturalMotion's endorphin software is rapidly becoming the tool of choice for today's leading visual effects artists creating high end animation.   More recently, NaturalMotion launched the groundbreaking euphoria animation technology featured in Grand Theft Auto IV and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

The demand for realism at low cost is driving growth in the 3D animation software industry. As games production cycles get shorter, 3D tool vendors will be required to deliver better and more integrated tools to developers to enable them to bridge the gap between content creation and game programming. Increased 3D acceleration and desktop computing power are making 3D more accessible allowing for increased market penetration (conclusions of a report by US Research firm, Jon Peddie Associates).

3D animation straddles three strong and rapidly developing sectors:

  1. The Electronic Entertainment (Computer Gaming) Industry (31%)
  2. The Broadcast / Film Industry (42%)
  3. Professional Visualisation / Simulation (27%)
The aim for games producers, for example, is to produce for the player a sense of immersion in a virtual game world.

Unit sales of 3D software applications are estimated to nearly triple between 2000 and 2005 with forecast increases in the sales of 3D applications including film, game, web and design segments of the animation market place.

This is a highly concentrated market place with the top seven players controlling 99% of the unit sales and each supplying a different 3D application. Prices vary between the different tools ranging from $350 to $3,500 per licence. This reflects the fact that the players address different parts of the 3D animation industry. Lower priced tools are aimed at games software developers and business animation and low end TV production while higher priced suites are aimed at high end broadcast and film production.

In addition to 3D tools there are other choices when it comes to animation including motion capture studios and frame animation, both expensive choices.

The competitive choices available to 3D animation companies revolve around breakthrough technologies to aid rapid and cost effective animation.

With Motion Capture studios costing anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 per day, film and game developers are looking at ways to reduce their reliance on these methods whilst retaining a high degree of realism in the final output.

3D animation companies will need to look beyond simply refocusing into different market sectors and instead at ways in which to innovate these solutions.