While we’ve seen humans solving mysteries about animals, Billy Whiskers is in fact a cat that solves mysteries, at least one of which involves humans. While it looks like an interesting film, with smooth animation and a murder theme that might be too mature for young children, what’s really interesting to a hacking audience is how films like this are made. Lucky for us, James Wilkinson decided to document the process on his project website.
In order to get the proper moving shots, he built his own automated motion capture rig, using DragonFrame and a variety of Arduino and stepper components for control. The prototype pan/tilt rig was constructed with aluminum extrusion, while an engineering firm helped with the larger boom when he felt things were getting beyond his abilities. Nonetheless, the prototype rig was attached to the boom for use in the film, and the rig survived the entire shoot.
The star of the show was similarly tech-infused, using a 3D-printed head skeleton with eyes and ears that can be manually positioned, along with a mouth that moves automatically using five servos. This is controlled by a simple computer slider interface via an Arduino’s serial port.
Be sure to check out the movie’s trailer below, as well as a clip of the motion capture rig in action.