The core functionality, UX, and GUI design of MP Studio were handled by creative director, Jake Sargeant, and myself. After years of experience integrating motion design into our work, Jake and I are both well versed in 2D and 3D animation applications, as well as possessing extensive experience in live action direction and post production. We are also avid photographers, making our knowledge of optics and image-making even more comprehensive. Our broad skillsets would prove to be critical in the course of this complex project, given that we needed to constantly be considering the real-world implications of every action within the software. We didn’t just design the look and feel, but started from scratch to craft every instance of functionality.
One of our key discoveries, both from experience on-set and through deep industry research, is that virtually all commercially available motion control software is unnecessarily complex and suffers from antiquated, counterintuitive UI design. We found this perplexing, because motion control systems are ultimately creative tools that should allow the most artistry with the least amount of effort. With MP Studio, we were committed to reinventing cinema robotics control software, delivering an intuitive and enjoyable experience that would require little or no training whatsoever.
After capturing a rudimentary list of what the company wanted MP Studio to do, we dove straight into sketches and wireframes, imagining ourselves in countless scenarios on a film set.
Next, we created a detailed universal grid system that would become the framework for all possible arrangements of panes, buttons, fields, and other visual elements within the application.
In developing core functionality, we established four primary "rooms", represented by icons that would guide the user through the creative process, from creating a project, connecting and calibrating external devices, to rehearsing a move, and finally, capturing the shot.
On application launch, a clean, simple splash screen is shown, featuring the identity our team developed.
Taking cues from applications like Black Magic's Davinci Resolve, MP Studio features a user database system that allows the filmmaker to access their custom settings and saved projects. We found this to be more elegant than an external project file system.
The "Project" view is where the user can add, modify, and delete projects. Each project contains a database of robot moves and other hardware configurations, with detailed metadata and notes.
The "Setup" view is where the user can add and customize external hardware, such as multiple Motorized Precision robots, cameras, FIZ units, lighting controllers, and accessories like turntables.
The "Rehearse" view is the most feature-rich aspect of the application. In Rehearse, the user is able to articulate 3D models that correspond to the real-life robots and keyframe position and rotation. This is also where camera settings are adjusted, reflected in a real-time video preview pane. Focus, iris, and zoom can also be keyframed in this view, allowing precise, programmable choreography of all aspects of the shot.
The "Perform" view is where the user captures their shot. In this space, the user has the ability to further tune camera settings and trigger the camera and robot separately or simultaneously.
Motorized Precision's flagship robot, KIRA, was invited to be featured at NAB 2016 at the RED Digital Cinema booth. At the time, KIRA had never been used on a real-world project, so we created a showreel to share at the event and for the global launch announcement.
Check out Abel Cine's interview at NAB 2016 with Motorized Precision's founder, Sean Brown, here.