The Secrets Behind Motion-Capture

Andy Serkis performs motion capture scenes for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. (PHOTO CREDIT: 20TH Century Fox Film Corporation)
Andy Serkis performs motion capture scenes for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. (PHOTO CREDIT: 20TH Century Fox Film Corporation)

He’s the face of motion-capture performance.

Whether it’s as the nefarious and rather grotesque “Gollum,” Tintin’s beloved best friend and sidekick, the grouchy “Captain Haddock,” or more recently the intellectually enhanced chimp ringleader “Caesar” from the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, Andy Serkis is synonymous with the groundbreaking movie technique.

Over the years countless fans and fellow actors — including Serkis’ “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” co-star James Franco — have called for the motion-capture pioneer to receive an Oscar for bringing his characters to life. So far to no avail.

Online devotees argue that Serkis’ Oscar “snubs” come from the fact that the Academy Awards judges are wary of motion-capture performances. Whether or not that is true, not many truly understand how the British actor and other “mo-cap” performers achieve such sincerely emotional portrayals of computer-generated protagonists.

“I think our ability to have actors now on stage playing other creatures or on location on set has been fantastic both for the creatures they’re portraying and, you know, perhaps the human characters they’re playing off in the scene,” explains Dan Barret, animation supervisor at Weta Digital, the New Zealand-based digital effects firm that worked on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “Tintin,” “The Hobbit” and many other blockbusters.

“It’s improved performances and opened up a whole lot of opportunities as far as how much work we can get through, how much motion we can get,” says Barret. “Generating all of this stuff with key frames can take a long time. It’s been a huge revolution.”

The motion-capture process begins with actors dressed in slimline, tight-fitting body suits adorned with over 50 strategically placed tracking markers, which allow computers to detect where various body parts are while following the precise movement of the performer.

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SOURCE: CNN
Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Amanda Sealy

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