Motion Capture – Science and Emotion

Recently I watched the movie, War for the Planet of the Apes with friends and we were amazed by the movie which was a fitting conclusion to an epic trilogy called “Planet of the Apes”. Andy Serkis has done a marvelous job and its time he gets the bloody Oscar he absolutely deserves. As is customary we started discussing the movie and my friend remarked “Aray, it’s all digitally created” which irked me a little and which led me to write this( to try and dispel some of the ignorance about “digitally created”).

Muralidharan_Motion_Capture_The Movie Rap
Muralidharan: Motion Capture

Motion Capture is the process or technique of recording patterns of movements digitally and using that information to animate digital character models in computer animation. Its applications include military, sports (to check chucking while delivery, remember the famous photo of Muralitharan?), video gaming and, the most important on which the article is based, films. In films, the Motion Capture, captures the actions of an actor which is then digitally reproduced into a character. There are many movies which have used this technology for example Planet of the apes, The Hobbit series, Avatar, King Kong and many more. The Lord of the Rings: The two towers was the first film to use Real Time Motion Capture, meaning that the actor Andy Serkis was performing live and his actions were generated into the character “Gollum” as he was performing. There are also many legendary characters created out of Motion Capture like the Na’vi from Avatar, the Hulk from Avengers, Gollum from Lord of the Rings and Davy Jones from Pirates of the Caribbean to name a few.

To explain the Motion capture in layman terms, let’s take the movie “War for the planet of the Apes” for
example, the main character called Caesar(the Ape) is digitally created but enacted by Andy Serkis. When I say the character is digitally created, it means the actor’s whole body is digitally created to look like an Ape. So when Andy moves, the ape moves and when Andy jumps the ape jumps: the Motion Capture apes the movements of Andy (pun intended ;)). That’s the physical side of it but what about the emotions and the performance, who creates that? The performance, the acting, the emotions, the expressions, the body language and even the voice modulation is the work of the actor and not the CGI.

Serkis & 2 of his most known characters

And this brings us to the second part of the article: “The emotion”. Andy Serkis is one of the most underrated actors working in Hollywood and deserves more recognition for his efforts. He is called the “Godfather of the Motion Capture” because of his work as iconic characters like Gollum (Lord of the Rings Trilogy), King Kong (King Kong) and Caesar (Planet of the Apes Trilogy). He also often works as a consultant in many Motion Capture movies created these days. People are ignorant of talented actors like Serkis because even Hollywood ignores them (or maybe they just want to sustain the public perception of it all being magically digitally created thus perpetuating the character but not the actor). Probably that’s why Serkis wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar for playing our precious Gollum (again,pun totally intended).For better understanding, please look at the video which was released by the makers of War for the planet of the apes depicting the same.

For better understanding, please look at the video which was released by the makers of War for the Planet of the Apes depicting the same.


The Transformation_TheMovieRap



Motion Capture Transformation



A character looks like an ape or a shriveled up twisted hobbit because of CGI but the character feels like one because of the actor. Its high time Hollywood takes them seriously and gives them the recognition
they deserve. If they can’t be considered for ‘regular’ acting nominations, then a special category of Oscars need to be created to recognize such efforts. And this is possible because a lot of films these days employ this technology owing to huge production budgets and the expertise available and the number is certainly going to increase year after year.

Thanks for reading and the next time someone says that “it’s all digitally created” please share this
article with them.

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