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Motion Capture Maestro Andy Serkis Talks 'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes'

Thompson on Hollywood By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood April 24, 2014 at 2:05PM

Andy Serkis came to Stuttgart on Wednesday and Europe's premier computer graphics conference, FMX, finally got a taste of star power after nearly 20 years. It probably could've done without the heavy security, though, as Fox took every precaution to prevent online piracy. The performance capture guru showed the same footage from "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" that was glimpsed at WonderCon last week, and discussed the continuing evolution of his digital craft.
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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Andy Serkis came to Stuttgart, Germany, on Wednesday and Europe's premier computer graphics conference, FMX, finally got a taste of star power after nearly 20 years. It probably could've done without the heavy security, though, as Fox took every precaution to prevent online piracy. The performance capture guru showed the same footage from "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" that was glimpsed at WonderCon last week, and discussed the continuing evolution of his digital craft.

Andy Serkis
Andy Serkis

As director Matt Reeves ("Let the Right One In," "Cloverfield") inches the franchise closer to the iconic 1968 original, he wanted to first explore the origins of the fledgling ape world. And there's much for Serkis to explore with Caesar, the compassionate chimp torn between two worlds. Thanks to the wizards of Weta, the facial capture cameras are more powerful, the markers are more robust and the fidelity to the performance is greater. The skin is also softer and the emotions better articulated. Serkis confirmed that the director wanted a closer 1:1 ratio between the actor and his avatar and he delivers a sensitive portrayal.

"It's a fascinating time, I think, for next-generation storytelling, not only in terms of film but also interactive movies, video games, live theater and projecting real time avatars," Serkis told me afterward. "I think it's a fascinating time in terms of the appetite for seeing performances and the immersiveness of telling stories in different ways."

And the advances in technology remove the impediments in telling more intimate and believable performance-captured stories. "It allows you to transcend any of those limitations and that's why I've always been attracted to technology because performance capture can sit right in the middle of video games, of interactive storytelling.

"Certainly Caesar is more advanced and is carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders and he's been a very still character. He has moments where he gets more expansive, but that's the thing about performance capture -- it is about the close-up. And people have asked me what's it like doing monkey movements in a motion capture suit. And I say it's only a fraction of what this is all about. It's about internalizing."

This article is related to: Interviews, Interviews , Andy Serkis, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Immersed In Movies


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