The critically acclaimed sci-fi sequel has pushed the art of motion capture even further
Motion-capture technology has come a long way since it was first used in a major release for the 2001 sci-fi adventure Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. But in that movie as well as Robert Zemeckis' three performance-capture animated films - The Polar Express (2004), Beowulf (2007) and A Christmas Carol (2009) - there was a severe "dead eye" problem, as the figures didn't look properly alive.
On set with Dawn of The Planet of The Apes
James Cameron overcame this with Avatar (also 2009). But it was the collaboration between filmmaker Peter Jackson and actor Andy Serkis that pushed the technology even further in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, as well as King Kong. Now Serkis has become the go-to guy for performance-capture, from working with Steven Spielberg on The Adventures of Tintin (2011) to coaching Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk on the set of The Avengers (2012).
But it was Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) that made people sit up and take notice of the serious acting required in these performances. Far from just a vocal performance, Serkis gave Caesar the chimpanzee a full inner life, expressing complex emotions with tiny facial movements. And in just three years, the technology has advanced even further, so when watching Serkis in this summer's sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it's impossible not to believe that this is an actor giving a remarkable performance as a fascinating character who never seems digitally animated at all.
Serkis has formed his own mo-cap studio, Imaginarium, and is now working on Star Wars Episode VII, Avengers 2, more Tintin movies and his own film based on The Jungle Book. Serkis will also be back for a third Apes adventure, which is bound to blur the lines between actor and animation even further. Can an Oscar be far behind?