From Beowulf to Avatar, motion capture technology has come a very long way. Did you know Andy Serkis was originally hired as just a voice actor for the role of Gollum? Only to have his performance re-recorded months later, on a mocap stage. Today the little monster from records his expressions on The Hobbit's set, right next to Martin Freeman.
To celebrate the long evolutionary world of motion capture, we pulled together some of the best behind-the-scenes shots and put them alongside the final result, to show off the power of mocap technology.
The Hobbit (2012)
Gollum's journey on Lord of the Rings did not start off like you think. From The Hobbit press conference:
Joe Letteri: When we did it the first time, we didn't even have the idea that we could motion capture. Andy got brought in as a voice actor and basically just took over the role of Gollum. We thought at the time it was like a cartoon animation, you record the voice and you go back and you key frame anime. But we saw what Andy did as an actor and we thought, "how do we bring that energy to the screen?" We got the idea of trying to do it with motion capture, which at the time was basically a science experiment. Having done that and really refined the process over the years, the idea now was to take it out of the experimental process and just make it apart of the process.
Peter Jackson: In Lord of the Rings Andy would perform Gollum on a motion capture stage, sometimes six months, sometimes a year after the live action was shot. He would always be there on the set for Elijah and Sean. And the cameras were filming then reacting to Gollum and playing the scene. But what Andy was doing wasn't being captured in any way. Much later he had to go and recreate it. Elijah and Sean weren't there because it was in post production and he was all by himself having to recreate the energy the first time around. But this time, on The Hobbit, the motion capture was being capture while we were filming. Martin was being filmed with the cameras, Andy was being captured by the motion capture cameras. And all of the performance that he did on that day is in the film. It was it's a much more organic process. And the muscles on Gollum's face are much more accurate and detailed this time around. They look the same and sound the same, but the technical side is much more advanced.
John Carter (2012)
Giant Tharks created with stilts, leotard and tiny cameras.
[via FX Guide]
John Carter (2012)
More John Carter, because this image is amazing.
[via FX Guide]
District 9 (2009)
Only one actor played all of the District 9 aliens (his name was Jason Cope).
Mars Needs Moms (2011)
Turning a 37-year-old into a little boy is no easy task (even with the tiny Seth Green) but that was the task at hand for Simon Wells' Mars Needs Moms . And despite a lukewarm box office reception, the mocap acting was pretty wild.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
Andy Serkis was robbed.
Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
From Bill Nighy to Davy Jones.
Polar Express (2004)
The definition of the uncanny valley. While very advanced, the only emotion this movie shared was sheer terror at the collection of Tom Hanks-faced monsters that populated this CG world.
The Avengers (2012)
Possibly the best quote (and picture) to come from the entire Avengers experience. While at New York Comic Con Tom Hiddleston had this to say about Hulk's attire.
"There was a day when all the Avengers were on the set together. It was kind of incredible, we were all sort of geeked out by it. Chris is blue and red and white, Hemsworth's there with the hammer and the cape, and Roberts in the suit, and Jeremy had his arrows, Scarlett's looking amazing in her kind of, suit. And Mark in the back in some kind of spotted grey pajammas... That, by the way, is how you Ruffalize a role."
Our first, and hopefully not the last, bit of beautiful mocap alien cat sex.
Ok this is not motion capture. It is, however, a great couple images displaying Emotion Capture! Something that is being used all over (and has been for quite a while). We loved the use of this idea in Rango.
Monster House (2006)
Steve Buscemi transforms into the mean old Nebbercracker.
Strange fact, we could not find ANY behind-the-scenes Beowulf shots. None. We can only wonder if these were hidden away in an attempt to keep audiences from getting scared away from the movie.