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rise of the apes
Monday, 27 June 2011 22:42

Film wizards used latest performance capture technology for 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'


The ape revolution begins on a soundstage inside Vancouver's aptly named Mammoth Studios amid a crash of laboratory equipment and primal screeching.

Upon closer inspection, the cacophony isn't coming from real apes gathered for the filming of a scene from the upcoming movie " Rise of the Planet of the Apes," but from band of actors of various sizes in tight gray unitards with LED markers pasted all over. The actors' faces, freckled with green dots, are continuously being filmed by head-mounted camera rigs while they trash the animal testing cages in the fictional bio medical company Genesys.

It's a technique called performance capture and actor Andy Serkis is a master.

Loping around on arm extensions, Serkis - who has made a career out of performance-capture work since he played Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy - really does move like a real long-armed ape.

And once the computer animators are done working with all the digital information from his markers, he'll look like a real chimpanzee, too.

"We've arrived at a stage where other actors who are playing live-action characters are not fazed by it in the slightest," says Serkis, who plays Caesar, a chimpanzee turned into an evolutionary revolutionary by the well-meaning, but misguided experiments of scientist Will Rodman (James Franco).

  • Performance-capture (involving Andy Serkis) is a big factor in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes.' >
Performance-capture (involving Andy Serkis) is a big factor in 'Rise… (20th Century Fox)

"They can just see a performance going on and say okay, 'So we don't look the same but I think it would be equally as strange to act against someone in a chimp suit.' "

Franco's name will be on the top of the marquee when the movie opens on Aug . 5, but just as important to the film are the behind-the-scenes performance-capture specialists from W eta, Peter Jackson's New Zealand-based special effects company.

"Our goal was to give the appearance that Caesar was in front of the camera when all these scenes were being shot," says Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor at W eta and winner of four Academy Awards.

It sure beats reacting with a tennis ball that would later be replaced by computer animation, says Franco. This way, two actors are actually feeding off each other.

"The imagination just kind of takes over, just like you meet someone and the next day they are playing your mother," Franco says. "You kind of roll with it if the scene is working. Andy was so good with the chimp behavior that it was actually pretty easy to fall into that kind of relationship."

Mocap Character FOOL FANS
Monday, 27 June 2011 19:09

Japanese pop star created digitally fools fans

She's pretty, stylish and oozes star quality. But Japan's latest pop sensation is not quite what she seems - in fact, she doesn't actually exist.

It turns out that Aimi Eguchi, the newest member of the Japanese band AKB48, is a virtual composite of six other band members.
click below to watch how she's being marketed

The fake pop star first appeared in an advert for Japanese sweets, but also has an online profile and has featured in a magazine photoshoot using faked pictures. Her fans were shocked to discover this week that Eguchi's computer-generated features were created by blending the nose, hair, mouth, eyes, eyebrows and body shape of six real AKB48 members. Each was recorded using digital motion capture, allowing Eguchi's designers to select their best features for the composite pop star.

Clues to Eguchi's real nature were apparently there, if you knew where to look - her name is derived from the name of the sweet company and their product, along with the theme song from the advert. She's also not the country's first virtual pop star - Hatsune Miku, a synthesised singer, performs holographic concerts to hundreds of fans.

Eguchi is the latest example of advanced digital human techniques which, as we recently reported, are increasingly cropping up on our screens. While it is easy to notice that there is something not quite right about her once you know that she's a fake, she did manage to fool AKB48's fans for a number of weeks, so keep your eyes peeled - the next virtual star may be harder to spot.

CLICK HERE to Watch the video  see how Eguchi was created
no love for oz in zemeckis camp
Monday, 06 June 2011 07:16

Zemeckis will not Direct Wizard of Oz Remake

Just days ago the word was that the Brothers Warner were offering the job to remake the 1939 Classic The Wizard of Oz was given to Robert Zemeckis, but it turns out that wasn’t at all true.

/Film says:

EW has a statement from his representative saying that the director will not be taking on the project. Yes, there was a meeting at Warner Bros. about possible directions for a Wizard of Oz remake, and he was at the top of the wishlist to direct.


But it didn’t matter, because  he talked about how he isn’t on the gig.

with Sam Raimi and Robert Downey Jr re-imagining the classic from the story of the man who would be Oz, the already repeatedly remade and inspired by classic will be getting exposure already
Mocap Academy Award quandry
Monday, 06 June 2011 04:19

An animation producer says performance capture is not true animation

Steven Spielberg has made it known that he would like his upcoming 'The Adventures of Tintin' to compete in the Academy Awards' animated film category. But it doesn't conform to basic definitions of animation, writes Steven Paul Leiva.


Russell, left, and Carl in the 2009 animated film "Up." (Disney / Pixar)

By Steven Paul Leiva, Special to the Los Angeles Times

June 5, 2011

It seems that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is in a quandary. Steven Spielberg, a not inconsequential member, wants his upcoming performance capture (or motion capture, as it's sometimes known) film, "The Adventures of Tintin," to compete in the best animated picture category for next year's Academy Awards. That's understandable; there's less competition, and it's doubtful that an adventure film based on a European comic book would be nominated by the academy for best picture. Not that it might not deserve it, but it's unlikely given academy history.

The academy's quandary is also understandable. As much as it might like to accommodate Mr. Spielberg, it is not quite sure that performance capture is animation, and so there seems to be an internal debate on the question. There is, though, no need for debate. Performance capture is not animation.

The great French philosopher Voltaire, who participated in a few debates in his time, famously said, "If you are going to argue with me, define your terms."

The New American Oxford Dictionary defines "to animate" as "bring to life." The late, great animation director, Chuck Jones, with whom I worked off and on for several years, often defined animation as, "To breathe life into the lifeless." Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of Disney's Nine Old Men, called animation — and titled their book on the subject — "the illusion of life." And many animators define animation simply as "frame-by-frame filmmaking."

None of the above definitions can be applied to performance capture, which, as its name implies, captures and documents a real motion or performance in real time by a live actor and does not create the illusion of that motion or performance through frame-by-frame filmmaking. Robert Zemeckis' "Beowulf" and "A Christmas Carol," are recent examples, as is "Monster House," which was executive produced by Zemeckis and Spielberg.

So wherein does the confusion lie in Mr. Spielberg's head, not to mention the heads of critics, reporters and fans?
jack the giant killer
Thursday, 02 June 2011 21:11

Bryan Singer Talks Jack the Giant Killer

Exclusive: Director discusses fairytales, giant killing and the casting of Nicholas Hoult.

UK, May 31, 2011

While speaking to Bryan Singer about his work as producer on the forthcoming X-Men: First Class, IGN grabbed the opportunity to get the lowdown on his next project, Jack the Giant Killer.

The film stars Nicholas Hoult as the titular Jack, a farmhand who unwittingly opens a gateway between our world and a fearsome race of giants and must do battle with the big fellas to save his kingdom.

Principal photography commenced last week, and this is what Singer had to say on the subject of giant killing, performance capture, and the many fairytale adaptations hitting screens in the next two years.

Why Make Jack the Giant Killer?

"I don't know - I grew up reading the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. I'm also familiar with the Jack the Giant Killer myth from the 1700s. There was a script that existed a couple of years ago that I changed quite a bit. The idea of that Wizard of Oz-style journey - you've got a beanstalk - what's up there?"

The Script

"Chris McQuarrie did a significant re-write for me. He brought a different structure. It was very much a page-one situation; a different storyline. It involved the same characters, but some we juggled around and switched around. He just brought a very different perspective."

The Process

"It's my first time working in the performance capture space. It's a live-action movie, but the giants are fully rendered CG characters driven by actors, and that intrigued me because I hadn't done that before and I wanted to work in that space. And 3D came along and here we are with that."

Performance Capture

"It's fascinating. I've just started my rehearsals with the principal cast on the performance capture stage and I wish you were here so I could show you some photos on my iPhone because they are so comical. It takes you back to play-acting as a kid in your living room because you are running around and having to imagine that you are in Gantua and imagine that there are these weapons and all these giant things. But there's nothing when you are there other than Styrofoam and blocks. It forces the actors to regress to when they would play-act as kids or do minimalist theatre. But in that way it's fascinating - I can see why Robert Zemeckis and James Cameron have started to shoot pictures this way."

Casting Nicholas Hoult as Jack

I met with a lot of people - a lot of people came in - and ultimately decided that he was right for the role. I've liked him since Skins and I was very supportive of his casting in X-Men: First Class. He did a great job on that film, and I just really like him as an actor. He is a very charming, sweet guy. And he's just tall [laughs]. That's the one thing, he's just tall, and when you're making a movie about giants, you tend to want to cast shorter guys, but he's a terrific actor.

The Fairytale Renaissance

I was involved with this over two-and-a-half years ago, or even longer - I was flirting with it almost three years ago. But [these fairytale features] are all just a function of Alice in Wonderland. And that's cool - it's a rensaissance of those kind of movies, and it's cool - I'm happy to be a part of two renaissances; the comic book renaissance, and now this one. But it wasn't intentional. In fact, I probably would have been shy about jumping into a fairytale movie with all of the projects out there now - I might have actually backed away from it. But now it's just serendipitous I guess.

Jack the Giant Killer will be released worldwide in the summer of 2012.
personal vr
Thursday, 02 June 2011 20:44

Immersive Cocoon,' your glorious, personal 360-degree theater

Imagine if all of your office work, your exercising, movie-going, game-playing and even studying could be done instead inside a 360-degree wonderland of images and sound. That's exactly the aim here — step on inside the Immersive Cocoon.

The work of designer Tino Schaedler and design-and-ad firm NAU, the Immersive Cocoon provides a space for you that's stuffed to the high-tech gills with motion capture cameras, motion-sensing floor panels, 3D surround sound, 360-degrees of interior display space and even air conditioning. The end result is a big ol' ball of whatever you want: you could watch a movie, play a game, work and conference with folks in other cocoons, interact with educational materials and more.

In a world where the Immersive Cocoon actually exists, the designers see it as something that would be rented by folks in public spaces such as airports and malls, and by corporations for work to get done (though, let's be honest, only the upper-ups would get to play around with it, emerging from their big black shell like Darth Vader when underlings pop by).

Schaedler and NAU even put together a slick Immersive Cocoon tribute video to 2001: A Spacy Odyssey. Check it out by clicking this link.

I-Cocoon, via Yanko Design, via Luxury Launches

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