Motion capture is a technique that is used in many games. One of the earliest examples of the use of motion capture in film is The Lord of the Rings, where Andy Serkis played Smeagol. By many, this is considered to be the event that skyrocketed the development in motion capture.
So what does motion capture do, outside of dressing the actor in a grey suit attached with Ping-Pong balls and dots on the face?
How Does it Work?
These dots form a 3D model, which then get imported, after which the CGI gets added. Motion capture allows animators and 3D modelers to spend their time working out the image, making it look as real as the CGI technology allows. Meanwhile, the actor gives the character life by adding what an actor does best; emotion. A recent film franchise that uses a lot of motion capture is the Planet of the Apes. As the majority of the characters are apes, they were all ‘created’ with the use of motion capture. The detail, the emotion and the character that they are able to capture is truly impressive.
The technology behind motion capture has the power to break various narrative and design restrictions. Now we have the technology that allows us to create stories that feature creatures and that make their characters look extremely realistic. Another example would be Avatar, where they use motion technology for the characters of the so-called Na’vi. As you might expect, the consensus by industry professionals is that motion capture has a bright future in movies and games when it comes to non-humanoid creatures. But, how does this work for people?
Human Motion Capture
In the 2016 release of Star Wars: Rogue one, we see actor Guy Henry, and a digital scan (face mold) that was made of Peter Cushing ‘Life mask’ for the 1984 film Top Secret. This digital scan allowed the studio to ‘revive’ Peter Cushing for the character of Grand Moff Tarkin in the Star Wars Prequel. This impressive and costly CGI feature was met with mixed response, ranging from people finding it an impressive feat and a testament of how quickly CGI technology is developing, while others are questioning the morality of using the physical appearance of an actor for another role.
What do you think? Is (human) motion capture a great way of ‘reviving’ characters? Do you think there is a morality issue? Do you think that regulations should be put in place to protect an actor from motion capture once they have passed away?