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motion capture

‘Entertainment Weekly’ Caves In To Andy Serkis, Replaces the Term ‘Animation’ With ‘Digital Makeup’

Entertainment Weekly has published a piece on the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes without once mentioning the terms ‘animation,’ ‘motion capture,’ or ‘performance capture.’ Though not a bastion of film criticism, Entertainment Weekly remains an important barometer for mainstream entertainment reporting, and it’s extremely disappointing that they’ve allowed Andy Serkis to co-opt the animation narrative for his own ends.

RELATED: Andy Serkis Does Everything, Animators Do Nothing, Says Andy Serkis

Here’s how EW explained the animation process (or ‘work’ as Serkis calls it) in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

Rather than going for flesh-and-blood primates, the filmmakers once again opted for zeroes and ones. The digital makeup is being sculpted in three-dimensions by the wizards of Weta Digital and overlaid onto performances by Velcro/spandex-suited actors like Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell. “I’ve seen an entire cut of the movie without any ­special ­effects whatsoever,” says Serkis, who once again plays the apes’ leader, Caesar. “It’s amazing to watch as Weta’s work comes in and we’re transformed.”

With Dawn of the Planet of the Apes still a couple of months out, the hype machine is already well under way to obfuscate the role of the animators who played a key part in making the film. It’s going to be a long summer.

  • Lindsay Small-Butera

    Sad sad sad..

    • L_Ron_Hoover

      The only sad thing is that this article will be the most popular post on Cartoon Brew again while more important things like animation news will be buried under gossip…

  • more like Andy Jerkis

    This guy is a Clown. Until Andy actually sits down in front of Maya, and starts cleaning up his own jiggly motion curves, I can’t truly respect that *he* provides 100% of the performance we see on screen.

  • Duane

    I came across this demo yesterday, a guy with a DIY setup in his basement managed to do some motion capture, remodeled Gollum, rigged the model and performed himself re-enacting the original dialog, etc.

    The end result is quite astonishing since it didn’t require clean up, I believe digital makeup might be appropriate there, I don’t see any animation.

    So should “they” call these guys digital pupeteers ?

    • R_Vic

      You don’t really have any idea what it is we do, do you…

      • Duane

        Forgive my ignorance as my point’s only based on that specific example I posted. I saw countless of behind the scene mocap/performance capture with motion artist re-working the data or using it as reference, YET this is the very first time I see an example without clean-up.

    • L_Ron_Hoover

      I agree.

      It’s just a word and for some reason people have chosen to be offended by it. It’s not “politically correct” but that doesn’t mean it’s actually a conspiracy in which Andy Serkis undermines animators in order to do…what exactly??

      I’ll call it laziness, apathy, and ignorance but it’s not this war that Amid is trying to make it into. I’ll say it again, Andy Serkis has no obvious bone to pick with animators and neither does Entertainment Weekly (a news source read by morons anyways.) If you want to yell and scream about something then maybe draw attention to real problems.

      • 3d Animator

        respectfully, IF neither of you are industry animators, then please don’t give your non-industry experience two cents. as far as the clip, that is excellent work, but that’s just the shoulders up. use it as an argument when there is FULL body movement. and really, not trying to be snippy, no disrespect, but it’s aggravating enough when you get it in the studio, we don’t need this virus spreading.

        • L_Ron_Hoover

          Well I am an industry animator but even if I wasn’t, do you weigh in on politics? Are you not a politician? If no, then by your terms I guess you can’t add your 2 cents.

          As for your point, what makes you think I agree with Serkis? I know he’s wrong, my point had nothing to do with that. The only thing I was saying is that Serkis has no power to change or effect our industry. It’s like if a pop star called sound editors “audio effects artists” in an interview. Would studios hear that and decide not to hire sound editors anymore? No, it just means some pop star said something stupid in an interview.

          People were offended by his comment, that’s all this is. The end. Drop the conspiracies.

      • ocelotish

        I would think he does have a bone to pick: he wants 100% of the credit. He wants 100% of the credit so he can be eligible for awards. If that means slighting the animators, so be it.

        • L_Ron_Hoover

          Haha what? When did he ever say that?

          • ocelotish

            Right here: http://youtu.be/xhKsu7qER1M

            It’s all about how there’s no difference between motion capture and regular acting in context of whether he should have gotten an Oscar nomination.

    • manjowithane

      How can this have no cleanup, I saw an eye dart. I thought motion capture couldn’t capture eye movements?

      • Siana

        He’s doing a visible-light capture and not an infrared marker capture. Eyes appear completely black in infrared, but you can track them just like you can track any marker when you do visible light.

        When doing visible light captures, it may however be necessary to manually mark the markers on the video so they can be tracked.

    • Moe Kapp

      There’s no evidence that there wasn’t any edited or rainmaking. Even if there was any animating it could still be improved. Not bad overall but not quite “final”. That’s where animators come in.

    • filmantopia

      Wow, flash forward a decade or two and this shows us the future of online role playing video games.

    • anonymous animator

      It is solidly done mocap, however many people will recognize in this capture the bland range of the puppet’s performance. There are no really pushed expressions and the limits in the movement are clear. Clean but bland. An animator would go into this and push and polish this acting. It makes all the difference.

  • Eman

    Honestly seems like an innocent oversight based on simple ignorance of a medium that is grossly underappreciated by modern civilization as a whole.

  • Jamie Egerton

    Serkis is just a guy proud of his work. I don’t have a problem with him. He’s biased toward the actor; big deal. I know a hundred animators who clean up mocap who say they “enhance” the actor’s performance. Some actually do, some don’t. It’s different per shot. Serkis IS Gollum. It’s as simple as that. We know he couldn’t have done it without animator/art support, but he just bigs up himself whenever he gets a chance. But he’s the only one who does. Let him be the ambassador for mocap, pcap, whatever. He does good work, ultimately, and provides a strong foundation on which to build a performance.

  • Kirby

    Ugh, Still?? Andy come on man.

  • Ken Cope

    Once upon a time, as flock of birds was being supplanted by Acclaim’s IR basketball court, the term “motion capture” just wasn’t sexy enough, so the idea was to appropriate the cachet of the word “animation” and the attempt to brand “performance animation” encountered push back until supplanted by the neutrally descriptive phrase, “performance capture.” Is it time to bring back the pejorative, “Satan’s rotoscope?” which produced some fun t-shirts back in the day. As every camera learns to focus after the shutter clicks, with z-depth just another channel of information, why not digital make-up and costuming? It’ll all just be part of the standard repertoire of fix it all in post live action. The more faithful to every vaunted twitch and spasm at 48fps, the more it resembles automated rotoscoping. The technology will continue to evolve until no ping pong balls or dots on the face will be required. Instead of Terence Stamp stomping off the set when told that in Natalie Portman’s absence he’s to act to a cardboard cutout of Princess Padme, just give him her lines and we’ll digitally gender bend him to play both parts in post.

    Have fun storming the uncanny valley!

  • Fried

    By that logic though, characters would exist without people like Tom Kenny and Tara Strong, that doesn’t mean they don’t really help sell them with their performance.

    How often do we give the animators credit for Spongebob’s, or is it always Tom Kenny who is being praised for his work as the character?

  • Fried

    Wish this was the top comment instead of one similar to it, except ending in “people don’t appreciate animation”. In the past decade, we’ve gotten more films that have reached $1 billion in gross, or gotten so close to it, than ever before.

    Underappreciated? Please. Just because people aren’t reciting all history of Hannah Barbara and understand all the intricacies of using a homebrew 3D program doesn’t mean audiences don’t love the medium.

    • Suite Life of Bill & Joe

      “Hannah Barbara” – ?! That was a show on The Disney Channel, huh?

  • Ben

    I’d really like to hear some of the dudes working on the film weigh in on how much their actually doing too his role.

  • Snerd

    For all those that think straight mo-cap is a viable option… and that animators are just digital make-up artists have a look at
    this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86R7d7Ny4LA

  • ZibZabZo

    Only way to stop Andy is to take away the artists that make his shit possible. No artists, no Digi make-up. Gonna be up to the artists to boycott Andy.

  • Brian

    I honestly wish vfx animators and digital artists could spend less
    time getting worked about ‘recognition’, or lack thereof, and more time
    taking real grown-up steps to fix our industry.

    It is an ‘industry’, like it or not. It would be nice if we could put
    our egos aside for the time being and try to mature this profession by
    forming (for example) unions, or by taking whatever concrete steps are
    necessary to achieve change… you know, things that matter.

    If one is unwilling to get off one’s social-media behind (and I’ve seen
    this time and again), one should probably not complain too much.

  • Siana

    I have seen raw mocap data from working with all kinds of fun things in a scientific/engineering setting – we’ve had mocap studio, fully body 3D scanner, and every input device imaginable, and that experience reaffirmed what i suspected, that mocap data is crap and requires an incredible amount of hand labour.

    However, not all labour is creative. If your task is to merely to make things look just the way the actor acted them, because that’s what the execs said, then what is your creative involvement? Regardless of the amount of work you need to put into, regardless that your skillset is that of a creative profession and took years or decades to develop.