Our third taster from Cinefex 139 is Ape Apocalypse, Joe Fordham’s 22-page article on the visual effects of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the latest film in the rebooted franchise, which delivers not only spectacle but also high emotion, thanks to astonishing ape performances created by a cutting-edge blend of motion capture and animation.
In this extract, motion capture supervisor Dejan Momcilovic details the complexities of capturing multiple actors’ performances on location.
“We were often capturing performances in rain,” said Momcilovic. “We used underwater camera bags to protect every piece of gear, and applied hot packs. When we went to New Orleans, it was so hot and humid we had to keep the gear cool with ice packs.”
The compact nature of Standard Deviation’s camera housings allowed Weta to dress motion capture cameras discreetly into sets, using both wireless and cabled systems, depending on the terrain. Each ape scene required an average of 20 motion capture cameras positioned around groups of eight ape performers. To assist image tracking, Weta affixed additional LEDs to trees and sticks driven into the ground, and triangulated the terrain geometry to help integrate animated characters.
In addition to motion capture cameras, Weta surrounded ape scenes with Sony F3 witness cameras, which served as calibration devices. “We used a calibration wand with visible light and infrared markers that could be seen by the F3s, the motion picture camera, and our mocap cameras,” Momcilovic explained. “Synchronizing all those systems in one go greatly reduced our setup times on set.” The F3s gave Weta the option to optically generate motion data by tracking checkerboard markers on performers’ bodies.
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