'Apes' revives performance-capture debate

July 9, 2011 at 3:07 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., July 9 (UPI) -- The special-effects boss on the new "Planet of the Apes" film says Andy Serkis was the humanoid who made the computer-generated ape Cesar as effective as he is.

Serkis doesn't appear directly in "The Rise of the Planet of the Apes," but his talents are channeled on the screen by Cesar through the "performance capture" process, which VFX Supervisor Joe Letteri said puts his ape a step ahead of standard computer-generated critters.

"Performance capture (is) really (designed) to give you the actors' moment -- the spontaneity, the thought, the insight that really comes from an actor who really truly understands his role," Letteri said this week at a lecture on the new film in Pasadena.

The Hollywood Reporter said a positive reception for Serkis after "Apes" is released next month could revive the debate within the movie industry about how performance capture fits into the Academy Awards and other film honors. Serkis was used for the performance-capture character Gollum in "Lord of the Rings" 10 years ago and was basically snubbed for the acting nominations.

Serkis, in fact, did act out his scenes with his co-stars on the set of the movie, but he was overlayed with the computer-created ape.

"There's the look, the physicality -- bones, muscle, tissue, fur," Letteri said. "In a way, that is just the starting point, what we are really after is the performance."

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