Over the weekend I finally got to see Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and I am so glad I did (yes, I know I’m late to watching it but I was out on vacation). Besides being a great sequel to the 2011 film, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this film really blew me away with its CGI. During the movie I caught myself at times wondering if the creature I was seeing on screen was an actual living breathing ape or if it was simply animated (see: that last frame of the orangutan Maurice which really threw me for a curve).
The technology in the film is called motion capture and it works by using reflective points on the skin to identify and capture an actors body movement and facial expressions (done via a camera that’s attached to a specially designed helmet). These data points are later used to animate a digital character around the actor and, as you can see from the gif set above, the results are very impressive with 100% of the actors emotions translating into the CGI effects.
I find that often times we can be dismissive about the power of visual effects and CGI in films and television because of some very bad examples we’ve seen. Studios pump out the most basic storyline and give the special effects department a shoestring budget to work with and leave audiences complaining about how gimmicky and plastic the film looked.
I’m very glad that a film I had been looking forward to did it right. If you haven’t seen the movie yet I really recommend you do - it’s substantially better than the first and it features apes riding on horses (which should be reason enough to go watch).