Motion Capture Acting
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Motion Capture Acting
Motion-capture actor Joseph Gatt wearing sensors on his body

Motion-capture acting, also called performance-capture acting, sometimes abbreviated as MoCap or Pcap, is a type of acting in which an actor wears markers or sensors on a skintight bodysuit[1] or directly on the skin.[2][3] Several cameras from different angles record the actor's movements simultaneously, recording the three-dimensional position of the sensors and not recording the rest of the actor. Sampling is done many times each second, aided by advances in computer technology. The resulting database of 3-D points permits a filmmaker or video game creator to create a digital character and to place this character in an entirely new setting, such as on top of a fictional volcano or flying through the air. This type of acting is seen as a growth area, with predictions that there will be more work in future for actors.[4] Some theatrical agents represent motion-capture actors.[4]

Motion-capture acting can be difficult work. For example, one actor was "placed in a tiny booth, had dots placed all over his face that captured his movements, and had to sit perfectly still".[4] One report suggested that actors wishing to break into this line of work should go to acting class and become experts in skills such as gunplay, sword fighting, dance, general body movement, running and jumping, gymnastics, and hand-to-hand fighting.[4] It is a new type of acting work. Numerous sources identify actor Andy Serkis as the "king of motion-capture acting" based on his work in creating digital characters in movies such as The Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Planet of the Apes.[5][6] According to one report, the first use of performance capture acting for a video game was for the 2007 game Heavenly Sword which starred Serkis and others.[7] Serkis said:

Performance-capture technology is really the only way that we could bring these characters to life. It's the way that Gollum was brought to life, and King Kong, and the Na'vi in Avatar and so on and it's really another way of capturing an actor's performance. That's all it is, digital make-up.

-- Andy Serkis, 2011[8]

There have been battles within the film industry about earning recognition for motion-capture actors. The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers does not consider motion-capture acting as the same type of work as acting, which means that motion-capture actors are often paid less.[9] The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has lobbied the industry for better employment terms and conditions for motion-capture actors, and argued that motion-capture work should be included in standard labor contracts.[9][10] The industry in 2012 did not give awards for motion-capture acting.[11]

See also


  1. ^ NY Castings, Joe Gatt, Motion Capture Actors: Body Movement Tells the Story Archived 2014-07-03 at the Wayback Machine, Accessed June 21, 2014
  2. ^ Hugh Hart, January 24, 2012, Wired magazine, When will a motion capture actor win an Oscar?, Accessed June 21, 2014, "...the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' historic reluctance to honor motion-capture performances ....."
  3. ^ January 25, 2012, Calgary Herald, No Oscar nod for Andy Serkis: master of motion-capture acting, Accessed June 21, 2014, "..Serkis has carved out a niche for himself as master of motion-capture roles..."
  4. ^ a b c d Andrew Harris Salomon, Feb. 22, 2013, Backstage Magazine, Growth In Performance Capture Helping Gaming Actors Weather Slump, Accessed June 21, 2014, "..motion-capture technology ... indicate that this niche continues to be a growth area for actors...."
  5. ^ Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, TODAY, May 26, 2014, 7 summer movies you shouldn't miss, Accessed June 21, 2014, "....Andy Serkis, the king of motion-capture acting..."
  6. ^ Gina McIntyre, June 04, 2014, Los Angeles Times, 'Star Wars': Josh Trank set to direct standalone film, Accessed June 21, 2014, "..Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson, performance capture expert Andy Serkis ..."
  7. ^ Performance capture injects emotion into virtual worlds: Using actors' movements, expressions to animate digital characters in games, film allows audiences to relate, March 7, 2011, Blaine Kyllo, "...Heavenly Sword (2007), which starred Serkis and Anna Torv (Fringe ), was the first video game in which performance capture was used..."
  8. ^ Ben Child, 12 August 2011, The Guardian, Andy Serkis: why won't Oscars go ape over motion-capture acting? Star of Rise of the Planet of the Apes says performance capture is misunderstood and its actors deserve more respect, Accessed June 21, 2014
  9. ^ a b Dave McNary, December 17, 2011, Variety magazine, Motion-capture tests acting boundaries, Accessed June 21, 2014, "..The Screen Actors Guild ... are the characters in these films ... performing as genuine actors or something else?..."
  10. ^ Dave McNary, December 17, 2011, Variety magazine, Motion-capture tests acting boundaries, Accessed June 21, 2014
  11. ^ KELSEA STAHLER, DEC 07, 2012,, Andy Serkis at 'The Hobbit' Premiere: Gollum Motion Capture Acting Is 'Just Acting', Accessed June 21, 2014, "..Some film experts have had trouble categorizing the master motion capture actor, The Hobbit star Andy Serkis, ..."

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