The Dawn of a New Era in CGI!


2014 has so far given us some exciting Visual Effects movies! Be it the thrilling effects in the Legend of Hercules or the larger than life feel of Noah, or the dramatic yet realistic effects in Godzilla movie.

One of the movies we have been anticipating eagerly this year was the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Directed by Matt Reeves, this 2014 film from 20th Century Fox is a sequel to the “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. The movie released this July in the US and has amazed audience with its stunning effects. This definitely showcases CGI at its best!

The heart of the movie is all about the similarities between apes and humans rather than their intrinsic differences. And interestingly, this is what drives the plot as well as the technology behind the movie.

The realism in every shot in the film makes one forget about the hundreds of CGI characters on screen and makes audience feel these are real!  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes proves that there are no longer any boundaries between what’s real and what is not.  The Apes in the movie look and feel as real as the actors playing human role. So real that you tend to forget it’s a VFX movie!

The story of this sequel film starts ten years after the events of the first film. A simian flu outbreak has nearly wiped out human life on the planet, and Caesar is the leader of a community of intelligent apes.  But suddenly the apes come face to face with a band of human survivors and the peace of the apes seems threatened in this fight for survival.

Matt Reeves has done an excellent job in not just reconnecting us to the noble and compassionate character of Caesar but also ensuring a sense of realism in every frame. He took the bold step of moving the movie production out of a sound stage to a location in Vancouver Island. He used really heavy performance cameras and 3D cameras up in the woods in the freezing cold, mud and rain. He says it was insanely difficult to shoot but the result was worth it! We couldn’t agree more!

Andy Serkis has breathed life into motion capture character of Caesar, the leader of the fledging ape society. Performance capture cameras and software were used to directly map the actors’ face and performance onto the digital character they were playing. Reflective markers were attached to the skin to identify and capture body movement and facial expressions real-time, to later animate the digital character. The simulation of flesh and fur was given greater detail, and the movement and consistency of muscles were accurately recreated inside a computer! It is said that a single effects shot went through more than a thousand iterations before it was given the final go-ahead from Matt Reeves. Even minute details like the varying dynamics of wet, dry and damp fur was considered in the shoots!

The detailed CG combined with some amazing performances from the cast and an excellent writing makes this movie an unique experience onscreen. And a strong Oscar contender too!

Watch this clip to see how the performance motion capture accurately makes the apes not just look like the actors , but also emote like them!

Written by Sagar on January 8th, 2015

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