• Matt Palfrey

Why actors are adding Motion Capture skills to their CVs

At the turn of the millennium, film makers were pushing themselves to discover what the recent surge in computer technology could mean for their work. It was with bated breath then, that the world was introduced to a technical marvel, one that many felt would change the face of movies forever. The character? No, not Gollum from Lord of the Rings, so beautifully portrayed by Andy Serkis. The first fully realised motion captured character is widely held to be Jar Jar Binks, the much-maligned Gungan who first appeared in 1999’s Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

As time has passed, technology continued to advance. 2018’s The Jungle Book (directed by Serkis) was widely believed to push the technique to its limits, with the performances being converted into photorealistic animals, such as the fearsome Shere Khan, the loveable Baloo and others. However, in truth, the art of Motion Capture has existed as a film making technique in some form or another for over a century. Animator Max Fleischer was the first to pioneer Rotoscoping, a technique that took live action footage and traced each frame, turning it into animation that could be coloured. Without this, there would have been no Disney’s Snow White or subsequent animated feature films. This was then taken to the next level in the 1960’s by Lee Harrison III, who created a system out of adjustable resistors, analogue circuits and cathode ray tubes, that could record a person’s movements, allowing the first Motion Capture footage to be created.

Although performers like Serkis are rightly heralded as game changers in the field, today Motion Capture, or rather Performance Capture as it is also known is no longer the purview of a select few. Increasingly, actors are adding Performance Capture to their skillset, as a way of increasing castability and responding to the requirements of the changing industry. Skills can be learnt and refined at training schools such as The Motion Capture Vaults and The Imaginarium Studios (Founded by Serkis). At Reflections Talent Agency, we have several clients who have worked at these venues and have become experienced in Performance Capture, appearing in a variety of motion capture roles in Film, TV and Video Games.

So, what are the benefits of Performance Capture performance? Serkis told Backstage in 2018 ‘You can Internalise more. You’re able to go very deep and the stillness is there to allow the audience to project into the character as well.’ Fellow pioneer James Cameron additionally added ‘It’s designed to empower the acting process… Actor’s need not feel afraid of the technology’.

Reflections own client Bryan Larkin had this to say on his experience with Performance Capture:

‘It was very much like acting in a movie. Deeply nuanced gestures, thoughts, feelings were all being scrutinized by many people… I find motion capture to be a hybrid between theatre and Film acting. There's elements of presenting in their too... It's by far the most challenging work I've done in recent years. But when you see the final result, it's so worth it.’

With the performance industry changing every day, now is the time to take on this rapidly expanding skill and add Motion Capture to your CV.