Movie magic has evolved light years from the earliest days of cinema, as is evidenced by motion capture pictures of serious actors doing stupid stuff. The boundaries of visual possibilities have never stopped expanding, and the advent of technology’s role in filmmaking has been perhaps the biggest catalyst in bringing previously unimaginable characters to life. It's also given the world some great behind-the-scenes photos of actors doing motion capture and riding the money train all the way to Selloutville.
For decades, the film industry operated using only practical makeup effects to transform an actor’s appearance on camera. This practice was particularly useful for making antagonists and villains bigger, uglier, and scarier. After CGI swept in, filmmakers had the tools to visually alter not just a few main characters, but anything on the (green) screen. And thus, the glorious tradition of ridiculous motion capture pictures arose.
Enter performance capture technology. Although the technology itself has been around for some time, it exploded onto the Hollywood map around the turn of the millennium. The biggest benefit of using motion capture in movies is the ability to record the precise movements and emotional subtleties in a performance. Actors like Andy Serkis can truly perform some of Hollywood’s most beloved and famous roles meant for animals. The biggest downside? No actor or stuntman anywhere can escape from looking ridiculous wearing a motion capture suit.
Tom Hanks in The Polar Express.
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