News, Trends

Andy Serkis and Crew on the Evolution of ‘Planet of the Apes’

8
Comments

War for the Planet of the Apes, the third installment in the hugely successful rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise, isn’t out until July 2017, but anticipation for its release is already running extremely high. Nowhere has this been more apparent than at this year’s New York Comic Con, where 20th Century Fox unveiled an intense teaser for the film, and director Matt Reeves, actor Andy Serkis, and producer Dylan Clark showed up with some big surprises.
 

 
During an event with fans and press, the trio gave an update on the new film, while also sharing some footage that was still in progress — something they didn’t imagine had ever been done publicly for a major release before. The footage revealed a fascinating glimpse into the process behind the franchise, mixing up shots of the actors in their motion-capture suits with rough animations and nearly complete CG renders. By cutting back and forth between the three stages, they were able to show not only the artistry of the animators at New Zealand-based VFX house Weta Digital, but also the technique and intensity embodied by the actors whose work is translated into the characters you see onscreen.

Throughout the conversation that followed, both Reeves and Clark stressed that the true magic behind the Apes films is the acting of Serkis and his co-stars — nuanced performances without which the result would just be standard CGI fare. They also talked about how using motion-capture technology continues to change the possibilities for filmmaking, with Reeves revealing how it even created the possibility to shoot scenes via Skype, while the actors and director were on different continents.

We caught up with the trio personally after the event to talk more about the amazing technology behind these films, how they upped the ante for the latest chapter, and what’s in store for the future of moviemaking in what Reeves calls a “brave new world.” Check out our exclusive video interviews with Serkis, Reeves, and Clark below, and stay tuned at warfortheplanet.com for more.
 

Motion-Capture Acting and Technology

Things have come a long way since Andy Serkis gained fame for his portrayal of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and with Planet of the Apes‘ Cesar, he has another fan-favorite character on his hands. Throughout this work, he’s been able to see the progression of the tech better than most.
 

 
“The cameras, the technology, it’s all becoming less invasive,” says Serkis, who also runs UK performance-capture studio The Imaginarium. “Soon, we’ll get to a point where we’re not even having to wear head-mounted cameras. It’ll just be done in a different way, using other cameras — which will be great, because it won’t encumber you. The software and all of the technology that’s used in post-production, the way that the skin and simulations of the fur and the eyes [are created], all of that is the artistry of great code writers and artists. In terms of acting, it hasn’t really changed that much. It’s really everything else that surrounds it.”
 

Working with the Crew of ‘The Revenant’

“We didn’t give Matt any time to make Dawn,” explains Clark, one of the film’s producers, “so on this one we said, ‘Hey, you know, let’s be ambitious, go for it. Let’s try to move out of San Francisco. Let’s take them to different locations and different geographies. Put us in the rain, put us in the snow, put us in the water, put us in the night.’ The actors, of course, have to do that on the set, so Andy was out there. A lot of our crew was from The Revenant and they were like, ‘Oh, my god. Here we go again.’ They were doing this, and poor Andy’s out there his lycra suit. He didn’t have a big bear coat to warm him up.”
 

 

Making Movies via Skype

The last film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was director Matt Reeves’ first for the franchise, but it presented other firsts for him as well — such as filming scenes over the internet. “We did all of these things where the actors were not together, but because of Skype, they could see each other,” he explains.
 

 
“In the case of the stuff that we did at the end of [Dawn of the Planet of the Apes], because the Mo-cap cameras were where Andy was, I could be in the United States while he was in London, and that could be recording his performance. I could be watching his performance but we were doing it over Skype. It was really strange. I really do believe we have to be one of the only movies ever — I think it will happen more and more — but ever to have done any kind of scenes over Skype.”

War for the Planet of the Apes is due in theaters on July 14, 2017. More information and updates can be found at the link above and at foxmovies.com.