Jul 1, 2014

Science Events: Heroic Apes and Abandoned Railways

Posted by in category: entertainment


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Directed by Matt Reeves. Opens July 11.

In this second big-budget prequel to the 1968 technicolor classic, intelligent apes are thriving in the forest while human cities crumble. If that sounds depressing, think again: In this version of “Planet of the Apes,” the chimps are the heroes. Rather than shooting in a studio, as is the custom for motion capture, much of the film was shot in the forest, where actors playing apes, their bodies covered with infrared dots tracked by hidden cameras, controlled the skeletons of their primate avatars. How does one walk like an ape? The motion is “heavy, weighted and circular,” said Terry Notary, a former gymnast who served as movement coach for the film, although “the pace, energy and feel” differs for gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees. To capture emotion, a small camera mounted on the actors’ heads harvested facial data to drive the apes’ expressions. “This high-tech rig is so powerful and transparent that it allows actors to abandon control,” Mr. Notary said. The results are apes so magnetic, it’s hard not to empathize with them, even as they take up arms against their human rivals. “We’re making a film where apes are causing our downfall,” said Joe Letteri, the senior visual effects supervisor, “but they’re the ones you want to root for.”

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