Computer Graphics World

July/August 2014

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22 cgw j u ly . a u g u s t 2 0 1 4 D I G I T A L C H A R A C T E R S easy to make it look like too much hair product." P E A K P E R F O R M A N C E S The fi lm's climax, the third act, sends Caesar and Koba to the top of the Steuart Tower at One Market Street in San Francisco, a skyscraper under construction in the fi lm but in real life is a 27-sto- ry building that houses Autodesk and many other companies. "That fi ght didn't get con- ceived until a er production had wrapped," Lemmon says. The production unit brought in a fi ght coordinator who worked with the stunt performers and actors to choreograph action that moves through the high- rise construction site. "We shot a big motion-cap- ture pick-up with Andy [Serkis] and Toby [Kebbell] and the stunt guys fi ghting through diff erent beats of the third act," Lemmon says. "Then we cre- ated a new scene. When there were gaps in the performances, we fi lled in with new beats, cap- turing ourselves in some cases for more mechanical or back- ground character action. For hero moments preconceived a er the edit, we did another pick-up in March. It was a fl uid, changing scene that came to shape over a couple months." The environment for the new sequence was entirely digital. "Keith Miller looked a er a team that created the digital skyscraper environment from scratch," Winquist says. "It was a big departure from the environments on the ground that had plates, so we brought in Kim Sinclair [VFX art director] to fl esh out the background and make sure it had all the details and rough stuff you would fi nd in an under-construction skyscraper. As a VFX supervisor on Tintin, Miller had looked a er architectural backgrounds." To make the world more interesting, the director asked for wind, swinging lights high up in the girders, and a particular style of lighting. "We gave the dramatic attack sequence a rich-orange, sodium vapor environment, like present-day downtown San Francisco at 10:00 at night," Winquist says. It's a scene fi lled with action and emotion. Caesar fi ghts despite being weak from wounds suff ered in a previous attack, several apes are injured in this battle, and the war with humans has begun. "Technically, the biggest ad- vancement was the robustness of the performance-capture system and integrating that sys- tem into fi lm production so that it was no longer considered an added-on piece of visual eff ects," Lemmon says. "Getting the performance of the digital char- acters on the day [of the shoot] was one of the main aspects of the feature-fi lm production. Beyond that, the biggest thing for us was that there were many digital characters that had to emote and engage with the audi- ence. The subtlety is higher than anything we've done before." At the end, the audience is le pondering whether there is more ape in the humans, or more human in the apes. "My favorite scene is with the [human] teenager Cody," Konoval says. "Matt [Reeves] let us improvise and explore, and it was so joyous. A er Rise, I had met Towan, the orangutan I based Maurice on, in the Wood- land Park Zoo in Seattle. He's a painter. I'm a painter, too. So I went back two months later and began to paint for the orang- utans. I'm with them like Cody was with me in this scene. But, I am on the other side, communi- cating with a human being." And then, it was up to the animators to preserve the sub- tleties of that shared moment between ape and human. "The strength of the process is that all the director needs to worry about from the beginning is what he sees on the day," Barrett says. "Matt [Reeves] didn't want to make decisions twice; what he saw on the day was what he wanted in the end. If Toby plays Koba mad, that's what Koba will look like. For me as an animator, it was a joy to translate these amaz- ing performances from humans to apes, to have such strong and cohesive performances." So, who is responsible for the characters in the fi lm? The actors? The animators? "There's no button labeled 'digital makeup' that we can push," Barrett says. "We do have to do certain translations to keep the essence of the perfor- mance when we see things in the human that an ape couldn't do. It's a collaboration. There's a lot of artistry involved in bringing characters like Caesar, Koba, and Maurice to the screen." Artistry and hard, rewarding work. ¢ The Wonder of One Studio Weta Digital was the only studio creating the apes and the environment for this fi lm, a rarity in these days of multiple studios working on a single project. Having all the work under one roof has its advantages. "I think it's easier for communication in terms of the continuity of information between the director and the people doing the work," says Dan Lemmon, visual eff ects supervisor. "There are fewer calls saying the same thing. It's also helpful for us to have a broad picture of the fi lm as a whole. Sometimes that has a subtle infl uence on decisions. We can light a shot knowing that 30 minutes later we'll need to make a decision about whether something will be brought into the light or held in a shadow. I think it gives us a better through-line and a broader picture of the fi lm as a whole. And, it's always great to know that Koba will look the same from one sequence to the next." – Barbara Robertson ANIMATORS TRANSLATED MOCAP FROM ACTORS DIRECTED ON LOCATION TO PRESERVE EMOTIONAL MOMENTS SUCH AS THIS. Barbara Robertson is an award-winning writer and a contributing editor for CGW. She can be reached at VIDEO: GO TO EXTRAS IN THE JULY/AUGUST 2014 ISSUE BOX C G W. C O M

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