Entries in Planet of the Apes (1)


New Technology in 'Apes' Film Marks New Age in Special Effects

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation(LOS ANGELES) -- Charles Darwin theorized how primates evolved. Roddy McDowall played one in the original Planet of the Apes. On Friday, the evolution of apes and movie-making will be showcased in Rise of Planet of the Apes, the latest installment in one of the most profitable and longstanding franchises in Hollywood history.

The movie features a cast of simulated simians made possible by cutting-edge, computer-generated, visual arts technology, marking the beginning of a new stage in cinema.

In the past -- as in the first Planet of the Apes -- make-up and prosthetics transformed actors into nonhuman characters. Then, it became something done totally in postproduction, with actors "acting" only with their voices.

The new technology uses something called a performance capture suit. It allows an actor to act as a real character, with computers storing each subtle move he makes.

"You have markers on your face which pick up, very subtly, your facial expressions," said Andy Serkis, who stars as the ape Caesar in the movie. "They track your eye movements, and you can perform very subtly for the camera as if it were as we are talking now.

"It's like you're both puppeteer and puppet," he added, "and [when] you look into that monitor and you start to move, you can see the puppet moving. So it's like a magic mirror."

The absence of makeup and prosthetics means the acting becomes more natural.

With this film, the technology is finally at a point where digital characters and the live action actors are physically together on the set for the big scenes. Never before have the actors actually been in the same room as their animated co-stars.

In other words, as this latest movie version of the Planet of the Apes story shows, the new technology allows acting to come to the foreground, where it belongs in movies.

Thanks to his role as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, Serkis has been called the Charlie Chaplin of performance capture, the master of a new craft of digital acting.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio