‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Motion Capture Featurette Video

Published 11 months ago by

2011′s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which will soon be just the first film in a new prequel trilogy, made almost $500 million worldwide at the box office, delighted fans and critics alike, and ushered in a new age for the decades old franchise. The film’s sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, hits theaters later this summer, but times have definitely changed since the first film in the franchise, simply titled Planet of the Apes, debuted in 1968.

Back then, intricate costumes and groundbreaking prosthetic makeup worn by the actors were used to create the titular apes featured in the 1960s and 1970s films, and Planet of the Apes was even nominated for Best Costume Design and won an honorary Academy Award for Outstanding Makeup Achievement. However, when it came time to revive the franchise in 2011, filmmakers decided to use a different technique to bring the very first highly intelligent ape to life.

Andy Serkis, who previously amazed audiences as Gollum in Lord of the Rings and by playing King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake, was brought in to motion capture the ape Caesar, subsequently earning the actor numerous awards. The new featurette above shows how Serkis and a few other actors playing apes in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes use the latest technology to create a unique cinematic experience.

Andy Serkis filming performance capture for Rise of the Planet of the Apes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Motion Capture Featurette Video

Motion and performance capture work by using reflective markers attached to the skin to identify and capture body movement and facial expressions to later animate a digital character. As you can see from the video, the results are spot on as not only do the apes move like the actors, but they’re also able to share the same emotions.

The first film Rise of the Planet Apes used advances in motion capture technology to allow these reflective markers or dots to be viewed by the camera in daylight, while another breakthrough made it possible to shoot up to six motion capture actors with other actors on location rather than on a soundstage. Basically, all these developments made it possible for the scene you see above in the photo.

Are you looking forward to the Rise of the Apes sequel? Let us know in the comments.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will release in theaters on July 11th, 2014.

Follow Araceli Roach on Twitter @ara_celi
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  1. I never saw the 2011 version I didn’t think it looked any good. Pretty interesting technology though. Serkis is the king of motion capture.

    • You missed out on the best film of 2011.

  2. The 1st movie has it’s flaws, example the scientist actually took a pregnant ape for lab test which is so cruel and worst yet they don’t even aware when was the ape got deliver a baby when it behave unusual aggressive just because it wants to protect it’s baby…another lame excuse.

    • I’m not sure having cruel characters counts as a flaw in the movie.

      • That’s because you are inhuman. Is not just being cruel but also being stupid that scientists weren’t aware the ape was pregnant. If they do, how could they let the ape delivered the baby unnoticed?

  3. Uh huh. Now , with this one particular segment/featurette most probably engineered by Serkis’s people as damage control/further progression of B.S. and his incessant preening, in order to cover his recent “Digital Make-Up” article (see?! SEE?! It’s all me! And WETA has now schooled their artists to HONOR the actor’s performance to the letter”, etc)statements, we see the further bastardization of the efforts of HUNDREDS of highly trained, inherently gifted artists who use the capture-template as a GUIDELINE (an important one yes) TO THEN HAND-SCULPT THE PERFORMANCE, frame by frame.

    This and articles like it are beyond reproach in their degradation of the digital and animation arts. Next article…try a focus piece on how much of Andy’s performance had to be scrapped and ignored…then as a result how much of it had to be created from scratch in King Kong. I’m sure he’d love to talk about that.

    • We’re not saying Andy does it alone. As stated in the article, it is a collaborative effort between the actors, animators and technology to create the amazing results shown in the video.

    • It’s nice to hear someone pushing back against this idea that Andy Serkis is so amazing and mostly responsible for his characters working (I feel I must reiterate that I personally never found any of his characters that compelling, however. There have been more interesting portrayals of Gollum in other adaptations of that character). It seems to me that his performance is completely inseparable from the work being done by the animators and most of the credit should go to them.

      For a good test case you’d need to shoot a scene twice: once with Andy in some sort of elaborate makeup as the character and once with the complete digital perforamnce crafted by the animators in his place. I have a feeling that Serkis’s “performance” wouldn’t be so impressive if we actually had to watch him do it, instead of a painstakingly crafted animated model.

      Once again, not knocking his hard work and dedication but this idea that Serkis is doing anything other than severely overacting in order to give the animators a template doesn’t ring true to me. His “performance” is totally warped and lost in translate (that’s the nature of the motion capture technology)

      It also seems to me that they don’t really need Serkis at all, but having someone’s movements tracked and the data fed into a computer makes the entire process far, far faster than inputting all that date from scratch.

      As someone who has worked on a number of films in Louisiana I just feel that credit should go where credit is due and there are too many unsung members of film crews.

      • Thanks Thomas B. Appreciated.

        You hit the nail on the head with that above. I had an entire group discussion/lambasting going on between myself and several of my industry peers, some of which have worked over Serkis’ mo-capped “performances” on more than one occasion. They are more than a little pissed about this.

        I’ve included the link to the Serkis article (below at bottom of this post)that set the stage for the Anti-Andy movement currently moving through the interwebs. Though his comments have been getting progressively worse for some time, this is pretty damn egregious (again, see bottom for link).

        The result of this recent, incredibly misleading spate of talking points by Serkis and those now picking up and further embellishing the story are the sad (tragic really and incredulous to be very frank) beginnings of the full propagation of the myth now in play by outlets such as industry “news” rag Entertainment Weekly. They’ve (EW) rather quickly picked up the story and the unfortunate devaluing tagline making its wormy way into the lexicon (“Digital Make up”) and, being (with rare exception as this phenomenon demonstrates) the non-process-educated talking heads that they are, have polluted the entire mo-cap/animation pipeline of personnel and artisans AND their work into the vomitous, confused mass its transmogrifying horrifically into.

        The dreaded “Create Dinosaur Button.”

        Here’s a segment of the latest in the myth propagation of which I speak from that EW article on Serkis…

        Entertainment Weekly-

        “Rather than going for flesh-and-blood primates, the filmmakers once again opted for zeroes and ones. The digital makeup is being sculpted in three-dimensions by the wizards of Weta Digital and overlaid onto performances by Velcro/spandex-suited actors like Andy Serkis and Toby Kebbell.”

        As if it’s just an overlay. Are you kidding me/us? Frame by frame, those mo-cap performance templates and reams of footage are re-animated, sculpted, enhanced (and replaced in many instances with entirely self generated performances), created with GENUINE ASSIST by the performer’s motions and expressions by the animators themselves.

        Yes, when using Motion Capture, the movements of said performers are recorded. Yes, it is a very intricate process to be respected and taken seriously. NO, it is not a wash of digital make up that is sculpted ala a mask, and then unceremoniously, simply laid over the actor’s face and which then moves seamlessly with his expressions as this bit of wordplay is so desperately trying to convince the masses of. Trying to convince them with the total and simultaneous obliteration of all respect and dues to the (usually more than) half of the process required to bring these digital characters to life.

        You’re a guy in a suit Serkis. You’re call sheet is the prop department and with that attitude, no, you don’t deserve the Oscar…or a special Oscar…or recognition of any kind for your efforts. Because your M.O. disqualifies you for consideration for being nothing short of a complete tool.

        To further the point here, the lead-in to that (above) article from EW as reported by Cartoon Brew captures the feeling of the animation community on the whole right now and pretty starkly here…

        Cartoon Brew-RE: Andy Serkis and Entertainment Weekly-

        “Entertainment Weekly has published a piece on the upcoming Dawn of the Planet of the Apes without once mentioning the terms ‘animation,’ ‘motion capture,’ or ‘performance capture.’ Though not a bastion of film criticism, Entertainment Weekly remains an important barometer for mainstream entertainment reporting, and it’s extremely disappointing that they’ve allowed Andy Serkis to co-opt the animation narrative for his own ends.”

        So, for those interested, here is Andy Serkis going on about how fabulous Andy Serkis is, and the half wits re-reporting this farce as fact.


        “I do everything- the animators do nothing”-Paraphrased, but hey, it’s what the dude is leading you to believe, and it’s beyond insulting to the artists crafting their wares on the silver screen.

        LINK to ARTICLE-


  4. Excuse the typo between you’re and your.