Weta Digital brought a sampling of their renowned motion capture technology to New York Comic Con this week, and Screen Rant got a first hand peek at the masters at work. Founded back in 1993 as a digital effects offshoot of Weta Workshop, the company has been among the industry leaders in special effects work for decades, though it wasn’t until the early ’00s that they truly broke into the mainstream with their innovative achievements in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Bringing Middle-earth to life in ways few ever thought possible, Weta has since risen to the very top of their field with their SFX contributions to groundbreaking films like King Kong, Avatar, and The Avengers — winning 6 Academy Awards along the way.
Given their history, it’s truly saying something that Weta’s accomplishments with the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy may just be their most impressive work to date. Working hand in hand with star Andy Serkis, the motion capture techniques used to create photo-realistic apes that moviegoers could truly get behind are now widely considered the best in the business. To celebrate their success — and to build a bit more anticipation for the War for the Planet of the Apes‘ upcoming release on Blu-ray and Digital HD, of course — Weta Digital set up a demonstration booth this year at New York Comic Con, giving fans a firsthand look at how it all works.
While some folks (we won’t name names) may have been a bit let down to learn that they weren’t getting their faces covered in mo-cap dots and being digitally transformed into an ape, the presentation was still a fun ride. Fans were outfitted in retro motion capture gear on their arms, chest, and head before being instructed to hop on board Weta’s animatronic horse and reenact the Bad Ape chase scene featured in the second act of War. As fans’ onscreen counterparts chased after the horse-thieving ape, they were largely tasked with dodging low-hanging trees in their path/not falling off and embarrassing themselves. The overwhelming majority of volunteers seemed to be running into the fifth branch they encountered (thereby ending the demonstration) no matter how low they crouched, so Screen Rant worked tirelessly to devise a hack to advance just a bit further along…and it went about as well as could be expected.
As you can see, Screen Rant editor Corey Hutchinson’s attempts to ‘Matrix’ the treacherous fifth branch did not go as well as he might have hoped. (The attempt to record the move didn’t fare much better, we’re afraid.) Perhaps if he’d actually let go of the harness — or gone with his original plan of standing up on the animatronic horse and leaping over that fifth branch, Dothraki-style — he may have been granted a less ho-hum fate.
In the end, Weta Digital’s presentation did exactly as it intended. Fans were granted a taste of the insane special effects work that goes into creating a motion capture character, while simultaneously being reminded that, ‘oh yeah, that last Apes movie was awesome, I should definitely scoop up that Blu-ray when it comes out next week.’ Well played, Weta Digital. Well played.
War for the Planet of the Apes comes out on on digital HD on October 10, 2017, with the Blu-ray hitting shelves two weeks later on October 24th.
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