One of the world’s most famous performance capture actors, Andy Serkis, believes the technology that gave life to Gollum is becoming central to the games industry as narrative grows in importance.
“The incentive is that performance capture is increasingly becoming part of the storytelling culture for the new generation of cinema and theatregoers and video gamers,” Serkis said in an interview with the Guardian.
“It's also a liberating tool, an exciting medium to work in, the ultimate transformational experience. Anyone interested in this would see what a powerful and innovative tool it is. It allows you to move into different areas such as video games, which will in future be part of our storytelling culture.”
Performance capture – initially developed by the medical industry to assess injuries – films an actor and applies the motions, even down to the minutia of facial expressions, into CGI or in-game graphics.
The tech was applied to animate Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and the central protagonist in Ninja Theory’s action title Enslaved.
“If you are playing an ape or a fantasy creature like Gollum, you need to learn to calibrate your movements to match these characters. But there is no difference in the way an actor approaches rehearsal and playing a character for a PC shoot than there is for any other theatre or film performance,” Serkis added.
The award-winning actor, writer and director also spoke of ongoing plans to establish a performance capture studio in London – called the Imaginarium project.
Serkis said the Imaginarium project’s three key objectives was to “produce our own films using PC, to encourage a culture that encourages experimentation with this groundbreaking technology by making it affordable and available to aspiring film makers, and to create a melting pot for talented people to push this art form into new territory such as live performances, real time avatars as well as video games.”
He added: “We have only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of what performance capture can achieve. There are so many applications still yet to be discovered, and we have the talent in the UK to be at the forefront.”