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Tag Archive: performance capture


Review by C.J. Bunce

Not every motion picture warrants a behind the scenes look at the production, cast and crew, but it’s easy to see why Gemini Man does.  Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Ang Lee pushed moviemaking to its next level with this year’s film about the impact of cloning and clone technology bundled in a big-budget action film starring down-to-earth film star Will Smith.  Lee shot the film in 120 frames per second instead of the standard 24, and he used both 4K resolution and 3D, utilizing a unique camera rig.  Boasting the first major motion picture to star the same actor in two roles as the same man at different ages, required adapting current technology to get the job done, but the project steeped for several years for the technology to be ready.  Michael Singer′s new book Gemini Man: The Art and Making of the Movie digs into the film process with extensive interviews with Bruckheimer, Lee, and the key cast and crew, revealing the extensive work required to get the film from idea to screen.

Singer takes readers from the film’s inception 20 years ago as a Disney film to the first day of shooting last year when production finally began, to each major scene and set piece.  Fans of the movie will find it all here, from Will Smith’s scenes as an assassin spotting his target aboard a speeding train, to his character’s return home back in Savannah, Georgia, to the motorcycle action sequence in Cartagena, Colombia, to the castle in Budapest, Hungary, and Smith facing off against a younger version of himself, to the Gemini compound and secrets that bring the story all together and illustrate the humanity behind the futurism.

The best sections in the book recount the motion capture/performance capture process and Smith and his double playing opposite each other in key action scenes.  The author doesn’t leave readers to be guided by second-tier production staff, instead having the top filmmakers on the picture themselves discussing in their own words how they changed technology step-by-step to bring Gemini Man to life.  This includes interviews with producer Bruckheimer, co-producer David Ellison, director Lee, actors Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Benedict Wong, Ralph Brown, and Douglas Hodge, Smith’s double, Jalil Jay Lynch, plus director of photography Dion Beebe, production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas, visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer, technical supervisor Ben Gervais, costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb, stunt coordinator J.J. Perry, and more.

Here is a look inside Gemini Man: The Art and Making of the Movie:

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Another trailer has arrived for director and auteur Martin Scorsese′s new movie The Irishman (we ran the first trailer here), this time focusing more on Al Pacino′s take on ill-fated labor leader Jimmy Hoffa, and comedic actor “Everybody Loves” Ray Romano bringing his charm back to audiences as Teamsters lawyer Bill Bufalino, asking questions of Robert De Niro as one of the guys alleged to have murdered Hoffa.

At first blush, the issue with The Irishman is twofold.  First, we’ve already seen Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, etc., when they were younger, and now they have been extensively de-aged via CGI and makeup for this film.  So we know what they looked like at the ages of the characters in the film, but they didn’t look like the de-aged characters in the trailer.  Second, preview audiences that have seen the movie in theater screenings have already commented on the dreaded “uncanny valley”–that difficulty in adapting the eye to the CGI efforts to make humans look real via digital effects manipulation.

The positive is that most viewers will see The Irishman on the small screen.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’s CGI re-creation of Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin was easier for the eye to adapt to on the small screen than in the theatrical release where more detail was present.  Maybe the same will be true for The Irishman The film is a direct-to-Netflix release, and Scorsese is a tried and true filmmaker, so audiences have nothing to lose but three-and-a-half hours (yep, this is a long one, folks).

Check out this new trailer for The Irishman:

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With the first trailer for The Irishman out, it may be getting clearer why Martin Scorsese′s latest in a 45-year career-spanning string of films is going straight to Netflix.  Despite Netflix claims that it can compete financially with movie theater releases, it has yet to provide a reliable run of hits.  Can The Irishman help?  Even heavy hitters of Scorsese’s past, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, can’t seem to make this movie look compelling.  The audience is left with only “another crime movie with those guys,” with no reference to who or what it’s about.  And is any amount of CGI and makeup going to get audiences to believe in a married couple played by 36-year-old Anna Paquin paired with 75-year-old De Niro playing 55-year-old Frank Sheeran?  If you’re like everyone else you may not know Sheeran claimed late in life to have killed teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa.  So it’s no wonder this feels like Scorsese’s version of an Oliver Stone movie.

Take away the Las Vegas and this first trailer for The Irishman looks plenty like a trailer for Scorsese’s Casino, complete with an attempt to get De Niro and Pesci back to how they looked in 1995, De Niro and Pesci looking like they did in 1990 in Goodfellas, Pacino looking like he did back in 1973 in Mean Streets, or, to jump into Francis Ford Coppola pictures, like Pacino and De Niro looked in 1974 in The Godfather, Part II.  As much as we loved Peter Cushing’s transformation in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Michael Douglas’s transformation in the Ant-Man movies, a legion of fans will need more improvements in technology before they get past the “uncanny valley”–that reaction you have when something digital is trying to look real but doesn’t quite succeed.

Long-time “bad guy” club member Harvey Keitel, Ant-Man’s and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’s Bobby Cannavale, and “Everybody Loves” Ray Romano are not seen in this trailer, but expected to have key roles.  See whether the CGI works for you in this first trailer from Netflix for The Irishman:

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If you want to see a good argument for enforcing antitrust policy against mega-sized media corporations, here’s one.  Along with so many other change-ups, delays and cancelations, add Fox’s big-(estimated $170 million) budget Mouse Guard movie to the list.  The writer, artist, and visionary creator of the Mouse Guard universe, David Petersen announced the news back in April, two weeks before the scheduled filming date.  Reportedly Disney directed new subsidiary Fox to cancel the film.  No reasons were announced, but it’s difficult to surmise any reason other than a coordinated effort to own the theater box office with its own projects.  Just how much work had already been done?  How big was this film going to be?  Director Wes Ball (The Maze Runner) and Petersen released two videos over social media this week (and more participants have since released even more great pre-production content) that paint a picture that will leave you feeling like audiences have been out-right robbed.

The first video includes a pan of the offices where the pre-production previz work was already completed, including miniatures, maquettes, dioramas, costumes, performance capture and CG-mock-ups, and thousands of pieces of compelling concept art lining the work area walls.  You really get a sense for what audiences will be missing with the second video, another development piece for sure, yet even as a demo or “sizzle reel,” anyone who is a fan of fantasy movies can see this was going to be something entirely new.  Matt Reeves (The Batman, Planet of the Apes reboots) was producing.  Artist Darek Zabrocki was one of many artists who created thousands of pieces of concept art (see above and below) to push the film forward (see Zabrocki’s Instagram account here for several images).  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story screenplay writer Gary Whitta′s script was in-hand (he’s now released it via his Twitter account for everyone to read here).  Composer John Paesano had his first theme in play with a warrior’s quest-evoking theme in a James Horner/Randy Edelman vibe (listen to it here).  It was all just ready for Weta to step in and take over with production, and wham, that House with the Mouse slammed the door.  But it looks like no other mice will suffice for Disney.  So Fox will either sit on the rights, sell them, or the rights will revert in a few years.  All these pre-production pieces will likely get warehoused until they get auctioned off for space reasons down the road as happens with studios (studio storage is expensive!), unless another studio or filmmaker steps in with some money (Peter Jackson?  Guillermo Del Toro?  The Jim Henson Company?).  But we seem to already be past the eleventh hour for that to have happened.  On the one hand, outsiders will never know why the decision was made, corporations make these calls for all sorts of business reasons.  But what is clear is that without the approval of that mega-merger of behemoth media empires, this expression, this idea, this story, this vision, would be coming to your local theaters soon.

Voice actors enlisted for the film included Idris Elba, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Jack Whitehall, Samson Kayo, and Andy Serkis.  In the meantime, Petersen keeps creating, new Mouse Guard and other worlds.  Petersen’s comics and compilation hardcover editions, along with his version of The Wind and the Willows, are the picture books I have purchased more than any other for gifts–ever.  His artwork is fantastic, fantastical, and magical, and it came as no surprise when he announced a film in the works back in 2016.  Petersen’s Dark Crystal and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comic cover art also has him as a contender for the year’s best cover artist.  Mouse Guard is one of those rare worlds in my lifetime that evokes the wonder of Jim Henson, the creativity of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the gravity and import of Mr. Rogers.

Enjoy the little of the film we get to see, these great videos released by Ball and Petersen:
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Art of the Films Planet of the Apes cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

We all know the apes win and rule the Earth from the original novel and film Planet of the Apes.  But how do they get there?

Not intended as a post-apocalyptic story as much as a chronicle of the birth of an ape civilization, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its July 2014 sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are films that manage to have no villains–by design–where the viewer can empathize with both the human and ape characters equally based on the characters’ histories and individual viewpoints.  Writers Sharon Gosling and Adam Newell have created a deluxe volume documenting the art and design of both movies with the newly released Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of Planet of the Apes.

The Planet of the Apes reboot was an outgrowth of the technologies emerging from Weta New Zealand’s work on The Lord of the Rings franchise, coupled with Andy Serkis’s experience playing Gollum as a motion capture character, and later the giant gorilla King Kong, Serkis was uniquely suited for the role of the sci-fi classic character Caesar from the original novel and film.  The crew credits the acting and chemistry of Serkis and co-star James Franco in part with the success of the reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Andy-Serkis-Dawn-Planet-Apes

The challenge for the sequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?  For the first time in film history, digital characters finalized in a post-production process would be realized by total performance motion capture of actors initially, and not on a separate green screen soundstage, but alongside live-action characters on a standard movie set as well as on location.

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