I talked to Andy Serkis about getting into visual effects...

I thought this would be well worthwhile posting here.

I went to the computer games convention EGX on Thursday and attended a talk by VFX God Andy Serkis himself (played Gollum in LOTR and Hobbit and Caesar in POTA, of course).

I had the fortune of being able to ask Andy a question regarding getting into the VFX industry, and he provided I think some valuable advice. It may not be of use to anyone that is already experienced and knows the ins and outs of the industry already, but to those just starting out and wanting to get inspired this will be great I think.

Skip to 27:26 for my question on getting into the VFX industry

Not sure if VFX god is the correct way of describing andy serkis… He is a actor which specialises in mocap performance. I would assume the most 3D work he has done has been looking over someones shoulder at his performance.

Andy serkis is an actor. And, I’ve heard from people who’ve met him, a very nice guy. But a vfx guy he’s not. Still, thanks for posting the interview. Very interesting.

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He has a history of basically saying VFX is useless and he does all the work

Really? Doesn’t seem like it. From what I’ve seen he just thinks Mocap actors don’t get the credit they deserve which is probably right.

Although I agree to an extent, I don’t think you could think of a guy that’s done more for the promotion of VFX than Andy Serkis, even though hasn’t contributed technically.

VFX God is an appropriate term mainly because it was his performance that made motion capture from something interesting to something huge.

No doubt Serkis is an amazing actor but acting simply is not enough. Antony Hopkins a giant of acting and he was motion captured for Beowulf , not an actual film but a 3d animation film and still his acting looks fake and plain bad. And let me repeat his name again Antony freaking Hopkins.

So being god like actor is not enough. It’s clear from his reply that this guy is no animator, no 3d or 2d artist , no VFX editor but none the less he is the only one that had not 1, not 2 but 3 hugely popular performances

Lord of the rings
King Kong
Planet of the apes

You cannot achieve that without an excellent knowledge of the behavior and limitations of technology. You cannot achieve that through acting alone. You have to be in perfect sync with the artists that will receive your performance and be able to handle issues beforehand . He pretty much put the last nail to the coffin of the argument that 3D cannot achieve true realism because animation was always the weakest link of 3d.

I am willing to bet he provided golden suggestion for the improvement of mocap software because we know that even when they use commercial products they still create additional tools and extensions to deal with the specific challenges of the film. So who is the best to ask for how to improve such software ? The dude with the 3 amazing performances is my safest bet.

Andy acted. That’s it. His performance was used as reference by some of the best animators and technicians in the industry. It doesn’t really go any further than that.

Facial Motion capture technology just isn’t all the great. There still alot of problem in capturing the face without it looking weird. The face is where you get the major part of the performance too.

Anthony Hopkins performance in Beowulf (actually all the performances in Beowulf) looked bad because they were doing a fully animated CG movie and you can only do so much manually in something like that so they decided to rely on facial motion capture and we got what we got. Andy has been lucky that he’s had Weta doing the VFX work and that they understand that to make it look good you need both motion capture and artists to really bring out the performance. He’s great at instilling personality and humanity to the characters he plays but he is but a cog in the wheel that makes those characters work. Case in point he worked on Heavenly Sword’s mocap cut scenes and those were not great. What he has done is added some legitimacy to mocap acting, and has made it something that can be taken seriously as a tool and art form. He’s shown how difficult it is to get a great performance when you are wearing a body suit staring at dots or a sound stage for the most part. It takes skill and imagination to still add personality and emotion in that kind of situation. He’s taken what he’s learned and has created an acting troop of sorts that specializes in mocap acting.

As for VFX God, I’m sure if he takes what he does seriously he at least knows what the process is, but I’m not sure he’s in the trenches, going through Maya animating each syllable that didn’t make it through mocap.

Not a single bit of Andy’s actual mo-capped facial performance from LOTR made it to the screen. Gollum’s face was 100% keyframed using Andy’s facial performance as a reference. Not to take away from Andy’s performance, but let’s at least get the facts out there.

@Charlie A : indeed it’s a good advice and I found very well said, you should just do as he said :slight_smile:

From these articles its quite evident that he does not respect the VFX industry at all.

From these articles its quite evident that he does not respect the VFX industry at all.

In cinema actors and directors get credited for their performance even if in fact there is a whole bunch of creative people that contributed to the result.
In VFX it’s the company we work for that take the credit, but we are used to it.

Maybe being between both of these world give him a little existential crisis… I’m sure he has respect for the VFX people, but maybe he diminish VFX work to make his point.