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Serkis: Capturing the art of screen avatar

Animation Elite 2012: Andy Serkis

With “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” motion capture maestro Andy Serkis not only reprises his role as Gollum but receives a promotion as well. Serkis says he expected to spend only a couple of weeks Down Under working when helmer Peter Jackson emailed to say, “Oh, by the way, can you (direct) second unit work on this film?” which extended his stay to two years.

In Serkis’ experience, the motion capture process has advanced from performing solo to allowing multiple actors to play off one another for “Apes.” And as the technology advances, so does acceptance of the technique.

“The younger generation, the videogame generation get it,” he says. “There is a generation at the other end that doesn’t understand it, that is fearful of it and are actually cutting off a profitable and liberating tool.” From an actor’s perspective, you can’t be vain, Serkis says: “If you’re worried about not having your face onscreen, then it’s not the job for you. But it’s never bothered me.”

Serkis is so invested in the format that he established his own motion capture studio in London, Imaginarium — the goal being to develop the technology in the northern hemisphere for films, TV, theater and videogame projects. First up is an adaptation of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

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