Hollis-Leick Talks Performance Capture and Training

Oliver Hollis-Leick, founder of The Mocap Vaults (an educational resource with online tutorials and live workshops), is a 13-year performance capture/mocap acting vet (GodzillaHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), who discusses the particular acting craft and how software such as the markerless iPi Motion Capture from iPi Soft is helping change the profession.

Bill Desowitz: Tell us about Mocap Vaults.

Oliver Hollis-Leick: The Mocap Vaults has two primary objectives at its core: One is to train people in how to excel at working in motion capture. We do this by creating free online content that people can absorb at home, as well as offering training sessions, workshops and events that give a much richer experience, sometimes in a professional setting.

Our second objective is to encourage greater use of motion capture in one’s own projects. With tools like iPi Soft’s motion capture software, people have the opportunity to create motion capture content on a small budget. We want to see more and more of this independent content. The onset of virtual and augmented reality means that more and more motion capture will be required. It is very exciting to see how indie filmmakers and game developers are making use of mocap technology for use in this new frontier.

Desowitz: Andy Serkis has taken performance capture to great heights and it’s become a new frontier. What sort of training is now available to the new generation of actors?

Hollis-Leick: There is a wonderful opportunity to grasp this new bull by the horns and dive in. It is a character actor’s dream come true. Motion capture offers actors the chance to go beyond size, shape, gender, and age and to transform entirely into a character that may be miles apart from your own. It is probably the purest form of acting you can get, because it’s based entirely on imagination. It’s like going back to the days of childhood, when you just said, “Today I’m going to be this creature or this character and I’m in this place. Today I’m on a starship,” or, “Today I’m in the jungle,” and you can just create that there and then. Studios around the world are hiring hundreds of performers every year; every actor should have a solid understanding of how it works.

Desowitz: What is the most challenging part to learn?

Hollis-Leick: Every medium has its own rules. Motion capture is no different. Traditionally trained actors tend to come off quite wooden in motion capture because they are so used to focusing the fullness of their experience into their face alone. Theatre actors tend to do a little better because they are more used to working with the full body and having to project their physical state to the back of an auditorium. I think people often underestimate the ability of motion capture to detect falseness. Any hesitation, tension or discomfort is immediately read by the technology and will look out of place. The hardest thing about motion capture is the rawness of it. On a movie set, you’ve got costume, props, and other actors around you, you know exactly where the camera is and you know what kind of size of shot it is and you can just perform. In motion capture, you have a bare warehouse-like set with no props, no costumes, sometimes you have no other actors in the room and you don’t necessarily even know where the camera is.

Desowitz: Tell us more about the software advancements.

Hollis-Leick: You don’t have to hire out an expensive studio. You can try something, watch it back, try again and eventually hone the performance. It’s incredibly useful in the classes I teach.

Desowitz: What advice would you give actors wanting to get into mocap or performance capture?

Hollis-Leick: Take classes. Get hold of software like iPi Motion Capture and practice. If you want to be good at something then you have to work at it. Don’t assume that your current skill set will apply to a different medium.

Desowitz: The industry still has a lot to learn about the collaborative nature of this craft.

Hollis-Leick: Yes, it’s true that motion capture performances are often highly edited in post by teams of incredibly skilled animators, not to mention the modeling, texturing and so on that goes into it. It’s also true that in movies a director or an editor that can make or break an actor and can shape a performance. Can we really say that any one person is responsible for anything? I’m not sure. I’m not sure it really matters.

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Below the Line, Clips, Crafts, performance capture, Tech, Virtual Production

Add a Comment