warcraft facial capture

It sounds exactly like crafting a live-action performance, and it’s just that you need to be more technically mindful with the motion-capture process. 

Yes, this is exactly that. It’s just more detailed. You just have to be aware constantly, but you don’t want your performance to be too mannered. You’re aware that the computer won’t give you any leeway. You have to sell the orc. You have to be big, even though you’re in pajamas and the same height as the person you’re standing opposite. You have to seem bigger than them. You have to seem as if you’re calming them, that you’re showing them you’re no threat. Even though you’re very intimidating and threatening, you’re not going to threaten them.

Then, of course, the beauty of having great actors around is, you don’t have to play the king; they play that you are the king. There was a lot of that happening, especially with me and Rob [Kazinsky]. Rob was great at that support of being like, “Well, this is the king. He’s our hero. He’s our leader.” It’s very important for the other actors to do that for us. To all understand who we’re supporting and how we’re supporting. I was very lucky as well with great performers giving me that effort in the background of it all.

Plus, playing an orc, it must be freeing as a performer, having the advantage of being able to disappear more. 

You disappear completely, so that it’s just the performance. That’s exactly what you’re doing. And you’re aware that you’re doing it for an artist that’s going to have to watch those dots and be irritated that you were doing something weird with your hand, or you were doing something weird with your foot, or you were tapping your leg, or you were jiggling it; so you’ve got to be very consciously aware of every detail of what you’re doing. A lot more goes into it, but if you’re doing your job as a live action actor right, you’re doing the same thing. You don’t want some editor to be irritated by the fact that you’re doing something weird with your hand. You just have to be aware, take away the manner in which it shows that you’re acting. It just takes a lot of effort. Save going out for when you’ve got no work to do, and sit at home and work on it, really.

For Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, you had to have a low-hanging lip for Koba. Were there any facial features or changes you needed to keep in mind for Durotan? 

The beauty of working with ILM was they kept saying to me, “Okay, so we want a bigger version. Do that again. We’ll do the take again, but we need a bigger version.” I said, “Honestly guys, having just worked with… ” Because ILM, solid structures, they have down perfectly. This is an incredible company. This was the company who made Who Framed Roger Rabbit? They were responsible for the Judge or “Doc,” as he’s more commonly known. They know masses and reams of stuff, but what was very clear, having just come from playing Koba, is you could be incredibly subtle, and they will get that information.

They were fresh to it at that point, a little bit. “Well, we’re not 100% sure, let’s do a big one.” So I kept doing a big version. What was nice is going back up to ILM and seeing them again. “Good God, you talked us into those subtle ones, because they’re the ones that mean so much.” Once you’re not looking at my face anymore, you can actually see through the dots: what my nostrils are doing, or why I pulled my teeth back, or why I clenched my jaw. That became fascinating.

For Durotan, what I tried to do was keep a very even eye movement. When he moved, there was very rare times that he would flick his eyes. That’s something that you see with very confident predators, very confident animals. Even with the apes. I mean, sitting and watching apes is therapeutic for everybody. Especially these poor lab apes, the ex-lab apes. In New Orleans, they have the enclosures where these ex-lab apes are. What’s amazing is you can tell who is the dominant ape; he’s the one who glances at the activities, rather than flicks and looks. He’s looking up through his eyes.

It’s old-fashioned stuff. It’s things that tons of actors have done before, it’s just a new craft. That this beautiful technology can pick up on these very subtle movements.

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Warcraft opens in theaters June 10th.

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