A new Dawn for special effects as NZ tech takes on the Planet

A new Dawn for special effects as NZ tech takes on the Planet

Looking deep into the sunken eyes of the ape, nestled on the flattened nose and sloping facial expression, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes blurs the line between reality and visual-effects.

“It creates challenges for the performance capture team because if they go into a space that they haven’t quite covered yet with their cameras then they’ve got to make that work and make adjustments to re-aim things.

“But in terms of keeping the finished product in mind, we pretty much let the actors go with it and lead from the front.”

In covering off the running and walking aspects of the apes, who descend down in their masses onto human territory during the climax of the film, Lemmon says Weta used the expertise of Terry Notary to execute the movements as precisely as possible.

An American actor, stunt co-ordinator/double and movement coach, Notary’s experience in gymnastics led to work portraying mainly creatures and animals for the film and television industry, with notable appearances in The Adventures of Tintin: Secrets of the Unichorn, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Avatar.

“We’re proud of the work we’ve done now but at the end of every project we always identify things we could have improved on,” adds Lemmon, maintaining the self-diagnostic approach which can be attributed to Weta’s success.

“Part of Weta’s foundations is built on inventing new technology because we’re constantly trying to push the envelope in terms of special effects, and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is living proof of this.

“But a lot of other companies are doing great work also and we’re watching their movies thinking ‘wow that was amazing, we need to start thinking about that’ as it’s a very competitive industry.”

Despite building such digital characters, and creating the technological advances that made it possible, Lemmon believes it’s important to stay close to the fundamental aspects of great filmmaking, such as story, scripting and characters.

“It’s always great fun to make cool pictures with amazing explosions but what makes movies such as Dawn standout is that they are stories that you care about,” he explains.

“You become invested in characters such as Caesar and combined with a strong story, you then have the basis of a great film.

“You can create fantastic worlds, incorporate the best kind of production design and develop fantastic creatures but if there isn’t a story to be told through that people won’t want to listen to it.

“We can do amazing things but in terms of the audience appreciating it there has to be a mix.”

In blending live action and digital production with eye-opening realism, the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes showcases innovation in an revolutionary way, which unsurprisingly, embodies everything Weta Digital, and New Zealand technology, stands for.

<b>Check out the trailer by clicking here</b>

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