How Motion-capture technology works in Hollywood. And how it has evolved from 1937 to 2014.

When you heard about the movies AVATAR, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, and RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES you might think that those are the animated movies but are they actually??? I say NO……. Let see why.

Actually, there is a technology named Motion-Capture behind those blockbusters. Let’s take a look at how this technology evolved and how it works.


Close your eyes and go back in time. In 1937, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” a film by Disney used rotoscoping, a basic technique of motion-capture for a first time. Motion-capture is the technology which animated the digital character by a recording of human body movements. Between 1937 and 2014 this technology had been evolving from rotoscoping to advanced motion-capture technique.

In 1915, Max Fleischer developed a first realistic movement capture system, named Rotoscope, a system at where cameras would project a single frame and then the animators could design on-screen character and animate it frame-by-frame.

In 1983, a professor of Simon Fraser University animated the figure by attaching a potentiometer on the body. Additionally, between 1988 and 1993, different companies, designers and developers who tried their hand on it. In the early 2000s, the character Gollum from The Lord of the Rings designed by a VFX studio VETA, first creation by perfect motion-capture.

For Gollum, they had to go for three stages. First, an actor performs with co-actors on the set then co-actors perform the same scene without actor then the same scene performed by the actor at the studio wearing a special motion-capture suit with markers.
During those years the famous director James Cameron was thinking something new. He designed virtual cameras which streamed the actor’s movement directly into CGI (computer generated imaginary) which helps him to see a real-time performance, how will their character looks in a film. After this milestone, this technology became more popular.

A number of blockbusters such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Avengers, Dawn for the Planet of the Apes, The Avengers 2 and Star Wars are the best example of Motion-Capture.

It’s all about History. In the next couple of blogs we will learn how this milestone technology works.

2 thoughts on “How Motion-capture technology works in Hollywood. And how it has evolved from 1937 to 2014.

  1. I really enjoyed reading your blog I found it really informative and to the point. I honestly have never watch the movie The Lord of the Rings maybe because I thought it was a scary movie. But now I found it interesting to watch and see how the potentiometer works on the bodies and how it works in every movement of the actor. I appreciate that you have posted pictures because it guide me through the whole blog and I’m a visual person that doesn’t like to read articles with just letters. I will like to keep learning about the motion capture maybe a tips or tricks that the actors do. I promised I will watch the movie so we are on the same page of understanding the technology revolution.

  2. It’s quite an informative post. The technology of Rotoscope sounds similar to stop-motion animation, in which animators set-up the camera and move the clay model one frame at a time. But honestly, the development of CGI or Computer Generated Imagery technology was actually developed by mathematicians and physicist, because animation is just mathematics at its core. The blog post shows your enthusiasm for motion-capture and CGI. When we are on the subject of CGI and actors performing for CGI roles, we cannot forget to mention the name, Andy Serkis. The guy is a genius and has helped to developed the technology of motion capture to take it to the next level.

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