11:30 am EDT, July 13, 2014

‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ CGI proves visual effects have reached a pinnacle

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes has wowed moviegoers this weekend with its impeccable visual effects and we think it finally proves that CGI has reached its highest point.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out just three years ago and its sequel has reminded us just how incredibly real CGI can look as it takes in $100M at the box office this weekend.

CGI (or VFX) is commonplace now in summer blockbusters, it’s a tool that is used in almost all films, but the visual effects seen in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are beyond remarkable.

The realism seen in the Apes sequel allows one to forget about the hundreds of CGI characters on screen at any given point and gives us a chance to enjoy being entirely immersed in the film’s story.

Some may feel we’d already reached this point of CGI perfection, but not entirely. Just these last few weeks, as Transformers: Age of Extinction has taken in over $600 million worldwide, we’ve seen that CGI can still feel like a lot of computer generated characters fighting one another on screen. Despite how good the characters look, they still often feel like CGI characters opposite human actors.

dawn of the planet of the apes cgi smallDawn of the Planet of the Apes’ visuals prove that there are no longer any boundaries between what’s real and what isn’t – the apes in the sequel look and feel just as real as the actors playing the human roles. So real that we no longer think of it as a great “visual effects” film, but a great movie.

Related: Read Hypable’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes movie review

And it’s not as if this was an easy film to make moviegoers forget they’re watching grown men wearing tight suits with white balls stuck all over their bodies pretending to be chimps.

Dawn was an incredibly difficult film to make this believable, with the majority of the film taking place in the home of the apes.

At least 45 minutes of the film takes place reading subtitles while apes speak to one another in sign language, and their movements are a thing of beauty.

Watching Caesar’s newborn chimp climbing up Keri Russell’s shoulder is beautiful and filled with true emotion only achieved by brilliant visuals.

Most know now that motion capture pioneer Andy Serkis (pictured left) is the one who has breathed life into some of the most well-known visual effects characters over the last decade. The actor started in 2001 when he was cast as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the first motion capture character to truly come to life.

Although known as motion capture, it’s now being touted as “motion performance,” due to the fact that the visuals are being directly taken from actors wearing suits designed to be filmed by unique cameras which transform their actual performances into rough versions of what we’ll eventually see on screen.

Serkis knocked fans on their rears with his breathtaking performance as Smeagol in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and behind all of the brilliant CGI was one company, founded by director Peter Jackson, Weta Digital.

Weta Digital is the company behind Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ visual effects, which resides in Wellington, New Zealand. It was founded by director Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, and Jamie Selkirk in 1993.

The Planet of the Apes franchise owes a lot of its eye popping realism to Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong in 2005. Kong’s fur required the development of entirely new simulation and modeling software. Fur was often seen as a difficult element to replicate, similar to the detail seen in digital human hair.

A new set of VFX tools combined procedural and interactive techniques that added wind to pass through the 460 billion individual strands of fur on Kong’s body. Entirely new software was written to account for the scattering of light from within each hair that would give volumetric quality to the fur. This software was vital for a film which features hundreds of individual apes on screen at times.

dawn of the planet of the apes cgi wide

Something we see a lot of in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the large chunks of fur which were removed and replaced with scars, blood, mud and paint. This was seen first in the King Kong remake, where each frame of fur required two gigabytes of data.

We can only imagine just how much data is required for the CGI we see in Dawn, which is leaps and bounds ahead of King Kong. Each ape has to be painstakingly created one frame at a time, with 24 frames being needed for each second of screentime.

The Oscar Award-winning visual effects company has truly reached the pinnacle of computer generated characters with their latest film. They’ve achieved something that visual effects companies have strived for over the last twenty years.

With the combination of motion performance and visual effects artists of the highest caliber, we’ve finally reached the point where it’s nearly impossible to determine what’s real and what isn’t on the silver screen – which gives moviegoers the ability to slip into a story without any second thoughts concerning the film’s CGI.

It turns out that the most remarkable visual effects are the kind that simply disappear before our eyes.

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