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Motion-capture acting, also called performance-capture acting, sometimes abbreviated as MoCap or Pcap, is a type of acting in which an actor wears markers or sensors on a skintight bodysuit or directly on the skin. Several cameras from different angles record the actor's movements simultaneously, recording the three-dimensional position of the sensors and not recording the rest of the actor. Sampling is done many times each second, aided by advances in computer technology. The resulting database of 3-D points permits a filmmaker or video game creator to create a digital character and to place this character in an entirely new setting, such as on top of a fictional volcano or flying through the air. This type of acting is seen as a growth area, with predictions that there will be more work in future for actors. Some theatrical agents represent motion-capture actors.
Motion-capture acting can be difficult work. For example, one actor was "placed in a tiny booth, had dots placed all over his face that captured his movements, and had to sit perfectly still". One report suggested that actors wishing to break into this line of work should go to acting class and become experts in skills such as gunplay, sword fighting, dance, general body movement, running and jumping, gymnastics, and hand-to-hand fighting. It is a new type of acting work. Numerous sources identify actor Andy Serkis as the "king of motion-capture acting" based on his work in creating digital characters in movies such as The Hobbit. According to one report, the first use of performance capture acting for a videogame was for the 2007 game Heavenly Sword which starred Serkis and others. Serkis said:
Performance-capture technology is really the only way that we could bring these characters to life. It's the way that Gollum was brought to life, and King Kong, and the Na'vi in Avatar and so on and it's really another way of capturing an actor's performance. That's all it is, digital make-up.
There have been battles within the film industry about earning recognition for motion-capture actors. The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers does not consider motion-capture acting as the same type of work as acting, which means that motion-capture actors are often paid less. The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has lobbied the industry for better employment terms and conditions for motion-capture actors, and argued that motion-capture work should be included in standard labor contracts. The industry in 2012 did not give awards for motion-capture acting.
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