To start, I will say this is all just performance. The skills are interchangeable and transferable if you are in front of a lens, behind a microphone, or standing in a volume (mocap stage). The tricky element is how to spin all these wonderful performance-based events. Actors will have their agent, casting sites, headshots, and their typical routines with taping and so forth. Voiceover artists have their material, sites, demos, and so forth. But what of voice actors in motion capture?
In many respects, it is the new kid on the block when put next to voiceover and on-screen acting, even though it has been around for decades! The other thing vital to recognise is that performance capture continues to develop. The software used is becoming more efficient, detailed, and fast! Multiple styles of suits serve different purposes, and the cameras and sensors are constantly being upgraded. Now, I will stop on this rabbit hole of the evolution of performance capture for a second, we can cover that in another blog. The fascinating thing is that it is all just performance; thus, we must know how to act. So, let us delve into the differences and similarities.
Developing Skills in Performance Capture
If we are voicing a video game as a performer, my number one tip is to act the character. If the character on screen is waving its arm around and going wild, you must do that in your booth. Ok, do not punch the screen, knock over the microphone or hurt yourself! You do need to be aware of the space, but your performance level will massively improve if you fully immerse yourself into the character. If we are on-screen, less is typically more, which is normal. That said, the commitment to the character is vital. What are they thinking? What are they seeing? How are they feeling? What just happened in the scene before? What would you do in the character’s position?
These are standard and true questions to help you find that genuine performance. Now onto performance capture and motion capture. Commitment! Commitment is my number 1 tip. Like what you would do in front of the camera with those questions, you ask yourself to find truth in your performance, combined with the wild elements the characters demand (which I outlined above in my voiceover top tips), and we find a common ground for performance capture.
Voiceover in High Volume!
The volume; is a phrase I have used a couple of times. This is the stage a performer performs on during a motion capture and performance capture shoot. The difference between motion capture and performance capture is summed up like this: motion capture is strictly the capturing of the movement; performance capture adds the additional benefits of voice over or facial capture. Then, often you will hear the term ‘full performance capture,’ which is everything combined! Face, voice, movement, and sometimes even stunts! The performer in the volume has a 360 space to perform like on a stage, and that space is yours to own! To flourish in this area, every bit of you needs to commit to the role and take it to its maximum level, the further, and harder you push the character, the better your performance will be, and the bigger the wow factor will hit.
Voice Actors in Motion Capture Production Companies
I had the honour of working with Centroid3D during the pandemic in 2021. Whilst productions were slow in coming in and going out, artists worldwide invested in themselves, learning new skills and improving themselves. We did some live acting classes with Centroid, and a friendship was born. Aligned with this, ‘The Mocap Agency’ was born around the same time in the UK, the first Mocap agency in the UK! The mocap and performance capture industry is exploding and growing increasingly, which is exciting.
The joy of training and supporting other actors and voiceover artists is that relationships become established. Those relationships often start as professional, then casual, but in the end, they can often become long-lasting partnerships and friendships. I was thrilled to invite Centroid 3D to do an article with us and positively highlight them because the service they offer the industry is massive.
Delving in Deeper
I have gone into a good amount of detail about most of the points in the article. The one thing I have missed is the skills and stunts part of the industry. Here is the thing, performance and motion capture invite EVERYTHING. Sword-wielding, gun shooting, parkour, dancing… whatever the skill, it will come in handy at some point in performance capture. Like any other part of the entertainment industry, if you have something that will give you an edge or draw yourself closer to the be better aligned with the brief, you must capitalise on that.
Performance and motion capture are two unique and beautiful parts of the entertainment industry. They are unique, and they are fun. If you are like me and enjoy really submerging into a character and taking a big character to the furthest points of intensity and performance, then this area really does invite that. So commonly think of characters like Gollum from Lord of the Rings and Smaug from The Hobbit when we reference phenomenal performance capture characters, and rightly so! These roles are exceptional. But what did Benedict Cumberbatch and Andy Serkis do to make these roles exceptional? They went to the furthest point of physical representation they could. They were totally committed. They rolled around and slithered on the ground, they made the most surreal sounds and bizarre facial expressions. They allowed themselves to immerse themselves in these exceptional surreal, and incredibly unique characters because that is what the role demanded!