Andy Serkis Gollum Motion-capture acting is a relatively new art form; after all, it's only in recent years that we've had computer-generated imagery good enough that it can transform the movement of a performer wearing a rubber suit covered with sensors into a digital character that moves and behaves like an actual human being. Or like an animal with a human-like intelligence, as in this weekend's release "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."

In that film, as in 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," the simian leader Caesar is a digital creation based on the movements of Andy Serkis, universally recognized as the king of motion-capture acting for his work in Peter Jackson's movies (from his Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" movies to his King Kong in Jackson's 2005 remake). Many critics have praised Serkis for proving that viewers can be moved by digital performances as much as by live-action ones, but he's also shown that, sometimes, motion-capture performances work best when spliced into a live-action movie.

That wasn't always the case. Early motion-capture characters, like Jar Jar Binks in the "Star Wars" prequels, were so jarring that they took viewers out of the movie. And a whole film of motion-capture performances, like Robert Zemeckis's "Polar Express," seemed utterly uncanny and off-putting (though Zemeckis's animators refined his technique in "Beowulf" and "Disney's A Christmas Carol," to the point where reality and fantasy got along just fine together). These days, meticulous animators and talented actors can make motion-capture characters seem almost like residents of our universe, instead of visitors from another dimension. Which is good, because many of this year's upcoming movies, from "Guardians of the Galaxy" to "Paddington" will feature motion-capture performances.

Let's hope the actors and artists involved have learned from these performances below, which represent the cream of the motion-capture crop.



Photo via Nature Video