How technology brings "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" to life

The new movie "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" shows primates battling humans with sticks and spears. But the technology used to bring the apes to life is far from primitive.

Visual effects have come a long way since the original "Planet of the Apes" came out in 1968. Today, rather than actors appearing on screen with heavy "ape" makeup, a high-tech system called Performance Capture allows filmmakers to record not only actors' body movements but also their facial expressions. Computer generated effects are added later, but the facial expressions and movements still retain a human quality.

Joe Letteri, an Oscar-winning visual effect supervisor, has used the same technique to give life to characters in "Avatar" and "The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug." Now the visual effects supervisor for "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," he explained the process to CNET's Kara Tsuboi.

"We put the actors in suits with markers and we'll put cameras all around to record their performance. They'll wear a head ray with a video camera that allows us to record their facial performance," Letteri said. "We have technology that allows us to simulate fur and muscle dynamics."

Not only meant for movies, Performance Capture has also been used for video games. The latest "Call of Duty" used the technology to give its characters a more realistic feel.

For the film, Letteri created new versions of the bodysuits -- with markers embedded into form-fitting molds -- to get more accurate recordings. Actress Karin Konoval, who was transformed into Maurice, explained what it was like to wear the bodysuit.

"The helmet... by the end of the day, you know, 'get that thing off me!' But other than that... you can forget about wearing that and just get on with it," Konoval said.

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" opens in theaters July 11.

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