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apcmag.com: Tech wizardry (More on the Lord of the Rings visual effects team)

Jan 26, 2002, 02:29 (13 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by William Maher)
"Massive's job on The Lord of the Rings is to animate battle scenes with thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands of fighters. The amazing thing is that the creatures on the screen have a "brain" -- they're not dumb models, like most animations. Each figure is like a computer game character with instructions about where to run and who to attack. Animators get to click the mouse and watch the action unfold.

Labrie explains: "Essentially, there's a brain-building tool that allows you to define an agent or creature. Let's say that might be a Uruk-Hai, a type of fighting orc. We go into motion capture stage and we've designed a kind of motion for the Uruk-Hai. Let's say that it's kind of a middle-European half-hand, hack-and-slash technique. We'll capture a lot of motions -- attack high, attack low, block high, block low, walk, run, die."

Weta records as many as 200 separate motions for each of the individual types of creatures. The movements are all put together in a "motion tree" and made accessible to the creature's brain. Once the motion-capture work is done and each Uruk-Hai is given its instructions, the battle begins."

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