August 21, 2019

What's It Like to Be a Mo-Cap Artist?

TJ Storm has portrayed Godzilla, the Predator, and Darth Vader. And chances are you've never heard of him. 

Twenty years ago, TJ Storm was a kid with a Hollywood dream. He stumbled into Mo-cap acting and suddenly became one of the most popular actors on screen. The movies and series he's been in have topped over a billion dollars at the box office, yet unlike people like Andy Serkis, he's flown mostly under the radar. 

He played Godzilla in the last two movies, Vader in a VR series, the Predator, and Colossus in Deadpool

That's a helluva resume. TJ recently did an interview with Before and Afters about what it's like to spend your life hooked up to a suit covered in ping pong balls. Let's take a look at some of his best answers. 

What's Life Like as a Mo-Cap artist? 

How did TJ get into mo-cap? 

"I was trying to learn how to direct, and I was at a class for directors learning how to direct. And I was sitting in the front row, I was trying to be a good student. It was up an elevated stage, where the guy who was teaching the class was speaking from. And the guy was passionate, so when he spoke, he spit, and it would rain down on everybody in the front row. It was gross. So at lunch, I turned to the guy next to me. I’m like, ‘So you want to go towel off?’ And he just started laughing, and we started talking. He’s like, ‘Hey, man, you’re cool, and you’re a good athlete, and stuff. You want to help me test out a new technology?’"

This chance class encounter got TJ to be the mo-cap double for William Shatner for a Star Trek video game. More work followed soon after that and now he's so successful, he runs his own school where he teaches stunts and acting. 

What's it like acting as a mo-cap person?

"...dancing, pretending, creating, moving and playing, they gave me a strong background for movement. So, if I have to, I can do without the real-time. On the other hand, the real-time gets us to the point that I can make less mistakes and find my movement more specifically, so that the animators have less to clean up at the end of the day. I know how to keep my muscles from clipping into my other muscles, or my shoulder pads, or elbow spikes, or whatever thing might be special about the character. I can make their job little bit easier by really seeing the real-time and finding the limits of my movement while at the same time, finding the depth of my personality based on what I have to work with in the model and in the rigging."

One of the most prophetic things is just how TJ's background seamlessly shaped him to be this kind of performer. 

What's one thing you haven't done in mo-cap? 

"Well, I’m so happy to have been part of the Marvel Universe. I got to be in the Marvel universe, and I’ve been Rocket Raccoon, I’ve been Groot, I’ve been Iron Man in 'Captain America: Civil War.' I’ve been Colossus. So I’ve been in Marvel, and that makes me super happy. I want to do more of those. But Star Wars eluded me forever, and I just never got to be in the Star Wars universe ever. And all my friends were somehow a part of it. I was like, ‘Why can’t I be in Star Wars?’ Well, I’m proud to say that I am Darth Vader in Vader Immortal, the VR series. And not only am I in the Star Wars universe, I am Vader, so that is awesome. I’m the Predator, I am Godzilla, and I’m Darth Vader. I’ve been so excited about that."

It's crazy to think that he's achieved most of his dreams as an artist, but there's always new worlds to conquer. As they start creating more characters for Star Wars, it would be great to see him get to embody someone new. A creation he could take out in the world on his won and really breath life into them. 

I felt like I learned a lot about his process and story. 

Enough to make me want to get in the suit and see what happens. 

Read the rest of the interview here! 

What's next? Learn how to act in a mo-cap suit! 

Motion capture uses actors movements to create realistic computer-generated characters, but how does that affect actors? 

Click the link to learn more! 

 

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