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Inside CHAPPiE’s Visual FX

by Paul Strauss

Whether or not you’re loving Neill Blomkamp’s CHAPPiE, one thing that’s indisputable is that the visual effects are impressive. In this featurette from WIRED, we get a look inside the CGI animation work that was used to bring Sharlto Copley’s character and the other police robots to life.

Incredibly, CHAPPiE’s animations weren’t done with motion capture, but hand animated based on the actors’ movements. Actors donned GoPro cameras to capture their viewpoint and surroundings, which would provide the point-of-view footage seen from each robot.

After each live scene was shot, animators painstakingly removed the live actors from the scene and replaced them with their robo-avatars. Unlike green-screen affairs, Blomkamp shot mostly on real sets, and encouraged actors to interact with their environments. What I love about Blomkamp’s technique here is it’s reminiscent of the methods used in classics like Who Framed Roger Rabbit – in which real-world props and interactions were maintained, and the animated characters were added on top instead of going with a purely CGI approach. This is part of what makes Blomkamp’s films seem so much more real and gritty than stuff like Transformers.

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