motion absorption has been active in our media since the 1970s. Recording the movement of objects or people. It’s become so integral to the way our shows and games are produced that it’s hard to imagine Whitewwater and the world of motion capture having a common denominator. UW Whitewater Alumni, Tyler King, serves as this connection. Originally from Jefferson, WI, King attended the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater from 2006 to 2010, where he received a BFA in theater performance and a dance minor. Although he now lives in Los Angeles, King likes to talk about his time with UWW. The Royal Purple sat down with the score to talk about his time at university and his current career.
Q: When were you first introduced to the world of motion capture?
I think in my junior year we did a production of MacBeth and I was McDuff. We brought in a really great choreographer named Jeff. Jeff was a guy who worked at Raven Software in Madison, which is owned by Activision. They do a lot of motion capture for video games. So I was working with him on the McDuff/MacBeth sword fight and he said, you know, we’ve got something I’d like you to walk through. It was obviously cool because it would come back later. All I do now is motion capture for video games and movies.
Q: Have there been specific courses or moments from UWW that now contribute to your work?
MacBeth was a big one just because I met Jeff there. The dance department was a big one in general because you move a lot better and more naturally on stage when you’re a lot more aware of your own body and carrying yourself. Or how a character would carry himself. But also the professors there at the time. Angela Iannone taught the Laban Movement Technique and it was tremendous for me too. Learning Laban was just another tool I could use for character work. I still use this.
Q: A lot of people don’t know what motion capture involves. Can you describe the practice in your own words?
I mean it’s exactly what it sounds like; but at the same time people say, “What does that mean?” We get into these suits that are like the soft side of velcro. It’s about as tight as a wetsuit. Then we are marked with reflective tape and there are between 20 and 120 cameras aimed at us from all directions. The cameras are not normal video cameras. These are cameras that light up – I think it’s usually a red light. It is a light that picks up the reflective markings. Because of all the markings on us, we’re basically becoming digitized in a sense. I don’t understand the whole computing side of things, of course. But essentially the computer software then figures out what the skeleton would look like based on the markers we wear.
Q: Is there a favorite project you’ve worked on?
I think the one I’m working on right now ticks that box. But because we have to sign all these NDAs, we’re not allowed to say what it is. I think before that there was one that came out recently that I really enjoyed working on, this The Last of Us: Part 1 make new. I knew about this when I started motion capture; and I always felt like I could work on a game like that, then I really progressed. Cut to six years later and I actually worked on the game.
Q: You indicated that you recently tried to start Narrator. How does it work?
Actually, I’ve only signed with one speaker in the last three weeks. Luckily, the people I worked with on the video game, who I can’t mention, helped me put together a demo reel and introduced me to the right people.
Q: When we see a person perform an impossible stunt in a video game or film, how much of the action is performed by the motion capture actor?
It depends on the movement that is taking place. So if a character needs to start on the ground, jump 30 feet in the air and then somersault to land back down. What we can do in motion capture is get me to bend down a little bit and jump up and then I’ll have that part of the movement. We’re going to get me a flip then, so we have that part. Then they make me do some kind of cool landing with a pose they want. What the animators can then do is work their magic. We give them the poses, the flip motion, the takeoff motion, and the landing motion. They can then go in and end up doing whatever they want.
Q: What advice would you give to a UWW student who is pursuing an acting career, whether in motion capture or not?
Just to continue pursuing her other hobbies and other interests outside of acting. If they go to drama school, it will take care of itself. What makes people unique in this industry are these seemingly random skills that people acquire over the course of their lives.