Andy Serkis plays the character Snoke in The Last Jedi, as he did in
The Force Awakens, wearing a motion-capture suit and facial-capture head rig. Serkis’s performance-capture studio, The Imaginarium, provided the motion-capture setup.
“They brought along one of their Vicon systems installed on an aluminum truss,” says ILM’s Ben Morris, overall visual effects supervisor. “They could raise and lower the cameras depending on the resolution we wanted for the body capture. And, they had a helmet camera on him. It’s basically the same technology we have internally, so all the tools worked seamlessly with ours. And, they know Andy well.”
Having the Imaginarium system on set meant Johnson could direct Serkis along with the other actors, and all the actors could react and feed one another’s performance. Motion-capture translators at ILM later applied the data from Serkis’s performance to the digital model, which differed in size and in facial characteristics from that of Serkis. Animators then practiced their art of interpreting Serkis’s performance to create the digital Snoke.
“I’m hugely proud of what we did with Snoke,” Morris says. “He’s a digital human, not a digital fantasy character.”