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Will ‘Planet of the Apes’ Finally Win a VFX Oscar? If Level of Difficulty Counted Most It Would (Video)

It’s been a running discussion as to whether motion capture performances should be nominated for Oscars and other awards. That debate got ever louder when we saw the intense, emotionally wrenching performance from Andy Serkis as Caesar in “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the third and final of the series.

Serkis didn’t get nominated for an acting Oscar this year, but who did was Joe Letteri for Best Achievement in Visual Effects. And while the performance we see on the screen is all Serkis, it was Letteri and his team who were responsible for making sure Caesar reflected all the subtleties and gestures offered up by the actor.

“We talk about performance capture, but that really is just recording the actor’s performance with markers on the body to get what the body movement is and with the video camera to record what the face is doing,” Letteri told TheWrap’s Steve Pond following a screening of “War” at the Dolby Cinema at the Vine in Hollywood Thursday. “What we have to do then is translate that into the character’s performance that you see on screen.”

Also Read: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ Top Visual Effects Awards

Letteri is the Senior Visual Effects Supervisor at Weta Digital, and he shares the Oscar nomination for “War” with Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist. He’s won Oscars for the second and third “Lord of the Rings” movies as well as “King Kong” and “Avatar.”

So if you look into the eyes of the “Planet of the Apes” character Bad Ape and see a bit of Gollum, it’s because Letteri was one of the key players behind both mocap characters performed by Serkis. And looking at eyes in particular helped Letteri and his team at Weta Digital capture the realism director Matt Reeves’s film demanded.

“It’s the really small movements that show you the performance. Especially around the eyes, that fine skin around the eyes and eyelids,” Letteri said.

Also Read: Steve Zahn on ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’: ‘Bad Ape Is the Hardest Acting Job I’ve Ever Done’

The three “Apes” movies all won the top award at the Visual Effects Society’s VES Awards, and the latest film even won four different VES Awards earlier this month. But the first two “Apes” movies lost the VFX Oscar to “Hugo” and “Interstellar.” It’s an amazing snub considering the groundbreaking work Weta Digital has done on all three films. And Letteri stressed that animating these apes has been no easy task.

“It’s not a one-to-one mechanical performance, because chimps look like us, but they’re not close enough if you really have to do things like dialogue,” Letteri said. “They can very easily look like a big coconut mouth talking. It doesn’t take much for it to fall apart. Those are the kinds of things that we learned over the course of the three films. Animators have to take what we see the actors doing frame by frame and try to judge whether or not we’re getting the same emotional response.”

Letteri would devote countless hours watching Serkis’ performance side-by-side with what they were seeing from Caesar. Reeves conveyed so much of the film through long, sobering close-ups, and it was important that everything Serkis was giving was the same as what they were interpreting for the screen.

Also Read: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’: How the VFX Team Created the Most Realistic Apes Yet

“You might be seeing a shot where there’s anger here, but there’s also a touch of sadness. I see the anger, but I’m not getting the sadness. And you try and dissect why that’s happening,” Letteri said. “Oh, it’s because Andy has these extra layers of skin around his eyes that Caesar doesn’t have. Well can we get that in there? Well, chimps don’t have that, so maybe we can add a little of it in and do a little with lighting. We’re always trying to come up with ways to solve the problem of getting the emotional beats to come through.”

All told, Letteri said “War for the Planet of the Apes” has little more than 15-20 shots that weren’t in some way digitally enhanced. Beyond even the realism of the apes, Weta Digital designed remarkably sophisticated models to create the forest devastated by an avalanche at the end of the film. They developed custom software and then simulated how a complete forest might grow over the course of 100 years, all within their digital landscape.

“I don’t sculpt, I don’t paint, I don’t do any of those things you would typically think of that are models to get into filmmaking. The only thing I was interested in is how do I make the picture,” Letteri said.

Also Read: Why Nova in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Isn’t Meant to Be the Nova From the Original

Given all that is possible, it begs the question why a film like “War for the Planet of the Apes” needs actors at all. But Letteri said real life people are still fundamental to the work they do.

“The idea of working with actors to do this is you get that basis,” Letteri said. “You get what actors know how to do, which is to create the emotion and drama in the moment. And our job is to take that and translate it and create the character from that.”

Watch a clip from the Q&A Thursday above. 

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘Blade Runner 2049,’ ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Sound Best to Motion Picture Sound Editors

‘War for the Planet of the Apes,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ Top Visual Effects Awards

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Gives Fox Best Chinese Box Office Opening Ever

Steve Zahn on ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’: ‘Bad Ape Is the Hardest Acting Job I’ve Ever Done’

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’: How the VFX Team Created the Most Realistic Apes Yet

It’s been a running discussion as to whether motion capture performances should be nominated for Oscars and other awards. That debate got ever louder when we saw the intense, emotionally wrenching performance from Andy Serkis as Caesar in “War for the Planet of the Apes,” the third and final of the series.

Serkis didn’t get nominated for an acting Oscar this year, but who did was Joe Letteri for Best Achievement in Visual Effects. And while the performance we see on the screen is all Serkis, it was Letteri and his team who were responsible for making sure Caesar reflected all the subtleties and gestures offered up by the actor.

“We talk about performance capture, but that really is just recording the actor’s performance with markers on the body to get what the body movement is and with the video camera to record what the face is doing,” Letteri told TheWrap’s Steve Pond following a screening of “War” at the Dolby Cinema at the Vine in Hollywood Thursday. “What we have to do then is translate that into the character’s performance that you see on screen.”

Letteri is the Senior Visual Effects Supervisor at Weta Digital, and he shares the Oscar nomination for “War” with Daniel Barrett, Dan Lemmon and Joel Whist. He’s won Oscars for the second and third “Lord of the Rings” movies as well as “King Kong” and “Avatar.”

So if you look into the eyes of the “Planet of the Apes” character Bad Ape and see a bit of Gollum, it’s because Letteri was one of the key players behind both mocap characters performed by Serkis. And looking at eyes in particular helped Letteri and his team at Weta Digital capture the realism director Matt Reeves’s film demanded.

“It’s the really small movements that show you the performance. Especially around the eyes, that fine skin around the eyes and eyelids,” Letteri said.

The three “Apes” movies all won the top award at the Visual Effects Society’s VES Awards, and the latest film even won four different VES Awards earlier this month. But the first two “Apes” movies lost the VFX Oscar to “Hugo” and “Interstellar.” It’s an amazing snub considering the groundbreaking work Weta Digital has done on all three films. And Letteri stressed that animating these apes has been no easy task.

“It’s not a one-to-one mechanical performance, because chimps look like us, but they’re not close enough if you really have to do things like dialogue,” Letteri said. “They can very easily look like a big coconut mouth talking. It doesn’t take much for it to fall apart. Those are the kinds of things that we learned over the course of the three films. Animators have to take what we see the actors doing frame by frame and try to judge whether or not we’re getting the same emotional response.”

Letteri would devote countless hours watching Serkis’ performance side-by-side with what they were seeing from Caesar. Reeves conveyed so much of the film through long, sobering close-ups, and it was important that everything Serkis was giving was the same as what they were interpreting for the screen.

“You might be seeing a shot where there’s anger here, but there’s also a touch of sadness. I see the anger, but I’m not getting the sadness. And you try and dissect why that’s happening,” Letteri said. “Oh, it’s because Andy has these extra layers of skin around his eyes that Caesar doesn’t have. Well can we get that in there? Well, chimps don’t have that, so maybe we can add a little of it in and do a little with lighting. We’re always trying to come up with ways to solve the problem of getting the emotional beats to come through.”

All told, Letteri said “War for the Planet of the Apes” has little more than 15-20 shots that weren’t in some way digitally enhanced. Beyond even the realism of the apes, Weta Digital designed remarkably sophisticated models to create the forest devastated by an avalanche at the end of the film. They developed custom software and then simulated how a complete forest might grow over the course of 100 years, all within their digital landscape.

“I don’t sculpt, I don’t paint, I don’t do any of those things you would typically think of that are models to get into filmmaking. The only thing I was interested in is how do I make the picture,” Letteri said.

Given all that is possible, it begs the question why a film like “War for the Planet of the Apes” needs actors at all. But Letteri said real life people are still fundamental to the work they do.

“The idea of working with actors to do this is you get that basis,” Letteri said. “You get what actors know how to do, which is to create the emotion and drama in the moment. And our job is to take that and translate it and create the character from that.”

Watch a clip from the Q&A Thursday above. 

Related stories from TheWrap:

'Blade Runner 2049,' 'War for the Planet of the Apes' Sound Best to Motion Picture Sound Editors

'War for the Planet of the Apes,' 'Game of Thrones' Top Visual Effects Awards

'War for the Planet of the Apes' Gives Fox Best Chinese Box Office Opening Ever

Steve Zahn on 'War for the Planet of the Apes': 'Bad Ape Is the Hardest Acting Job I've Ever Done'

'War for the Planet of the Apes': How the VFX Team Created the Most Realistic Apes Yet

Anonymous Oscar Ballot: VFX Supervisor Wants ‘The Shape of Water’ to Win, ‘Get Out’ Not Best Picture Material

The omission of “The Shape of Water” from the visual effects race was most disappointing.

Here’s another in our series of interviews with a swath of Academy voters from different branches for their candid thoughts on what got picked, overlooked, and overvalued this year.

Best Picture of the Year

The Shape of Water” has broad appeal, is a beautifully done film, and feels like a completed thought and singular vision from all categories and disciplines working together. “Get Out” is a very good and fun movie but not necessarily best picture material.

As far as omissions, “Victoria & Abdul,” came and went without the usual fanfare for Oscar nominations. I’m not sure why it was left out of most categories, including Judi Dench and Stephen Frears. Also, “Detroit” seemed like an early frontrunner and was mysteriously left out.

“Get Out”

Also, in terms of the preferential system, I’m not sure of its effectiveness, it’s so hard to say one way or the other. And I have no problem with the Academy trying to be more inclusive of women and people of color: Artistic merit and raw talent wins out over all and is always color and gender blind.

Best Visual Effects

What I liked about “War for the Planet of the Apes” was the finesses and the aspiration to emotionally tell the story with the subtlety of performance. The greater the subtlety, the greater the amount of difficulty and cinematic art that needs to be generated to produce such an effect.

“War for the Planet of the Apes”

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

The same holds true for “The Shape of Water”; I was disappointed it was overlooked. “Kong: Skull Island” was not as impressive as “The Shape of Water,” hence it should not have arguably been on the list in place of it. It was also marred by less impressive water-splashing simulations that covered up more impressive action. Also, the film did not try to transcend the characters beyond the sensational aspect of their size and battles. It was fine and good work, but it did not try as hard as “Apes” and “The Shape of Water” to emotionally move the audience beyond the quality of the effect itself.

Blade Runner 2049” also had an impressive combination of art and execution at its core. The scene that tipped the scales involved a relationship with an artificially intelligent hologram trying to fulfill a physical relationship with Ryan Gosling’s character K. A very fine execution of a purely sci-fi idea that transcends the genre for an ordinary non sci-fi audience. Possibly “Blade Runner” will win, as more members will most likely see that movie over “Apes” and the visual component might be rewarded, like cinematography and production design.

Best Cinematography

The cinematography race is a tough one: very impressive films are competing. My favorites are “Blade Runner,” “Mudbound,” and “The Shape of Water,” in that order.

“Blade Runner 2049”

I think Roger Deakins’ imprint is on every frame where the photography creates the entire mood and atmosphere. As beautifully done as can be imagined that also transcends the medium into high art. “Mudbound” is also beautifully rendered with its cinematographer Rachel Morrison emerging as a huge talent.

“The Shape of Water” is perhaps the most complete film in every department, contributing to the whole experience. The camera, lighting, costume, directing, acting, and production design dovetails beautifully, creating the mood and tone of the fable.

“Dunkirk” is good and workmanlike but didn’t aspire to much greater than using 70mm to create the epic-like quality. I think the slavish dedication to photochemical limitations hurt its consistency in achieving what the other films were able to seamlessly create.

“Darkest Hour” was also beautifully done, but I felt the cinematography shone more than the seamless blend of “Mudbound” and some of the other films.

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MPSE Awards 2018: ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ and ‘Blade Runner 2049’ Take Top Sound Editing Awards

The “Apes” origin story finale was the surprise winner at the Golden Reel Awards Sunday, splitting with the “Blade Runner” sequel.

It was a clear victory for sci-fi sound editing Sunday night at the 65th annual MPSE Golden Reel Awards at the Westin Bonaventure. “War for the Planet of the Apes” was the surprise winner for Dialogue/ADR, splitting honors with “Blade Runner 2049,” which grabbed the Effects/Foley prize. The big loser was “Dunkirk” (which won the BAFTA sound award earlier Sunday). However, Christopher Nolan’s World War II survival epic took home the Music Score award and remains the sound editing Oscar favorite.

"Blade Runner 2049"

“Blade Runner 2049”

In addition, “The Greatest Showman,” “Coco,” “Loveless,” and “Jane” earned sound editing awards for Musical, Animation, Foreign Language, and Documentary. The big TV winner was “Game of Thrones” (“The Spoils of War”) for Dialogue/ADR and Effects/Foley. Other TV honorees included “Black Mirror” (“USS Callister”) for Episodic Long Form Dialogue/ADR; “Godless” (“Homecoming”) and “Ozark” (“The Toll”) for Episodic Long Form Effects/Foley; “The Get Down” (“Only from Exile Can We Come Home”) for Episodic Long Form Music/Musical; and “Stranger Things” (“Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer” for Episodic Short Form Music/Musical.

Director Kathryn Bigelow (“Detroit”) won the Filmmaker Award and sound effects recording mixer John P. Fasal (“Dunkirk,” “Coco”) earned the Career Achievement Award.

Progression Image 3 of 3: Final Frame..ASPIRING MUSICIAN — In Disney•Pixar’s “Coco,” Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like the celebrated Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). But when he strums his idol’s guitar, he sets off a mysterious chain of events. Directed by Lee Unkrich, co-directed by Adrian Molina and produced by Darla K. Anderson, “Coco” opens in theaters Nov. 22, 2017.

“Coco”

Pixar

65th MPSE Golden Reel Award Highlights:

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Dialogue / ADR

“War for the Planet of the Apes”

20th Century Fox

Supervising Sound Editors: Douglas Murray, MPSE, Will Files

Supervising Dialogue Editor: R.J. Kizer

Vocal Editors: Kim Foscato, P.K. Hooker, Doug Jackson, Lindsay Alvarez

ADR Editors: Laura Graham, Jim Brookshire

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Effects / Foley

“Blade Runner 2049”

Warner Brothers

Supervising Sound Editor: Mark Mangini, MPSE

Sound Designer: Theo Green

Sound Effects Editors: Chris Aud, MPSE, Lee Gilmore, MPSE, Greg ten Bosch, MPSE,

Charlie Campagna, MPSE, Dave Whitehead, Eliot Connors, MPSE

Foley Editor: Ezra Dweck

Foley Artists: Goro Koyama, Andy Malcolm

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Musical

“The Greatest Showman”

20th Century Fox

Supervising Music Editor: Jen Monnar

Music Editors: Jim Harrison, Jeff Carson, Peter Myles, Sheri Ozeki, Ted Caplan

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Music Score

“Dunkirk”

Warner Brothers

Supervising Music Editor: Alex Gibson

Music Editor: Ryan Rubin

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Foreign Language Feature

“Loveless”

Sony Pictures Classics

Supervising Sound Editor: Andrey Dergachev

Dialogue Editor: Alexey Kuznetsov

Sound Effects Editors: Alexey Kobzar, Sofia Matrosova

Foley Editors: Elena Starikova, Ruslan Khuseyn, Dmitriy Zuev

Foley Artist: Natalia Zueva

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Documentary

“Jane”

National Geographic

Supervising Sound Editors: Warren Shaw, Joshua Paul Johnson

Sound Designers: Peter Staubli, MPSE, Odin Benitez, MPSE

Dialogue Editor: Will Digby

Foley Artist: Tara Blume

Music Editor: Suzana Peric

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Animation

“Coco”

Disney

Supervising Sound Editors: J.R. Grubbs, Chris Boyes

Dialogue Editors: Marshall Winn, Michael Silvers

Sound Effects Editors: Michael Silvers, Justin Doyle, Jack Whittaker, Teresa Eckton,

Foley Editors: Jim Likowski, Dee Selby

Foley Artists: Jana Vance, Dennie Thorpe, Geoff Vaughan

Supervising Music Editor: Stephen Davis, MPSE

Music Editor: Warren Brown, MPSE, Barney Jones

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Short Form – Effects / Foley

“Game of Thrones”

“The Spoils of War”

HBO

Supervising Sound Editor: Tim Kimmel, MPSE

Sound Designer: Paula Fairfield, MPSE

Sound Effects Editor: Bradley Katona, MPSE

Foley Editors: Brett Voss, MPSE, John Matter

Foley Artists: Jeff Wilhoit, MPSE, Dylan Tuomy-Wilhoit

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Short Form – Dialogue/ADR

“Game of Thrones”

“The Spoils of War”

HBO

Supervising Sound Editor: Tim Kimmel, MPSE

Supervising Dialogue Editor: Paul Bercovitch

Supervising ADR Editor: Tim Hands, MPSE

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Long Form – Dialogue/ADR

“Black Mirror”

“USS Callister”

Netflix

Supervising Sound Editor: Kenny Clark

Dialogue Editors: Michael Maroussas, Matt Skelding

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Long Form – Music / Musical

“The Get Down”

“Only from Exile Can We Come Home”

Netflix

Supervising Music Editor: Jamieson Shaw

Music Editors: Jordan Ross, Dave Robertson

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Short Form – Music / Musical

“Stranger Things”

“Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer”

Netflix

Music Editor: David Klotz

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Long Form – Effects / Foley (Tie)

“Godless”

“Homecoming”

Netflix

Supervising Sound Editors: Wylie Stateman, MPSE, Eric Hoehn

Sound Effects Editors: Harry Cohen, MPSE, Hector Gika, MPSE, Sylvain Lasseur, Leo Marcil, Jackie Zhou

Ozark”

“The Toll”

Netflix

Supervising Sound Editors: Nick Forshager, Stephen Grubbs

Sound Effects Editor: Matt Temple

Foley Editors: Jeff Cranford, Daniel Raphael

Foley Artists: Tim Chilton, Jerry Trent, Jill Sanders, Ginger Geary

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Special Venue

“Carne Y Arena”

Legendary Entertainment

Supervising Sound Editors: Randy Thom, MPSE, Martín Hernández, MPSE, Leff Lefferts

Technical Audio Designers: Bill Rudolph, Kevin Bolen, Damian Kastbauer

Sound Effects Editor: Leff Lefferts

Dialogue Editor: Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, MPSE

Audio Artists: Doc Kane, Geoff Vaughan, Dusty Jermier

Audio Director: Steve Morris

ADR Editor: Brian Chumney

Foley Editors: Luke Dunn Gielmuda, Malcolm Fife

Foley Artists: Sean England, Shelley Roden, MPSE, John Roesch, MPSE, Geoff Vaughan

The complete list of winners can be found on the MPSE website.

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‘Blade Runner 2049,’ ‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Sound Best to Motion Picture Sound Editors

“Blade Runner 2049,” “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Dunkirk” and “The Greatest Showman” were among the winners at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 65th Annual Golden Reel Awards, which were held on Sunday night in downtown Los Angeles.

“Blade Runner” won in the Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Effects/Foley category, the Golden Reel Awards category that corresponds most closely to the Academy Awards’ Best Sound Editing category. All five of the Oscar nominees — “Blade Runner,” “Baby Driver,” “Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” — were Golden Reel nominees, along with “Logan,” “Thor: Ragnarok” and “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

“War for the Planet of the Apes” won the award for dialogue and ADR, “The Greatest Showman” won for sound editing in a musical and “Dunkirk” won for the sound editing of a musical score.

“Coco” won for sound editing in an animated film, “Jane” for documentary and “Loveless” for foreign-language film.

Also Read: 2018 NBA All-Star: Chadwick Boseman, Shaquille O’Neal Party in LA for Basketball’s Biggest Weekend (Photos)

In the Golden Reel Awards’ television categories, the “Spoils of War” episode of “Game of Thrones” won two awards, while single prizes went to episodes of “Godless,” “Ozark,” “Black Mirror,” “The Get Down,” “Superstore” and “Stranger Things.”

The ceremony was held at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. A career achievement award was given to sound designer and field recordist John P. Fasal, while director Kathryn Bigelow won the MPSE Filmmaker Award.

Here are the 2018 MPSE Golden Reel Awards winners. For the individual winners in each category, check the MPSE website.

Also Read: 44 Movies With A+ CinemaScore Since 2000, From ‘Remember the Titans’ to ‘Black Panther’ (Photos)

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Effects / Foley: “Blade Runner 2049”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Dialogue / ADR: “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Animation: “Coco”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Documentary: “Jane”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Foreign Language Feature: “Loveless”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Music Score: “Dunkirk”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Musical: “The Greatest Showman”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Live Action Under 30:00: “Superstore”: “Tornado”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Short Form – Music / Musical: “Stranger Things”: “Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Short Form – Dialogue/ADR: “Game of Thrones”: “The Spoils of War”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Short Form – Effects / Foley: “Game of Thrones”: “The Spoils of War”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Long Form – Music / Musical: “The Get Down”: “Only from Exile Can We Come Home”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Long Form – Dialogue/ADR: “Black Mirror”: “USS Callister”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Long Form – Effects / Foley: (TIE) “Godless”: “Homecoming” and “Ozark”: “The Toll”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Single Presentation: “Oasis”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Non-Theatrical Animation Long Form: “Lego DC Super Hero Girls”: “Brain Drain”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Non-Theatrical Documentary: “Becoming Bond”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Non-Theatrical Feature: “In Search of Fellini”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Computer Cinematic: “Halo Wars 2”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Computer Interactive Game Play: (TIE) “Call of Duty: WWII” and “Star Wars: Battlefront II”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Special Venue: “Carne Y Arena”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Animation Short Form: “Overwatch”: “Honor and Glory”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Student Film (Verna Fields Award): “Homegrown”

2018 MPSE Filmmaker Award: Kathryn Bigelow

2018 MPSE Career Achievement Award: John P. Fasal

Related stories from TheWrap:

‘War for the Planet of the Apes,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ Top Visual Effects Awards

‘Get Out’ and ‘Call Me by Your Name’ Win 2018 Writers Guild Awards

Top Film Editing Awards Go to ‘Dunkirk,’ ‘I, Tonya’

“Blade Runner 2049,” “War for the Planet of the Apes,” “Dunkirk” and “The Greatest Showman” were among the winners at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 65th Annual Golden Reel Awards, which were held on Sunday night in downtown Los Angeles.

“Blade Runner” won in the Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Effects/Foley category, the Golden Reel Awards category that corresponds most closely to the Academy Awards’ Best Sound Editing category. All five of the Oscar nominees — “Blade Runner,” “Baby Driver,” “Dunkirk,” “The Shape of Water” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” — were Golden Reel nominees, along with “Logan,” “Thor: Ragnarok” and “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

“War for the Planet of the Apes” won the award for dialogue and ADR, “The Greatest Showman” won for sound editing in a musical and “Dunkirk” won for the sound editing of a musical score.

“Coco” won for sound editing in an animated film, “Jane” for documentary and “Loveless” for foreign-language film.

In the Golden Reel Awards’ television categories, the “Spoils of War” episode of “Game of Thrones” won two awards, while single prizes went to episodes of “Godless,” “Ozark,” “Black Mirror,” “The Get Down,” “Superstore” and “Stranger Things.”

The ceremony was held at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. A career achievement award was given to sound designer and field recordist John P. Fasal, while director Kathryn Bigelow won the MPSE Filmmaker Award.

Here are the 2018 MPSE Golden Reel Awards winners. For the individual winners in each category, check the MPSE website.

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Effects / Foley: “Blade Runner 2049”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Dialogue / ADR: “War for the Planet of the Apes”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Animation: “Coco”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Feature Documentary: “Jane”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Foreign Language Feature: “Loveless”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Music Score: “Dunkirk”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Musical: “The Greatest Showman”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Live Action Under 30:00: “Superstore”: “Tornado”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Short Form – Music / Musical: “Stranger Things”: “Chapter Eight: The Mind Flayer”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Short Form – Dialogue/ADR: “Game of Thrones”: “The Spoils of War”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Short Form – Effects / Foley: “Game of Thrones”: “The Spoils of War”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Long Form – Music / Musical: “The Get Down”: “Only from Exile Can We Come Home”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Long Form – Dialogue/ADR: “Black Mirror”: “USS Callister”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Episodic Long Form – Effects / Foley: (TIE) “Godless”: “Homecoming” and “Ozark”: “The Toll”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Single Presentation: “Oasis”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Non-Theatrical Animation Long Form: “Lego DC Super Hero Girls”: “Brain Drain”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Non-Theatrical Documentary: “Becoming Bond”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Non-Theatrical Feature: “In Search of Fellini”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Computer Cinematic: “Halo Wars 2”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Computer Interactive Game Play: (TIE) “Call of Duty: WWII” and “Star Wars: Battlefront II”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Special Venue: “Carne Y Arena”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Animation Short Form: “Overwatch”: “Honor and Glory”

Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing – Student Film (Verna Fields Award): “Homegrown”

2018 MPSE Filmmaker Award: Kathryn Bigelow

2018 MPSE Career Achievement Award: John P. Fasal

Related stories from TheWrap:

'War for the Planet of the Apes,' 'Game of Thrones' Top Visual Effects Awards

'Get Out' and 'Call Me by Your Name' Win 2018 Writers Guild Awards

Top Film Editing Awards Go to 'Dunkirk,' 'I, Tonya'

‘War for the Planet of the Apes’ Deserves to Win the VFX Oscar

The third time should be the charm for Weta’s remarkable Caesar (Andy Serkis) in a field marked by outstanding character animation.

The time has come for the Academy to finally give the VFX Oscar to “War for the Planet of the Apes.” Twice denied for “Rise” and “Dawn,” Weta Digital’s remarkable work on Caesar (Andy Serkis) culminated with a Shakespearean finale. It’s undeniably the best of the field. And coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the original “Planet of the Apes” would make it even sweeter. The Visual Effects Society obviously got the importance of the work, honoring the entire Caesar trilogy, now we’ll see if the Academy makes amends with “War.”

However, “Apes” has been denied before (with the acting branch, in particular, having a bias against Serkis and performance capture) and there is other noteworthy character animation to choose from, including the stunning CG Rachael from “Blade Runner 2049,” the creepy Snoke (Serkis) from “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Ego and the de-aged Kurt Russell from “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” and the latest incarnation of King Kong from “Kong: Skull Island.”

Read more about these nominees, ranked in order of their likelihood to win:

“War for the Planet of the Apes”

It’s been a unique experience for Serkis to play the sentient simian from birth to death, and Weta rose to the challenge of capturing and animating his performance. In “War,” though, Caesar rose to Moses-like stature, grappling with his darkest demons before freeing himself and his tribe. For Weta, the challenge was capturing Caesar’s final arc with on-set performance capture in both snow and rain. On “War,” they achieved greater interpolation and more nuanced animation.

“War for the Planet of the Apes”

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fo

Caesar was grayer and walked more slowly, carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Weta also deepened his wrinkles and added more creases. His model and facial rig were adjusted, too, given the complex emotional range. At the same time, they added a new character, Bad Ape (Steve Zahn), nervous and funny, with a lot more dialogue requiring special care to the rigging and his big, bug eyes.

“”For me, the key to the whole movie is empathy,” said Matt Reeves (who directed both “Dawn” and “War”). “I saw ‘Rise’ and for the first time I had an emotional connection with a CG character. This film was pushed into the realm of the mythic. It’s a Darwinian, biblical, ape epic.”

“Blade Runner 2049”

The great VFX suprise was a stunning CG recreation of the Rachael replicant played by Sean Young in the original movie. the two-minute sequence brought an emotionally stirring reunion with Harrison Ford’s Deckard, requiring technical virtuosity and subtle performance.

“Blade Runner 2049”

Body double Loren Peta played the young Rachael (in costume, makeup, and with dotted face) and performed on set with Ford and Jared Leto (as replicant manufacturer Wallace). She was directed by Denis Villeneuve, with Young on set as well for reference. The goal was to merge the two into a perfect replica.

Oscar-winning MPC (“The Jungle Book”) was tasked with animating the 20-year-old Rachael. However, Villeneuve wanted a three-beat character arc for the new replicant when she encounters Deckard. First, she displays confidence and then longing before feeling rejected when realizing that she doesn’t measure up. The result was a major step in digital human animation.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

For the first actual appearance of Supreme Leader Snoke, director Rian Johnson worked with Industrial Light & Magic on a complete redesign. He looked too ghoulish and zombie-like as the hologram in “The Last Jedi.” ILM got data capture of Serkis on set with Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Andy Driver (Kylo Ren).

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

However, the initial concept looked too frail and didn’t match the power of Serkis’ voice. So they resculpted the model, referencing Michael Fassbender and Steven Berkoff, and Ben Kingsley from ‘Sexy Beast.’” ILM made Snoke’s shoulders broader, straightened his back, and restructured his face. They also raised him from seven to eight-feet-tall.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

First, there was Baby Groot (Framestore made him softer, more alien-like, and quite the athletic dancer), but the other new wrinkle was Ego (Russell), a living planet that takes on human form. Weta Digital was challenged with creating the interior look of Ego, along with the various transformations during his climactic fight with son Peter Quill (Chris Pratt).

Baby Groot

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2”

This involved complicated mathematical patterns known as fractals (inspired by artist Hal Tenny, who served as a consultant). However, not only did Weta have difficulty controlling the fractals, but it also had to make them pliable in short order. To avoid an R rating for gore, Weta came up with particulate sand.

Meanwhile, Lola VFX handled the young Russell for the prologue, a 36-year journey back in time. Despite claims that it was achieved with special effects makeup, Lola, the masters of digital de-aging (“The Social Network”), once again handled it with nifty 2D compositing and 3D tracking, with the actor wearing a wig and the aid of a younger stand-in.

“Kong: Skull Island”

ILM went back to the 1933 original “King Kong” in designing the 100-foot gorilla for Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ “Apocalypse Now” riff. However, Kong was a hybrid of man and gorilla, and so ILM came up with the idea of a movie monster. He doesn’t walk on all fours and they had to find the right cadence and movement style to make it work.

“Kong: Skull Island”

The animation was entirely keyframed, using ILM’s Oscar-winning facial-capture and BlockParty procedural rigging systems. But, not surprisingly, fur posed the biggest challenge. Kong required a dedicated two-person team for thicker and more-realistic grooming, which also demanded a battle-weary look. That’s 19 million hairs, complicated by water interaction on the fur, achieved with the help of the water simulation team on a variety of looks. For ILM, it was the badass Kong.

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Andy Serkis Thinks the Oscars Is Getting Closer to Finally Nominating Motion-Capture Acting

But the actor is a bit disappointed the Academy didn’t start with the acting in “War For the Planet of the Apes.”

Andy Serkis has never been nominated for an acting Oscar, which many people will tell you is downright criminal. The actor has pioneered the art of motion-capture performances with acclaimed work in “The Lord of the Rings,” “King Kong,” and the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, and yet the Academy has remained incredibly resistant to nominating his performances. The issue of motion-capture Oscar snubs has been debated for years, but Serkis says progress is being made.

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Serkis told ScreenCrush when asked if the Academy will ever start nominating motion-capture acting. “I mean, the Academy is openly, they’ve written emails to the acting branch saying we have to now acknowledge performance in the broadest sense. So performance-capture, voice talent acting. And they’re asking the question: What is the epitome or the essence of a great performance? It doesn’t just have to mean seeing an actor’s face on screen. It can be manifested using performance-capture. So they’re absolutely on top of it.”

“I think they see it as important as other areas of diversity, so there isn’t prejudice against a particular type of acting,” Serkis continued. “So I think we’ll see in the future, hopefully, people like Doug Jones in ‘The Shape of Water.’ They’re widening the remit. Otherwise these performances get overlooked.”

Serkis may be hopeful for the future, but he’s also a little disappointed that “War for the Planet of the Apes” couldn’t break through and make history at the Oscars. The actor said motion-capture performances by Karin Konoval and Steve Zahn in the third “Planet of the Apes” installment should’ve certainly been recognized by the Academy. The film’s only nomination was for visual effects, which Serkis feels was a “short shrift.”

“There are some extraordinary performances in it from Karin Konoval to Steve Zahn, who played Bad Ape,” Serkis said. “You know, Woody Harrelson in that was terrific too. I think it was overlooked, I have to say, and I’m very biased because it’s a film that’s very close to my heart. I do think that Matt [Reeves]‘s direction and storytelling and what that film means and is, I think was given short shrift really. I think it’s an important movie, really.”

Serkis also showed off his motion-capture skills recently as Supreme Leader Snoke in “Star War: The Last Jedi.” He can next be seen on the big screen in the flesh as one of the villains in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” in theaters February 16.