Ever since Avatar, the use of motion capture is becoming more and more popular in the entertainment industry. But our industry isn’t the only one capitalizing on this technology; the gaming world has being utilizing it for years. Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Hollywood actor, dancer and motion capture artist Dani Swan to learn more about this growing popular art form and her role in it.
I fell into it-literally. A dear friend of mine who works at universal had suggested me for motion capture and the gaming world because I had the three skills they needed to create one character. I was very new to motion capture but had always loved using technology to create new media through movement. I was hooked the moment I walked into the motion capture dome. After the work I did, I was then put in touch with Julene Renee (Avatar, Beowolf), and after a workshop with her the studio brought me back in for a casting. I also owe a lot to Marc Morriseau, who really introduced me to a lot of people along the way as it is a tight community.
What drew you to the world of motion capture?
Easy- being able to have the chance to live my dream and work in film. But, also being able to utilize my movement and dance skills. Heaven! To a lot of peoples shock, I grew up with boys and they were constantly playing video games. To be a part of this world now is quite amazing.
My training is pretty full on. I am a perfectionist. But, my training is also my sanity. I love fitness! I do a lot of pilates (Winsor Pilates, West Hollywood), both classical mat and reformer/trapeze. Pilates was the practice that saved me from an injury when I was younger and I taught pilates in Australia. Every morning I do stretches and a mat work out. I also I try to get to the gym as much as I can to do cardio or to swim. In addition, I train at Cirque school in Hollywood to push my flexibility and work on my dynamic movements.
How different is the set world of motion capture compared to the set life on a regular film?
Well, it is very different. The dome is a huge space. If you have ever been on a green screen it’s similar to that except it’s a big room. While working, we are wearing long black suits with markers on them. In addition to knowing your lines, you need to know your marks (because you are moving in an empty space). In the end, that box that you are jumping off of is you jumping off a huge building on screen. I love the transformation of seeing the characters and environment come to life on screen in a beautiful fantasy scenario such as Avatar or in a war zone video game, knowing that we were actually in a big empty space wearing black suits. The other difference is one character is made up by a few different people. You have the voice over (actor), the facial scanning (the model), the motion capture performer (actor), and stunts (which generally they have as the motion capture performer depending on the content). I love working on set where they use motion, dance and movement to create these wonderful effects through motion capture. Like being turned into water while jumping, or cracking into a thousand pieces while spinning. Don’t get me started….I could talk all day on my love for this world…
Do you have a dream project or role?
Too many to say….honestly it’s the journey I’m on now. I think we all spend our years trying to figure out exactly where our path is leading, and for me I always wanted to play the femme fatale. I love the strength they embody and how they are able to do both movement and acting in one. I would love to do a Science fiction show or film with Marvel, and of course Game of Thrones-but don’t we all?!
Preparation meets opportunity.Train hard in mastering your skills. Work out what is your niche and work hard at it. For me, when I walk in I am the actress, the voice over and the model. But, my niche, the thing that I can bring that is different is that I dance and move dynamically. My flexibility, high movement, and motion is my strength. Whereas, someone else can come in and they can move well in the suit but they are amazing at stunts and firearms. Your niche is like the red ribbon that threads all your other positive strengths together because it is this that makes you stand out and allows you to have that one difference that makes casting go…’ yes, thats what we need’. Do workshops and start getting to know the right people. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and listen! The people you are learning from are wise and have the experience you want to have, so listen and always want to continue to grow.Create your own content is so smart too and have a reel that is focused on exactly who you are. Become apart of the community of that world.
What do you see as the future of motion capture and film?
Endless…I see it only growing in film, commercials and gaming. We will continue to be amazed by the visual content that this technology can create. All I can say is the sky’s the limit.
So what can we see next from Dani Swan?
I have been cast as the lead in Cerulean by Tani Kunitake (Matrix, Superman Returns, Star Wars) which will be launching its Kickstarter campaign in September this year. I am excited about this because the role I will be playing also has a lot of movement, motion capture and special effects. Also just working with the brilliant minds on board for this project makes me feel really blessed for the opportunity.
“The people you are learning from are wise and have the experience you want to have, so listen and always want to continue to grow.”
– Dani Swan
(photos courtesy of Dani Swan)
Dani Swan is an Australian born Actress, Dancer, Motion Capture performer, Voice Over Artist, Model and Creative Director based in Hollywood, CA. Dani left Australia in her early teens and traveled the world performing and mastering her crafts. It was her combination of Acting, Modeling and Diverse Movement background that got the attention of her Hollywood team, VOX USA and Bohemia Management. She is now based in Hollywood and is working in Film, TV, Commercial, Gaming and Stage.
To learn more about Dani, follow these links:
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