King Kong

I’ve just shaken hands with King Kong!

King Kong

In real life he is Andy Serkis, also known for playing Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

He turned up as an unannounced special guest at a special talk at the Tate Modern given by Joe Letteri, the Visual Effects Supervisor for King Kong.

The talk was particularly interesting because Joe had lots of visual demonstrations of how the film was made. For example he had before and after examples of the city scenes in the film, showing how extra cars, people and background were added to the parts that were constructed and filmed for real.

Obviously, Andy Serkis is not a 25-foot gorilla and isn’t featured in the film as a man in a monkey suit. The Kong in the film is entirely computer generated with Andy providing the movements and facial expressions. These were then mapped onto the equivalent muscles of the digital Kong model.

Apparently Andy did act on set alongside the actors wearing a special suit called the “Kongaliser”, which even gave him a loud gorilla voice. This was to give the other actors something to act against, rather than have to have them pretend Kong was really there.

I was thoroughly impressed at the amount of detail that went into the recreation of 1930’s New York for the city scenes. Those scenes are all 3D modelled and were recreated from old photographs, with special software used to automatically construct the buildings.

Joe showed us original blueprints of the Empire State building that they used to model the building for the final scene with the bi-planes. For extra authenticity he claims that they spent a great deal of time researching the spire of the building as supposedly the original spire was built to allow an airship to dock. The research showed that this is actually true, although on the one occasion a docking was attempted it was too windy and the attempt was unsuccesful.

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