Motion Capture is a technique used for not only the gaming industry, but also with filmmaking. How does a Motion Capture actor bring characters to life? What is it like to be a Mo-Cap actor to begin with? I take a closer look into this technique with Richard Dorton, the Mo-Cap actor who not only worked with Alan Maxson and Jason Liles as Ghidorah for Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) but has also been responsible for bringing your favorite video game characters to life.
For those who don't know Richard Dorton, Richard is best known for his work on Spider-Man (2002), Rendition (2007), Mortal Kombat Rebirth (2010), Jack the Giant Slayer (2013), and a lot of video games. Richard Dorton teaches classes to actors who are interested in performance capture for both the gaming and film industry at the Mocap Vaults. Richard is best known for his tagline, however, as his tagline states, "If you play video games, you've probably killed me." This shouldn't come off as joke, because it's true. Richard has over 100 video game credits under his belt including Silent Hill: Homecoming, Uncharted: Drakes Fortune, Left for Dead 1 & 2, Call of Duty 2 & 3, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed 2, and the God of War franchise just to name a few.
Richard is a collaborator with the ability to work with directors and designers to help bring new, interesting, and innovative movements to a project. Richard's area of expertise and special skills are an ongoing list; such skills including Performance Capture Actor, Movement Creator & Motion Capture Consultant, Motion Capture Stuntman and Stunt Coordinator, Director, Creature and Monster Moves, Grappling, Ground-N-Pound, and experience with a variety of weapons. Did any of these skills sink into your skull? Richard is the real deal here, folks. He has rightfully earned his title, "Mocapman."
Richard speaks about his area of expertise and skills, what life is like as a Mo-Cap actor, a little about his incredible journey into both the gaming and film industry, and what it was like to portray Ghidorah in the making of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019).
(Richard Dorton as the left head of Ghidorah)
Richard Dorton, I want to thank you for allowing this interview. Really means the world to me.
Absolutely, Ben! It's been a long time coming hasn't it? You were one of the first people to reach out to me and I had to keep holding off. I'm glad we're finally doing this! How many times have you seen the film already?
Yes, it has. (laughs) I've seen the movie four times already. How about you?
Oh, I think I've seen it five times already.
That's great. Let's get down to business. What made you decide that Motion Capture was your career goal?
I didn't know that Motion Capture was going to be my career goal. I moved to California from Washington D.C. so that I could pursue being a stuntman. That was really what I wanted to do. I was working in D.C. in theatre, industrial films, on jobs like America's Most Wanted and indie films as a stuntman and coordinator. I knew since the market was limited, I'd have to move to California if I wanted to work on bigger projects. I was lucky to get a stunt agent and get sent out for my first audition right away. My first "stunt" audition I got was for a video game, Scooby-Doo: Night of 100 Frights, where I had to audition to walk like Shaggy, move like a gorilla, and Frankenstein, dance, run into a wall and fall down. It was at this little-known place called, "House of Moves," using this weird technology called motion capture that not too many knew about. That was my first audition for a video game.
They were using motion capture for the stunts on this tiny movie called, "Titanic," directed by James Cameron, and HOM (House of Moves) had just worked on it so that sounded cool. So, I went for my audition. Needless to say, after my audition in front of a bunch of stunt people who I shared a ton of information about Scooby-Doo I gathered the night before from Nick at Nite, and them forcing me to go first, I was booked for the job. I got to play Shaggy and all the villains like the Alligator Man, Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. It was incredible playing a variety of characters from something you grew up watching on Saturday morning cartoons! A dream job.
I was also the first person to play Darth Vader in a video game, right after that for Star Wars: Rouge Squadron 2 & 3 video games. I was really in the right place at the right time. After my first audition and gig with them, I was recommended over and over again by House of Moves, telling their clients they had a guy who had a variety of skills. That's basically how my career began in motion capture.
On your best estimated guess, when would you say your career began as a professional Motion Capture actor?
Well, I don't consider myself a "motion capture actor." I'm an actor who works in the mocap world. Acting is acting, and we don't do anything different than we do in film, television, or theatre, and VR. We just work in a different environment that has different rules to deal with the technology, and on one hand, we must have a greater understanding of movement, our bodies, and rely on pure imagination. Scooby-Doo was my first gig in 2000. So, I'm celebrating my 19th year in mocap this June.
I was in college studying acting and dance, but I originally wanted to do special-effects makeup. I learned that through special-effects makeup that I could make my monster makeup come to life better than my models could. I wanted them to move like this, I wanted to growl like that, and they couldn't. So, I started making myself up and playing. I started doing a lot of prosthetic work and it was a lot of fun when I began gluing stuff to my face! So, in a sense, I was training myself to do monster work, and all of the acting and dance training was a core part of it.
How did you become involved with Legendary and Warner Brothers for the making of this movie?
Since I've been doing motion capture for 19 years now, and have established a career in it, the most important part to me is, I have a really good reputation. People know me, they know what I can do. They trust me. I am the "Mocapman." They know who I am because I've been doing this work for so long. I have credits in over 100 video games. As you know, I now train actors at "The Mocap Vaults," where I am an instructor and mentor at my company. People respect me, and they know my work ethic, and thankfully, they still want the "Mocapman" when things come up.
I was lucky enough that I was referred to Legendary for the Godzilla project through a motion capture supervisor and friend John Root, whom I have worked with before. He threw my name into the arena because he knew I was the right person to talk with at the time. When you have relationships like that with people who you work for and with, they will always refer and toss your name around. That's basically how I got the meeting. He knew my work and knew he could trust me. This was going to be a huge project. I met with Michael and his team at Legendary for an interview, which I thought would be a physical movement audition. I showed up to this giant board room at Legendary in sweats and a t-shirt ready to move, and they told me to sit down. I'm sitting there with Michael and a bunch of VFX supervisors, and they wanted to show me a clip of the movie.
They asked me, "What do you think of this? What are your thoughts on that?" They were asking for feedback and interviewing me to see if I fit into their MonsterVerse. Really feeling me out. I was so excited and kept trying to get up to show them how I thought it could move, or growl, etc. They would say, "We know who you are, what you can do. We did our research." That's when Mike started speaking with me about my experience and the different personalities of the different heads. Mike approached it in a very cerebal way and wanted to discuss it on that level than just as a creature. Something as an actor you can connect to other than just screeching. Dougherty then explained he was looking for someone to portray an angry head, he was looking for someone to portray a cautious head, and he wanted someone to be the alpha head. When we were discussing it, Alan ended up portraying the angry head, while Jason was the alpha, and I was the curious, playful head. (laughs)
The left head, portrayed by myself, was always going to be the more curious one, and now that I look at the finished work, you can totally see our personalities are different. Thanks to Mike, left head and I have now become Kevin. (laughs) I find it hysterical. Especially with all the memes floating around out there now. I love it! (laughs)
So, it was Mike Dougherty that picked which head you all were going to portray, correct?
Yes. Michael has told this story of how he had three dogs of the same breed in which each dog had a different personality. Same kind of dog, but each one very different. That's basically how he approached the idea of each head having a different personality. He actually brought one of his dogs to the set one day while we were shooting. We started growling and snarling when we were doing our movements, and the dog started barking and getting protective because we were scaring him while we were getting into character. Mike definitely knew from the very beginning that each head was going to have a different personality. For us actors, that was a great thing to experiment and play with.
The personality differences show with the performances from you guys. What can you tell me about working with Alan and Jason portraying Ghidorah?
(Behind-the-scenes of Alan, Jason, and Richard portraying Ghidorah. Photo provided by Richard Dorton)
Working with Alan and Jason was an incredible experience, and a great treat. We're friends now. We text and tease each other all the time. Just like real brothers. What was great about it was, Alan is one of my students from the Mocap Vaults. Alan studied and trained with me at my company. The fact that Alan got to play the right head made me feel like a big papa because this was Alan's first big mocap job, and we were able to "patch" him in.
For all my students when they get their first professionally paid job, we award them with a patch that can velcro to the mocap suit they're wearing. That patch represents that they are a professional performance capture actor now, and that patch shows that they trained here at the Mocap Vaults.
Now, I didn't know Jason, but when we met, it was after we were all cast, and when we were all invited to see the screening of the movie, which was the rough cut. I met Jason in the lobby at Legendary, and immediately knew he was the center head! He's a giant! Jason is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. He was just coming off working as George the gorilla in Rampage. So, he was ready for more mocap. We sat in order in the screening room with Alan on the right, Jason in the middle, and myself on the left where we saw pre-vis of what we were going to do and what character head we were going to portray. Basically, our job was to execute what Micheal envisioned, and here he was sharing that vision with us.
So, yeah, working with Alan and Jason was a blast. They're great guys. Friends for life. We love going to these conventions where we tease each other, sign autographs, interact with the fans, and act like brothers. Hell, we are brothers!
That's awesome! What can you tell me about the scene when you guys are breaking out of the ice?
(Ghidorah after awakening in Antarctica)
What we started doing with that shot, and the way we had to be connected to each other, we had rehearsal where we were trying to figure out that if we strapped our bodies together, if we strapped our legs together, could we walk? We tried a variety of things. We found out that if we strapped our legs together that it wouldn't work that way. What we settled on was that, if I kept my right hand on Jason's back, and Alan kept his left hand on Jason's back, we could move together. We had to stay connected, however. Be one. Jason would lead the movement and we would follow suit. We even tried having me be the left wing and Alan the right wing, but timing and not being able to see each other and stay connected in sync was too much to think about on top of trying to do everything else. So, we ended up tossing that idea out. Jason towered above us, so he was able to represent the wings above our heads and it was more organic. That's what gave us the freedom we needed to be able to pull off what we did with Ghidorah. Michael was there during this whole process telling us, this is what's going on, this is what you guys are going to do. It was a lot of fun.
When we were shooting that shot of us breaking out of the ice, we had a little action figure of a toy soldier that we could put on the ground for eye-line. That's what made us realize how big we are compared to the humans. Mike told us, "You're going to rear back, and you're going to fry them." So, after that, Mike told us that the left head was going to move in and, "play with his food." (laughs) I'm in there, sniffing around and licking at things, and that's when Jason comes in and was like, "What are you doing!?" (laughs) My instinct was for me to go in and look at them, while they were shooting at us. I'm looking at them like, "What is this?" In the movie, that's when Jason snaps at me!
That's hilarious, and awesome! That's informative stuff there. Going off the art book, some people I've spoken with that own the book, have told me that you guys are mentioned in the book, but don't have a page dedicated to you guys. How do you feel about that?
I love the art book. There is so much incredible work by so many artists in there. There are all kinds of beautiful Ghidorah concept art renderings and photos, but we aren't credited by name in the art book. I don't think that's anybody's fault. No one meant to leave us out on purpose. They mentioned that it took three actors to portray Ghidorah in the book. The people working on the book, probably didn't know our names. We're spoke of in the book that we all had great performances, we had great things for us to reference, but I'm used to this stuff because my work ends up behind-the-scenes all the time. Video games didn't use to give mocap credits, just voice-over credit, as a stunt double your job was to be hidden and double the actor and make them look good. It's been going on for so long and I just got used to it and never expect anything of anyone in the business. It sucks not getting credit, but not expecting it makes it less painful. Our names may not be in the book, but they do acknowledge that it took the three of us to portray Ghidorah. The fans have been our voices and give us that acknowledgement we deserve. I'll take that recognition any day.
I also understand that what Legendary was doing with Ghidorah was kept under-wraps. This stuff we do in the motion capture industry is top-secret stuff. My whole career has always been a performer who works behind-the-scenes. People have no idea what's being worked on because it's so secretive. Video games can take 2 years or more to get made before you hear about them. People don't realize that I've played some of their favorite video game characters, or even some of their favorite movie characters. I'm not at all surprised that our names aren't in the book, especially with today's standards. Who wouldn't want their name attached to the projects they've worked on? There was an article that came out from ScreenRant where they didn't mention us. Alan ended up tweeting the guys saying, "Hey! We're the actors that did the mocap and portrayed Ghidorah!" So, the guy who wrote that article went back and updated that article, making sure that we were mentioned in it. Sure, you want the recognition, but I am so used to doing this stuff for so long that I don't expect it.
Being on the other side of the table nowadays, you want that recognition. It helps your career. We love that the fans are calling out our performances, and we love chatting with these fans. I think it's awesome that so many of the fans are praising our efforts of portraying this character and telling others that we are Ghidorah.
Speaking of fan praise, I really appreciate you guys autographing my artwork. Especially with you sending it back to me in one piece. What were your thoughts when I sent you that Trendmasters Ghidorah figure in the mail?
I was blown away! (laughs) Again, I don't expect anything from anybody. Getting your artwork and that figure really makes things special to us all. It shows how much you appreciate us, and it's a prized possession. I love it when people go out of their way to bring us stuff at these conventions, or even sending us stuff in the mail. I can't believe it, and I'm honored. It's amazing that people do that. I really appreciate it, and I don't take things for granted. I have a whole room now dedicated to all the Ghidorah stuff. Your figure is right there!
When we are at these conventions and people bring stuff to autograph, we sit there amazed. "Oh, my God! I can't believe we are doing this!" (laughs) It really is incredible. I just signed the detachable left head of a Ghidorah toy with my autograph and "Kevin!" (laughs)
That's great that you guys enjoy this stuff. What can you tell me about the last day of the production for this film?
The very last day for shooting, and a lot of people don't realize this, when we first went in the principal photography of the film, it was already done. We shot all our sections of the film really, really fast. For us, it was a day of rehearsal, then it was just a three day shoot for us. That first day was when we were figuring out what we were going to be doing during the rehearsals, and then we started shooting. Referencing the footage and pre-vis we was at our screening. That's how fast things are done here in the Mocap industry. When we found out it was the last day of shooting, we were floored. "It's done already?" I wanted to stay longer, I wanted to keep doing this. Can we do another take? Just find something else for us to do! (laughs)
It's exhausting, because you're being very, very physical while shooting. It's challenging, but it's also exhausting when we were shooting everything in such a small amount of time. I mean, we were growling and snarling our hearts out! We put everything within our soul into our performance.
That's awe-inspiring that you all shot everything for Ghidorah so quickly with a three day shoot.
You know, I've been doing this for so long that it seems like time just doesn't matter. We got a rehearsal, so we knew what we were getting into. A lot of the game work I do, I have no idea what I'm working on until I get there. Today I could be working on swords, I could be working on guns, today I'm playing a creature. You don't know, and that's really stressful. But you must be ready and prepared for anything. Here for this movie, we get to preview it, we got to rehearse it. On one hand, you have the freedom of not being stressed out, and just have the freedom to create and improvise. Performance capture is just pure imagination. That's exactly what we do here. We let our imaginations run wild. We get to be little boys that play with Godzilla. That's an amazing experience.
I tell people all the time, "this isn't work. This is where you let your imagination run wild and have fun with what you're doing." It's a chance to be creative. Make art, and wow! We get paid. It's been a blessing to be able to do what I do, and I don't take it for granted. That is why I love to share my experience. That's why I teach here at the Mocap Vaults, because I love to share. I love seeing my friends book work for both the gaming and film industry. It's amazing when they text me or shoot me a tweet on Twitter about them getting involved with such and such project. It was my time to give back and train the next generation of actors.
What is some insight you can share with me about the Mocap industry?
The Motion Capture/Performance Capture industry is just like everything else. Like the voice-over world, the stunt world, it's a very tight community. It's very hard to break into. That's a good thing. You're looking for people that are the best of the best. You want to stand-out over the competition. It's hard to break into because people have been established in it and they have been in the business for a very long time. Why wouldn't I, as a producer or director want to hire the best? Why wouldn't I hire Richard Dorton over and over again? Why would I take a chance on someone else? That's what you want. You want the best of the best.
Sometimes, however, it's all about having the opportunity. I can't be on every job as much as I want to. I just can't be. But if I'm not available, I want to be able to recommend other talented actors and friends, and some of those are people who have studied with me. They know why I work so much. They know my work ethic. They know my passion for performance capture. They know what I bring to the table and what my skill sets are. If I can share my information with these people who I've worked with, and they can get the job, that to me is more important because I want to see them succeed. There is plenty of work out there.
If you were given the opportunity, would you work with Alan Maxson and Jason Liles on any future product?
You know, I think we're going to end up working together again on something in the future. I mean, we're brothers now. There's so much work coming down the line in the video game world, and they're people I can trust. If I must cast a project, or if I must recommend someone for a job, I'm going to recommend those guys because I've worked with them and I know them. Plus, look at the end of this movie. the after-credit scene. You can't count Ghidorah out right now because Kevin's head is still around! (laughs) The rumors out right now are suggesting that Godzilla and Kong are going to battle it out, but who's to say that they won't get to team up? What if Jonah clones something from our DNA? We could come back, however, we don't know! I love the theory that we could come back. Which if they bring some kind of Ghidorah back, why wouldn't you cast the three of us again? That would be amazing. We don't know though. Nobody has shown us a script or has said anything about it. Or called. Just like with this movie, everything was already shot, and we didn't know that we were going to be working together as Ghidorah unitl that interview and audition. Who really knows at this point?
I love the fan theories and fan enthusiasm. If we did come back, it would be like stepping into an old pair of jeans because, we would already know what we need to do. If it happens, great, but if not, we'll find something else that we can do together. We love the fans. We can sign autographs until we're 100 years old. We're a part of this famous franchise and legacy now. Just being a part of this world now is awesome, and we love it. Who wouldn't want to be Ghidorah again?
Aside from Ghidorah, were there any other monsters that you portrayed? Alan said you would have to elaborate on this more.
I think I ended up playing as the Titanus MUTO bowing at the end. As you already know, Jason played Rodan there at the end and, what we initially did was, we did a variety of moves with the Titans bowing or acknowledging Godzilla. We weren't designated to be any particular monster. When our movements are recorded digitally, they can add any of the monsters to us without us knowing which monster that we are performing as. We recorded the movements as sort of a quadruped monster. Like on all fours. In the digital world, they can capture someone and use their moves multiple times in different places and apply it to any character.
Richard, if you have any advice for anyone out there, the floor is yours, man.
What I like to share with people who are interested in Performance Capture or Motion Capture, you have to train. I tell my students that if you're a good actor, you're going to find work in the mocap suit at some point, because there is so much content out there. From movies to video games, to live-action, there's always a chance that they will find something. There's so much opportunity with Motion & Performance Capture. People just need to train hard. Study with good acting teachers and hone your skills. Be at the top of your game. Check out my program at the Mocap Vaults. www.gomocap.com
To the Ghidorah and Godzilla fans out there, we appreciate you all so much, and we do not take any of you for granted. We love meeting people at these conventions and signing autographs. We love interacting with the fans on social media, hearing their stories and what inspires them. I love hearing from people that tell us at these conventions that our version of Ghidorah is what they have been waiting on for so long, or that it was incredible. That to me is gold right there. We love that people are so enthusiastic about meeting with us and talking to us. It really makes everything in my career worth it all. Shaking hands, taking pictures with these people, it's very fun to do this stuff because we're also fans, and we understand where these people are coming from. These fans have traveled from all around the world to come meet us, and we absolutely love it. I'm just a performer who is blessed to be able to do what I do. I want the fans to know, Kevin loves you! (laughs)
Richard, thank you so much for allowing me to chat with you for this interview. I really appreciate all of you guys for all you have done for me. You, Jason, and Alan did not have to grant me any interview opportunities, and I thank you all for allowing me to do so. I can't wait to chat up with you all again. It was an honor, man.
Absolutely, Ben! Take care, man!
For those who wish to follow Richard Dorton, you may follow him on his Twitter. @richarddorton
His Instagram. @richarddorton
I have been so blessed to interview these guys, and you should seek out to talk with these guys. They are all incredibly awesome people. I hope everyone has enjoyed these interviews.
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This article was written By Huge-Ben and published on 2019-06-18 15:58:03
More about upcoming Godzilla movies
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) is the sequel to Michael Dougherty's Godzilla 2: King of the Monsters and will be the fourth and final installment in the Monsterverse movie quadrilogy. It will also bridge both the Godzilla movies and Kong: Skull Island by bringing Godzilla and Kong face-to-face for an epic match-up. To learn more about Godzilla vs. Kong, check out the Godzilla vs. Kong about page here!
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