Emotional and thought provoking, the animated film, 25 April tells the story of six individuals caught in the turmoil of WWI during the famous battle at Gallipoli. Noted as the first animated film to focus on the conflict, the film’s authentic storyline was taken from the real-life war diaries of five soldiers and one nurse, which were then turned into interviews.  With the help of Vicon’s Cara facial motion capture system, actors were able to fully immerse themselves into the roles, giving the animated film a very human reality and story that transcends time.

Producer Matthew Metcalfe was first to introduce the idea of telling the war story through an animated film and famous graphic novelist, Colin Wilson helped create the design of the characters. The entire project took two years to complete and was a labor of love for all parties involved.

Award-winning director Leanne Pooley served as director of the film, bringing the six interviews together into one cohesive storyline. “For a director, it was a fantastic project to be involved in,” she says. “The animation allowing us to turn boats into birds and blood into flowers.” The film premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and has been well received at the Annecy Film Festival and continues to receive praise from across the globe.

Capturing the essence of 25 April with Cara

Vicon’s Cara played a vital role in bringing the characters to life in the film, making the animation as realistic as possible. Shooting and production was completed at the award winning character animation company Flux Animation, an Auckland based studio. The basis of 25 April is found in the real-life war diaries of the five soldiers and nurse who were involved in the famous battle at Gallipoli. The six actors who wore the Cara headset formed the backbone of the movie, capturing every minuscule emotion and allowing the audience to connect with the characters. According to Javier Estevez, motion capture technician of Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, choosing actors that could portray the emotions of the stories was vital to the success of the film. “Six actors were specifically cast for not only their voice, but also their performance,” he explained. “I believe the output was successful because Cara was used at its best, to port an entire personality, not just a performance.”

The actors were shot solely in motion capture, wearing the headset every day. “We were initially worried about shooting it in this way and whether it would have an impact on the truthfulness of the performance, but Vicon’s Cara headset helped the facial features come to life,” Pooley explained.

Cara captured and tracked the actors’ facial movements with acute accuracy, while giving them the freedom of movement and expression. “By the third recording, we were very confident it would work as expected,” Estevez says. “Even if we were a small team, Cara is versatile and robust, and we were able to adjust everything to our needs.”

The Cara rig carries up to four high-resolution cameras capturing every facial movement of the actors. Whether quivering lips or flickering eyes, the most minuscule movements were captured allowing the audience to forget they’re watching an animated movie, and instead get lost in the emotion and humanness of the performance.

From the big screen to the classroom and beyond

25 April has been embraced around the world having been sold in Australia, New Zealand and Turkey, and looking to continue to distribute in new markets. The film is also being used for educational purposes. In New Zealand, the film is being incorporated into lesson plans for students and there are talks to sell into museums as well.

25 April’s storytelling of the battle at Gallipoli is groundbreaking in the world of film animation, telling an old story in a new way. Pooley credits Cara for making the film a reality: “The motion capture is largely responsible for why the film worked. We were the first in the world to use the Cara headset on a movie (even before Star Wars), and the results are absolutely astounding.” Vicon continues to be a game changer in the world of mocap, breathing life into artists’ visions.

The Mocap Process

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