Best known for her work on Supergirl, Power Rangers, and Warcraft: The Beginning, Crystal Mudry is the very definition of girl power. This talented actress built her own house, performs her own stunts, and can really move across a motion capture stage.
Animatrik and Crystal have worked together on a number of high-profile AAA projects, but most recently, we sat down to discover exactly how Crystal first got involved in performance capture – and what drives her to build such convincing CG characters.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got involved in the motion capture industry.
Well, I discovered motion capture around seven years ago. I started off as a stunt performer for live action films. From that, I was brought into Gears of War – one of the first mocap projects ever, and also my first time working with Animatrik. In many ways, live action and motion capture felt the same. Stunts are stunts.
Going back my real beginning, about fifteen years ago, I saw Corey Glass jump off a 10 story building. At that moment, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I started training in every skill under the sun – gymnastics, fire safety, water courses, horseback riding. Anything that could possibly be incorporated into athletic skill. Any advantage I could take because stunt work is an ever-changing industry. You never know what a director is going to expect or what the next gig might have in store.
You’ve got to cover all bases, especially when it comes to playing more than a single role on any given project. Stunt performers have got to be especially well-rounded on TV series and big feature films. We never really know what’s coming next.
What was your first motion capture experience like?
I loved it. It’s actually a really fun environment to work in and you use a lot of imagination. There are fewer obstacles to deal with as well since we’re working on a large, open volume as opposed to a cluttered film set. Our weather in Vancouver is sometimes it’s freezing cold and you end up falling on ice in every stunt, so mocap is a very pleasurable experience in comparison! It’s always warm, dry and comfortable.
What has been your favourite project or role working with Animatrik?
It’s really hard to try and pick just one project. Getting into character is one of the most difficult things about motion capture. I put a lot of effort into every role and end up getting attached.
It’s a challenge because movements need to be very, very specific. The smallest change in your hips or gait really shows, moving your body in ways that reflect a character’s personality. You can even see these changes in the character in real time, on screen.
What’s your average day of work like on a motion capture set?
We come in and have a breakfast briefing. Then we put on our suits, go down to the stage and markers are placed in key positions across each actor’s body. Our wrists and arms and legs and ankles; everything gets calibrated in.
Next, we have time to stretch a bit and play. It’s a fast-paced way of filming. Also, you don’t have to deal with shifting camera angles and lighting, so the days tend to go by quickly. It’s great to have a break from the crazy 16-hour-day that we do on live action shows.
It’s a great team of people to work for; they’re fabulous. One of the best things about working in that environment is becoming a family with the crew. And the folks at Animatrik definitely help us achieve that ‘team-first’ atmosphere.
What do you like best about working with Animatrik in particular?
There are no crazy costumes, just mocap suits! There’s no cape wrapping up around your neck or heavy props to trip you up. I love working with Animatrik because we’re encouraged to just embrace our imaginations instead.
What would you say has been your greatest challenge as mocap actor?
My greatest challenge is definitely becoming the character – letting yourself completely sink into what you’re playing and making it real. You need to see a make-believe environment in your mind’s eye. When you’re running and jumping off of a box, which will become a CG cliff in the actual video game, that takes a lot of creative vision.
Could you tell me a little bit about your experiences as a stunt performer on Supergirl?
Getting the opportunity to perform as ‘Reign’ on Supergirl has been amazing; it’s a great show to work on! I really can’t say enough good things about my experience with the cast and crew. They’ve always been a pleasure to work with. Who wouldn’t have a blast playing a Superhuman comic book character with abilities like heat vision and flight! This particular show depends heavily on the imagination of the stunt riggers. They need to create intricately designed wire systems that can accommodate all of Supergirl’s powers and abilities. It’s amazing to see these guys at work and get to play on their inventions!
What were some of the more memorable scenes you worked on?
It’s hard to choose just one … But I’d have to say that one of the most exciting scenes I got to perform involved a lot of cables! While filming some stunts for the CW’s Arrow, I had to jump from the back of the motorcycle I was driving to land on a semi truck! This is kind of a typical day on set for a stunt performer and I love every minute of it.
What excites you about motion capture today and where do you think it could go in the future?
It seems like every time I go back to the stage, they’ve incorporated more cameras, more lights, more everything! It’s hard to imagine where else we could possibly go at this point. Everything changes so quickly.
It’s definitely an area of film that I think is going to become a lot more common, and is already advancing quickly; everything is starting to look so much better. When you look at motion capture and CG from 10 years ago, compared to what it is today, it’s phenomenal to see how far we’ve come. After another 10 years, it’s going to be mind-blowing.