So Steven Spielberg is making a movie all about WAR HORSES. It doesn't really have the same ring as WAR DOGS, but whatever, I'll entertain the idea. However, you can't really film horses getting beat up and not expect a public uproar. So how'd they do it? Puppeteers.
According to Wired UK, the effects team for War Horse avoided hydraulics because of a higher risk for failure (these takes are expensive!), so instead they opted to build a puppet box below the fake horse to control its limbs, and gave the synthetic equine an animatronic head.
Underneath the horse puppet was a box in which four puppeteers could sit and manipulate the creature's body and head, creating movements including breathing. "A household kettle was also installed in the box that had tubes running between it and the nostrils to give the illusion of condensed breath," Parish added.
The head part of the puppet was radio controlled and contained 25 servo motors to control the eyes, eyelids, ears, brows, lips, nostrils and jaw. The head alone took three puppeteers to control - one to operate the eyes, one for the mouth and one for the ears. This team didn't have to cram into the buried box, but were above ground, able to observe their handiwork.
And as impressive as I'm sure this will look on camera, the test shots are nothing short of creepy. [Wired UK]