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Animating ‘Ted’ Required Seth MacFarlane Doing 44 Hours of Motion Capture, Plus 3,000 VFX Shots

Everyone’s favorite foul-mouthed, middle-aged talking bear is back. This time, “Ted” comes back in the form of a seven-part TV series on Peacock. Seth MacFarlane returns to voice the titular teddy and direct the series.

In reviving “Ted,” visual effects supervisor Blair Clark had one focus — to make sure the bear didn’t look different in the prequel series, which follows two films starring Mark Wahlberg. “He’s an established character, and those features needed to stay the same,” Clark says over Zoom.

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To achieve that, Clark — who first created the character over a decade ago in conjunction with Tippett and Framestore VFX houses — went back to the original assets to see what was usable. Since over 10 years had passed, technological advances meant the assets were outdated, and everything needed to be rebuilt to get Ted and MacFarlane ready for television. An integral part of the re-animation process came from Fuzzy Door, MacFarlane’s production company, which had an augmented reality tool called ViewScreen Studio.

The technology meant that on set, everyone could see the composited scene, including the digital bear, in video village in real-time as actors interacted with MacFarlane. Camera operators, as well as MacFarlane, could offer creative feedback because they could see the completed scene, with Ted, in their viewfinder.

ViewScreen’s game-changing technology also meant that MacFarlane could do motion capture without those clunky, grey mo-cap suits on set. “Seth does motion capture for pretty much all of the scenes. His performance is something we use as a base and something we don’t deviate from,” Clark explains. “We have reference cameras on him so the animators can reference the timings and beats for when his eyebrows go up on a word, but they don’t go up until the second syllable of the word.”

In total, more than 3,000 shots were used to animate Ted in VFX, and MacFarlane performed motion-capture work for two hours per week for 22 weeks, from December to May.

TED -- "Just Say Yes" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Seth MacFarlane -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/PEACOCK)
TED -- "Just Say Yes" Episode 101 -- Pictured: Seth MacFarlane -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/PEACOCK)

The goal was to make Ted feel less like a CG character and more like an actor working with the other cast. “He’s just a great character … if you can accept there’s a talking teddy bear,” says Clark. “We did hone it a little bit so that it became Ted, rather than just Seth. It was Seth Plus, and that was the hardest thing to try and make sure we didn’t deviate from.”

TED -- "He's Gotta Have It" Episode 108 -- Pictured: (l-r) -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/PEACOCK)
TED -- "He's Gotta Have It" Episode 108 -- Pictured: (l-r) -- (Photo by: Elizabeth Morris/PEACOCK)

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