Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Actors on Motion Capture

There's a very interesting article in Variety about visual effects from the standpoint of the live actors who contribute performances that are motion captured. The article quotes Bill Nighy on his performance as Davey Jones in Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest. This quote from Gore Verbinski, the director of that film, caught my eye.
"There's a point in the process where things have to be singular, they have to be from one person's point of view. I think you get that from an actor's performance, and not with a committee of animators and animation directors and even from myself. It's just too much to go through to say, 'Let's create nuance from scratch.' You need somebody to start it. We're always going to need great acting."
I have nothing against motion capture in the abstract and think that it's a valid approach when you're dealing with characters who have to fit seamlessly into a live action film, but I am sensitive to the continued devaluation of animators.

I'd be the last one to deny that any animated performance is fundamentally more collaborative than a live action one, but animators are being sent to the back of the bus consistently when motion capture is mentioned. I'm going to write more about this.


bclark said...

It is not just with mocap, its with any marketing for an animated movie, It is always the voice actors that get pushed and talked about and talked to and so now the media and actors have a new way to market their talent.

I don't know if it will change but please don't just single out mocap like this kind of back of the bus stuff just started with it.. it has always been that way, I look forward to what you write about it but I hope you look beyond the current buzz word and think back and see if you an find a time they were not back of the bus. Thank you.

Michael Sporn said...

I have long espoused that MoCap is not really animation but some form of digital puppetry. When penguins dance with every single nuance of Savion Glover or when Andy Serkis is the focus of an Oscar campaign for his acting as an "animated character," it's hard to see the "animator" behind the character.

There's a bias among animators AGAINST the rotoscoped technique of Bob Sabiston in "A Scanner Darkly," yet they're perfectly content to accept MoCap as animation.

What, after all, is animation? WHen John Halas used to pose this question in the 1970's, I thought it was ludicrous. Now, I wonder.

I look forward to your comments on this as well, Mark.

Mark Mayerson said...

I want to make it clear that when I write more, I'm not doing it to bash mocap or those people who work on mocap. However, I do feel ignorance on the part of producers and the audience is a real threat to animators.

I think that animators need a trade organization. Of course, there is the L.A. union, but it's geographically specific and is rightfully concerned more with bread and butter issues than it is with public relations. Perhaps that should change. ASIFA is so decentralized that it's not positioned to deal with more local issues. There needs to be a place for the media to go when they are writing about animation to check up on their facts and to get the viewpoint of animation artists.

Locadora do Werneck said...

There must be some serious action from animators in order to impose themselves towards society as professionals and artists. No more standing in the back being shy and complaining that we don't get the deserverd credit!

Most animators I know love to complain, but hate to talk in public, and run away from cameras, always refusing to appear on TV or anything else. We must be more proud of our profession and craft, showing it to the people who watch it.

The general audience doesn't care about anything, they just want to have fun. Whatever people show on making-ofs and TV will end up being ""the truth"" - we must fight that any wat we can.

For instance, how often do you seen an animator being interviewed on TV? We see thousands of interviews with directors, actors, etc. Andy Serkis gets more airtime on TV today than any animator ever got. People feel like Walt Disney made those movies all by himself - everybody cries when Bambi's mom dies, but no one knows who animated that scene.

If animators want respect, we must take it, not wait for it.

Anonymous said...

I've been in animation for a long time. Decades. 2D and 3D, I even worked with the mocap on the above mentioned Pirate movie.

Let me tell you about animators.

Most animators just want a job. They want to be told what to do. Very, very few animators, even the best of them, put any effort into CREATING characters.

I don't mean reading a script, then figuring how the character should walk and gesture. I mean creating a character from the ground up. How many short, independent films do we see from professional Hollywood animators? Most indie animated films are from students. Most of those films are intended to get jobs. Then it's over.

Such a mentality will not lead to fame and fortune.