Monday, February 05, 2007

Mouse House Excited About Rotoscoping

Back to the future. As goes Robert Zemeckis, so goes the Walt Disney Company...

LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) -- Walt Disney Co. said Monday that it plans to create a film unit that specializes in a new animation technology and is teaming with Academy Award-winning director Robert Zemeckis on the project.

Disney wants to create more films using "performance-capture" technology, also used on the 2004 film "The Polar Express," in which Zemeckis teamed with actor Tom Hanks. Produced for an estimated $150 million under Warner Bros., "Polar Express" went on to gross $278 million worldwide. The movie was an adaptation of a best-selling children's book.

Performance capture, also known as motion capture, records an actor's movements and facial expressions via a series of sensors attached at various points to the body; the movements are then altered to develop animated characters that can look similar to the actor.

Heey now! That is a fabulous new idea, isn't it?

(Performance capture from about, oh, seventy years ago. I think this was for some, ahm, Disney production or other...)

(Update: Since Mr. Sporn brings up rotoscoping as reference -- Snow White -- here's rotoscoping as mocap: The Fleischer studios' Gulliver's Travels.)


Todd said...

This is despicable and disgraceful. I certainly hope they don't put the Disney name on these un-animated films.

Michael Sporn said...

There's a large distiction between rotoscoping and Motion Capture. Snow White was drawn and animated despite the rotoscoped drawings. An animator initiates and guides the movements using the rotoscope for reference.
A MoCap "animator" adjusts the captured images.
I don't think there was much in Polar Express that was "animated".

Benjamin said...

I was suprised by this line:

"Performance capture, also known as motion capture,..."

When Polar Express was released, didn't they do their absolute best to claim that it WASN'T regular motion capture?

Anywho... I'm not really waiting for more mocap films, and I definitly hope this doesn't have any effect on the regular animation departments at Disney.

Anonymous said...

This means... more lay-offs at WDFA?

Anonymous said...

Come on people, MoCap is just another tool in the arsenal. Get used to it and get over it.

Color film didn't replace black and white, CG didn't replace 2d animation, and MoCap won't replace key frame animation.

Now Disney just needs to bring Aardman in to their fold...

Steven E. Gordon said...

Anonymous said...

"Now Disney just needs to bring Aardman in to their fold..."

Oh god, please no. W&G biggest feature is it's offbeat and quirky charm and humor. It would be destroyed in the Disney world.

Kevin Koch said...

"Come on people, MoCap is just another tool in the arsenal. Get used to it and get over it."

I'd be inclined to agree, except that Robert Z. doesn't seem to be one of those who see it as such.

It's clear there are some live-action directors who find the whole process of animation too slow, and too complicated, and too messy. They seem to see mo-cap as an end in itself, as an entirely new technique, largely divorced from the shaggy rootstock of animation.

Early attempts to do the same in traditional animation (i.e., rotoscoping) were quickly abandoned by those who took animation seriously, and who wanted to do as much as they could with the medium. In 2D, it was immediately obvious that rotoscoping was both more 'realistic' and less entertaining. But somehow mo-cap, which generally looks far creepier than rotoscoping ever did, gets respect. I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

It's so predictable. You see the word 'Mocap' in a post and people seem to go out of their way to insult it. Bottom line, it keeps people working...Monster house was a really enjoyable movie in my opinion. Why would I attack how it was made if I was entertained? And to throw animator in quotes as Michael S did above...seems a little judgemental if you ask me. Maybe he didn't mean it that way, but I know more than a handful of fantastic animators who have worked on Mocap projects.

Benjamin said...

I think Mr. Sporn used it in the same way Keith Lango described it a while ago. Even if you're an animator at heart/by training, when you're cleaning up mocap data, you're not animating.

An athlete might be a great sprinter, but if he's a long jumper in competition, you won't call him a sprinter.

Anonymous said...

Well, some producers and directors are in love with their shiny mocap toys!!

'Look at thissss, we made it using the latest techniques, it's a craptacular story, but we used mocap. Yeah!

It's mental mastur....well you know what I mean.

Polar Express was a boring movie. What's the point of creating a character that looks and moves exactly like Tom Hanks? Just film Tom Hanks then!! What's the point of recreating reality? THat in itself it's not entertaining.

Like Kubrick said to Nickolson: "It's not wether your acting is realistic or not, the question is; is it interesting?" (not the exact words)

On the other hand, I do agree mocap finds itself best suited for live action movies that have lots of fx. Not saying that LOTR was agreat movie here, but the use of mocap does make sense in this context. As opposed to a movie that's supposed to be be fully animated.


Anonymous said...

Benjamin, like I said, there numerous comments just like Mr. Sporns regarding animators and mocap animators in an Us and Them context. I suppose there are animators that have a need to feel superior regarding their art...ego is nothing new to this industry.

Todd said...

Mocap is not animation. Period. Animation is the creation of movement one frame at a time. The entire point of animation is that it's NOT just a facsimile of live-action. Mocap, like rotoscoping, is a cheat and a crutch used by those who cannot animate.

What's sick about this is that these mocap movies will come out with the Disney name on them, and assume it's Disney animation.

Chih-Ming said...

mo-cap is not animation, just like photography is not painting. We need a new term for it.

Anonymous said...

Without art, crudness of reality would make the world unbearable.
George Bernard Shaw.

I like to think of animation, as life drawing.

Anonymous said...

Semantics and silly definitions aside, PE was lifeless and dull. Not just because of the story but BECAUSE of the mocrap! - Lifeless meat puppets a la FF - Yes mocap is just another tool but mostly used as a cheap hack with souless results.


Anonymous said...

"Oh god, please no. W&G biggest feature is it's offbeat and quirky charm and humor. It would be destroyed in the Disney world."

I find this humorous because so many blast DreamWorks for such things yet this was made in part with DreamWorks. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

I've done it all, from keyframe 2D features to full CG and motion capture. I'm not afraid. Great studios like Pixar will still turn out masterpieces, and directors like Zemeckis and Cameron will extend the boundaries of cinema. I thought Polar Express sucked. I think Monster House was a big improvement. I've heard Beowulf is another step forward. This artform is evolving. Are you? Stop your insults and compete!

I'd rather animate a duck than a person anyway.

tc said...

But what does this mean for Walt Disney Feature Animation, and the return of 2-D traditional animation?

-by the way, this is just an outsider asking for your thoughts. I am no expert of professional, just one who wants WDFA back on track.

Steve K. said...

Does MoCap really work? If so, then why does it need so many additional people to work on "adjustments" to "massage" the performance? What does MoCap really achieve in the long run and at what cost in dollars and labor? Why not simply animate it in the first place? Wouldn't that save time, money and energy that would be better used for design, story and character development?

Anonymous said...

I believe one of the reasons Zemekis is such a fan is that he can work regular business hours...9-4, Monday to friday. He also doesn't have to worry about night shoots, or travel. And when he sits down with the footage, he can grab bits and pieces of multiple takes to create one prefered performance. So for him, it's all about convenience. On the back end, animators are asked to smooth and integrate those takes, then amp up the performance on top of the mocap layer. So the end result is that it saves the director time and heartache...then he dumps it on the vfx side to fix.

MrFun said...

It's good to be the King.

Anonymous said...

'I suppose there are animators that have a need to feel superior regarding their art...ego is nothing new to this industry.'

Such is the disrespect for animators.

To producers and execs everywhere:

If animation was so easy to do, then I invite you try and do it yourselves!

It's not ego, it's frustration with having to deal with ignorant producers and execs who have an ego themselves.

Rufus out!

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