Friday, January 30, 2009

This is the Holy Grail?

Okay, I admit I'm slow, but somebody explain to me why this is the end of the long quest:

The Holy Grail of Animation: Lifelike Humans

With a big assist from Silicon Valley technology, a movie superstar like Angelina Jolie could keep starring as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider sequels — forever.

Aided by increasingly powerful microprocessors and incredibly sophisticated software, moviemakers and video-game developers are getting closer to achieving the holy grail of animation: creating computer-generated actors that are visually indistinguishable from real people.

... [P]roducers have generally avoided even trying to make digital characters that look like actual people. And when they have, they’ve often blundered into what those in the industry call the “uncanny valley.” That’s where animated faces seem so devoid of normal human expressiveness they appear zombielike ...

Image Metrics ... used a device developed by the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, which can digitally capture enormous amounts of visual detail about human actors, including their faces.

... [A]n actor in his 30s ... recently asked [the company] to capture the man’s image with LightStage so the actor can star in future animated films without ever looking a day older than he does now ...

I've been around long enough to remember when the purpose of animation was to create characters that didn't look like forever-young Brad Pitts and Jennifer Anistons. When the purpose was to, you know, create a movie-going experience that didn't slavishly replicate live-action.

But I can't think of anything better than to have animation technology keep a 28-year-old screen hottie forever hot. Even when they're seventy. They can creak around in their 28-year-old digital skin and pretend to be young. Should be a trip.

But the whole idea of it creeps me out. You want a twenty-something actor, go get a twenty-something actor. Because seeing Harrison Ford young again will not, I don't think, cause audiences to flock to theatres. It will instead creep them out too, for they will know it's a gimmick. And Harrison, as hard as he tries, will not be able to move like a twentyish version of himself.

No doubt I'm wrong about all this. No doubt the above will become all the rage, and sweep the country. In the meantime, I'll hold fast to my delusion that animation is better and far more useful doing other things.


Anonymous said...

It's all due to the existence of rich boys in love with their shiny tech, with delusions of being the next James Cameron...

As a gimmick, I'm sure it'll have a very short lifespan. With mocap, it depends on the quality of the actors. Some are downright awfull. I found Andy Serkis acting completeky lacking in sublety. And
And Lee's mocap data had to be completely redone by the animators (at least that's what one of the animators told me)
Mocap is ok when it's relegated to secondary characters in the background.

Strong storytelling is, and will always be the most important ingredient for a good movie. Everything else is secondary.


Anonymous said...

Hey, it keeps people employed. And in these times, maybe that isn't such a bad idea. no matter how stupid the reason.

Anonymous said...

Tell me a good story with f'ing puppets, I don't give a crap. I weep at the thought of cloned Brangelina's polluting the planet.

Anonymous said...

Writers, who are generally neither professional film makers nor animators often say outlandish things to get attention and excite readers. It's impossible to replicate human acting by mechanical means, no matter how sophisticated the technology. It always has been and it always will be.

I could see, however, how this technology could continue to be a valuable tool in action sequences where humans interact with fantasy creatures or do dangerous stunts. I think stunt men have the most to be concerned about and companies that insure shoots.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a CG Hamlet.

Anonymous said...

i thought the holy grail was execs with human qualities!

Anonymous said...

Creating "animated" zombies is the un-holy grail for the ghouls who want all humanity and art and good taste removed from the mix.

Anonymous said...

I said it before and I'll say it again: New episodes of Star Trek TOS with the original cast.

'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

If the title of the article was "The Holy Grail of Visual Effects", folks might not be so bent about it. :-)

This particular Holy Grail is in (virtual) reality a huge can of worms: technically, creatively, financially, and legally. ;-)


Anonymous said...

Even if they could make a animated copy of an actor/actress in the future, would they not have to keep on paying that person for the use of the virtual copy of their image?

Animation can be used as a very interesting artistic medium. Other than to do things that live action actors can't do, (such as was already mentioned, very dangerous stunts), I don't really see the point of trying to make virtual actor copies.

After all, even something like mo-cap can be used for the penguins in Happy Feet, or stylistic humans such as were in Monster House.

Right now, I'm just going to continue modeling/animating, without having to worry about making exact replicas of human actors.

Virgil said...

yeah, one has to let the younger generations have a chance too... people are supposed to die :D besides, who'd want to see Shirley Temple nowadays... her age has passed

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