Friday, February 26, 2010

Mo Cap Manipulation

Bill Kroyer, director and animation veteran, has one of the better takes on motion capture:

"Pure motion capture is essentially another form of puppetry, and we don't consider puppetry, which involves real-time manipulation, to be animation," explains Bill Kroyer, an animation director at the Rhythm and Hues effects studio. "We've always defined animation as frame-by-frame filmmaking, which means the artist has the ability to go in and manipulate the action frame by frame.

"It gets tricky because it's all hybrid now, especially motion capture," he continues. "You're starting with a real-time file, but in almost every film, the motion capture has been adjusted frame by frame. Even in 'A Christmas Carol' or 'Beowulf,' they couldn't capture eyes and mouths; those had to be animated."

The thing of it is, raw, unadorned motion capture, like live action photostats traced slavishly onto hole-pegged paper, doesn't grab audiences very much. Both look kind of floaty and bizarre if animators don't get in there and massage them.

Years ago, a DreamWorks staffer told me about a mo cap test for Shrek, early in its development:

"Jeffrey looked at it and said 'it doesn't work,' and everybody agreed that the picture was going to be animated. And we'd spent a bunch of money on the test ..."

This isn't, sadly, a new phenomenon.

Ralph Bakshi told The Times he rotoscoped his entire film of "The Lord of the Rings" "to get the total realistic motion that animation has never gotten before." But the results looked weightless, awkward and far less convincing than good freehand animation. The film elicits snickers when it screens today ...

Mo cap and roto are fine tools, but they don't work particularly well if there's no artistic brain working at the computer or light board, honing and shaping them into believable performances.

No matter what live action filmmakers say, they can't erase animators out of the process, because without them, the results neither convince nor compel audiences to accept the images up there on that big, wide screen..


yahweh said...

Puppetry IS NOT animation because it doesn't take animators to do it.
Mo-cap IS animaation because it does take animators to do it.

Anonymous said...

Mo-cap doesn't take animators, it takes puppeteers and circus ringmasters.

Anonymous said...

and stupid comments take morons and imbeciles

Bill said...

Sorry for this very off-topic comment, but there's no-where obvious to make it---so I'll make it here.

Thank you Kevin (the Guild President) for standing up to the attacks, bullying, and smear campaigns of a certain animation discussion forum. As a guild member, I support the decision to remove the link to this site, as I don't believe the guild should associate with it any longer.

Constructive criticism is healthy and good, but that site has truly gone off the deep end, alienating most of us actual working professionals, and I am sick of their founder's disgruntled paranoia, assorted grudges, and attacks on respected individuals and organizations within the animation world.

As a sidenote, another site that you do link to, Cartoon Brew, also makes unconstructive and below-the-belt criticisms of projects we Guild members work on. Like I said, constructive criticism is healthy, but they, too, will have to grow up if they want to be respected. I am sometimes unsure how I feel about our linking to them.

Anyway, keep up the fight, Kevin. It was high time that Mr. Z. got called on his poop-flinging, and your defenses have been mature and firm. Personally, I would go a step further and remove their link in the official guild website, not just on this blog (yes, it's still there).

Anonymous said...

Cartoon Brew is very constructive! Sometimes the COMMENTS are not--and I've seen them be very fair in what to allow.

That geek-fan boy site run by chuck zimbeluz or something like that needs to have it's diapers changed. I do believe they've mostly gone crazy because they've not done anything to gain anyone's respect. They tend to make bland, ignorant comments to one another in a self fulfilling prophecy of doom.

The industry goes to Cartoon Brew for art, and TAG for the best industry inforamtion. As a guild member, I'm glad Cartoon Brew is linked here. And I"m glad animationnation is not.

Anonymous said...

It was high time that Mr. Z. got called on his poop-flinging

Oh, Z for Zimbelus and not Z for Zemeckis?
Excuse me for getting in late on the discussion; wasn't sure about whose poop was whose...Just for backstory, which site are we taking care not to mention, if not the Brew?
(Sorry, my experience with libelously mismanaged fansites only dates back to vintage Jim Hill.)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

No, it's that Chuck guy, not Robert Zemeckis, who's actually proved his mettle.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention that K. Koch exposed Chuck Z. as a liar, too.

Anonymous said...

People still go to

News to me.

Anonymous said...

It's like a car crash. Rubberneckers only.

But back to MoCap, until great character animation is recognized as great acting, mo-cap is not animation.

Steve Hulett said...

Regarding Animation Nation.

I was, once upon a time, a dues-paying member of AN. I certainly wish Charles Z. well, and I wish for him good things.

I've attended multiple events at AN, and had enjoyable times when I went. (I have a photograph of Kevin Koch and myself at an AN function on my workplace computer desktop, as a matter of fact.)

But I confess that I seldom go on the site anymore. These days, when I want to be abused, I let my kids do it.

Anonymous said...

I used to go to AN regularly, what seems like ages ago. My handle was well known there and I even contributed some dollars to the site upkeep as I read it daily.

Flash forward to about 3 years ago and there suddenly seemed to be lots of feuds, weird paranoid monologues or people talking only to each other, back & forth, insulated from reality. Nothing of any substance.

It's now become totally irrelevant and the AN mod sounds like Capt. Queeg on one of his bad days.

This board isn't perfect but it's a hell of a lot better than that mess.

Anonymous said...

I used to pay AN dues, post artwork in the Gallery, and participate in discussions. I truly enjoyed reading stories from animation professionals like Mr. Fun. I did learn a lot from that site.

I couldn't stand the crazy people and the gay-bashing, though. I'm glad I left that site.

Anonymous said...

"paranoid monologues"

That says it all about animationnation and their "leader."

The Union cannot (and should not) be all things to all people. It's scope is noble, and necessarily narrow. I'm a responsible professional, but I owe and support TAG a lot. They've never gotten in my way, and have always been there to support me and give advice. I've never had a need to request more than that.

It seems to me that the animationnation site is winding down and blaming the TAG for not "doing more," whatever THAT means (they do a lot!). Why don't they stop whining and do "it" themselves? What do they and the TAG have to do with one another? Oh....NOTHING!

I predict the site will quietly go away and remain a minor footnote in Burbank animation history.

Anonymous said...

Seems to be run by someone named "snakebite" now. He doodles tramp stamp tatoos, but beyond that can't draw or design his way out of a paper bag. No wonder he's claimed the mantle as "leader."

Anonymous said...

I remember a time when animatinnation seemed relevant. Now it just feels small, more of an outsiders site than an insiders one. And by "outsiders" I mean bitter, paranoid, talentless shoulda-beens.

Anonymous said...

"shoulda-been"? Are you kidding "wanna-bes" and never-beens" is more like it.

Of the main clique only their "fearless leader" has ever been involved in animation and he has just barely been involved (I doubt he's ever finished a single assignment) and yet students are throwing money at him in the hopes he can give then some valuable training and insight. I've seen some of the work that has come out of his students and it's pretty clear they haven't learned the necessary skills to surviuve in the business - unless they already have talent, in which case they sure don't need his help.
He is a blight on the industry and clearly he suffers from Bi-polar and messianic issues.

It's never been clear what he feels his ncotributions have been to our community. He opened a forum? BFD. He convinced some people to go to his masturbatory dayoffs - having them occur on April 1st should have been the first clue as to the importance of his event. The only thing he ever accomplished was in trying to raise his recognition factor. If his web-site had never bee around no one would know who the hell he is - or any of his followers. And now they are usually the punchline to a bad joke.

Anonymous said...

Weird how this topic was about some good comments made by an expert in the field of CG (Bill Kroyer), but the comments go off topic to bash Animation Nation (easy target) .

The decline AN is a sad case and better to simply leave it be and let it fade away quietly. Drawing attention to AN just delays the inevitable closing. If you happen to drop in over there notice how it is now mostly the same 4 or 5 people who start every discussion and then post back and forth to one another. Criticizing them here in the comments section of the TAG blog only gives Charles, Snakey, Greg B. , and the other couple of regulars an opportunity to rant on about how the mean ol' Guild is trying to tear down their wonderful "movement" . Personally I appreciate what AN was trying to do ( about 8 - 10 years ago) and I don't wish them ill , good luck to them. Maybe AN can recover some of the fire it had in it's glory days (but I doubt it)

Anonymous said...

Well, let's get back on topic then.
If Kroyer had been hired to be one of the animators on Avatar I'm guessing he wouldn't speak so negatively about them. Or is this just his way of being snarky about a film that is better and more successful than his Ferngully bomb?

Anonymous said...

I had to see what was being said there. Kevin Koch ventured into the forum thread, and destroyed the Animation Nation twosome. I appreciated how professional Koch remained in the face of absolute childishness. Point by point, he exposed and debunked the stupidity that's been spewed on that site.

It was obvious the twosome had nothing to stand on, and so they began the personal attacks, much like they did with Stephen Worth a few months ago. The classlessness was a reminder of why I, and every other professional I know of in the animation business, disassociated with that site.

It really is amazing what a meltdown Zembillas had because of losing the link. It is obviously symbolic of the fact he no longer has any link with any part of the animation world. Good riddance.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gawd! What a psychotic break! Charles sounds like he's headed for a rubber room.

I went to an AN meeting once. What a wacky waste of time! Funny thing is, a couple people were taking photos, and Charles absolutely refused to be in any of them. Somebody took lots of candid and group photos, but all without him. Seems he had the idea that enemies were out to get him. Like maybe hitmen would use a photo to hunt him down. Or maybe he's like some native who thinks that if you take his photograph you steal his soul.

The ones I feel really bad for in all this are his students at Northridge. They should really be careful. They're going to be all proud that they had this charismatic teacher, and they'll try to get into the industry and realize that their association with him is a black mark. He's an angry, unemployable hack with a half a dozen chips on his shoulder. I'm sure he talks a good game, but take a look at his resume, kids. Sometimes it's true: those who can't do, teach.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean, bagging on his resume? I've seen it. Twenty years ago, he was a big wheel at DIC. Okay, he was a minor player there, but it was still the incomparable DIC, the absolute pinnacle of quality, an artist-run paradise that set the standard for quality. How dare you suggest wasn't able to work on quality animation.

Anonymous said...

Funny thing is, a couple people were taking photos, and Charles absolutely refused to be in any of them. Somebody took lots of candid and group photos, but all without him. Seems he had the idea that enemies were out to get him.

What?! Charles is a paranoid nutcase? Well chalk me up as shocked.

Hey Charles, since I know you're obsessively reading these comments, enjoy your temporary uptick of traffic from your contrived attack thread. It won't bring back the glory days of your site. It just exposes you as a troll who attacks better people than you, to goose up your site numbers.

Know this--the union does more on an odd thursday than your site has accomplished in its decade-long history. What has your little discussion forum ever done? Helped an employee get owed overtime? Nope. Raise wages for animators? Nope. Anything at all? Nope.

I know you like to take credit for others' accomplishments, like's support of Roy Disney. You like to pretend that your site has somehow been instrumental in the history of animation. But no, it's never done anything but be an impotent, laughable bitchfest. Enjoy your sychophantic students' worship. I guess a fanclub of wannabes is better than nothing.

Anonymous said...

Hey, lay off Charles. I've spent a little time with him, and you have to understand that without his identity as a righteous crusader, he'd be destroyed. He obsesses about animation 24/7, and as a result he's a pretty lonely guy.

You'll notice most of his more extreme posts are written in the middle of the night, at 2 or 3 a.m. He used to get up and walk around Burbank when he had those episodes, but the Burbank cops kept hassling him, so now he pours it out online. I think it's a compulsion. He means well, and he really can't help it.

He's also been burned in the past by people he thought were friends. So he's a really nice guy when you're with him, it's just that as soon as you're out of his sight he gets a little paranoid and defensive. So cut him some slack, he kind of damaged goods.

Anonymous said...

I can pity the guy, to a certain extent. But the problem is when he starts burning other people. Respected people and organizations in the animation community. His compulsive need to exorcise his inner anger issues doesn't give him a license to smear other people--people of legitimate accomplishment.

But fair enough. I'll try to find some pity for him, and his pitiable plea for a link to his now-forgotten website.

Anonymous said...

Charles Z. is actually thanking people for reading the thread where Kevin demolished what shreds of credibility Animation Nation still had! He's so obsessed with people looking at his site that he's happy to be seen as a fool, as long as he's seen. He truly has no shame.

And regardless of his personal pathology, he doesn't get a pass from me.

kathleen said...

You start with an interesting post from the honorable Bill Kroyer respected by everyone, and what is going on here? What the heck is going on here?

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