Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Animation and Acting

Tim Borrelli writes to the thespian hailed as the brains behind Caesar in The Rise of the Planet of the Apes:

Dear Mr. Serkis,

If you deserve to be considered for an Academy Award nomination for Acting in regards to your performance motion capture, then every animator who has ever animated a character in any movie deserves consideration as well. ...

[Y[ou seem to be ignorant of what happens to your performance data after you walk off the set. Many times, chunks of data need to be thrown out entirely and done by hand. Also, it is quite often that the actor’s proportions don’t match that of the digital characters, requiring a remapping of the motion. This may not seem like it affects a performance, but it in fact does. Different proportions means poses don’t read the same. It means a slouch on a short actor is a hunchback on a tall character. It means delicate interactions often need to be heavily modified or redone with animation due to differing limb lengths. ...

My take on this is the same as always. Margie Belcher (later Marge Champion) had a lot to do with the "acting" of the character Snow White. She performed Motion Capture in the form of filmed performance converted into photostats. But to argue that Ms. Belcher created the performance on her own would be a tad ... ahm ... disingenuous.

There were all those animators (chief among them, Grim Natwick.) All those inkers. All those clean-up artists and painters.

And somebody please tell me the difference between Mr. Serkis and the actor who performed as Gulliver in the Fleischer brothers Gulliver's Travels (1939.) When you strip away the pixels, software, and glowing computers, there really isn't any large gap between actors shot on film during the Golden Age of Animation and digital performances created today. MoCap by any other name is still motion capture.

Which isn't to take anymore away from Mr. Serkis than is taken from Ms. Belcher or the Gulliver guy. But let us stare reality in the face. I can see Mr. Serkis possibly capturing an Oscar nomination for his chimp acting, if the publicity drums beat loud enough, and the media does enough stories about it. But I can't see Mr. Serkis actually winning a little golden man.

Because there are a hell of a lot of actors paying dues to the Motion Picture Academy, and the vast majority of them will vote for an actor not covered with pixels. For the same reason they will mostly vote for a live-action feature for Best Picture over the animated kind.

They want to see the actor's performance, not just sense it under all the digital fur, stretched limbs, chimpanzee features and rejiggered timing created by modelers and animators sitting in darkened rooms.

Actors are funny that way.


Anonymous said...

mr circus probably has a better lawyer, agent and PR machine than most animators, which is why when motion capture is mentioned his name comes up. He is a tool, using a tool to create a performance.

Anonymous said...

"There were all those animators (chief among them, Grim Natwick.) All those inkers. All those clean-up artists and painters."

The same could be said for live action film directors, the typers/writers, the editors, cinematographers, and production designers in regards to live actors performances. It's their face, and the best at emoting what the director wants get paid best. But without everyone else, they're just another Corky St. Clair.

Ki Innis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

George Lucas tried to get Frank Oz a nomination for his performance as Yoda many years back. The Academy sunk that ship quickly. Yes it's never gonna happen. If that was the case then animators (though in some cases deserved) will be getting nominations for acting too.

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