Sunday, 6 November 2011

Research For Animation & VFX- Post 5

Since there hasn't been a task assigned to us this week, I decided I would share the thoughts I have had whilst preparing for my group presentation; a lot of it won't be used in the presentation but I thought it'd be better to note it here than just let it pass.

I have been assigned the topic of 'technology' within the presentation, and so I have looked at the technology and techniques involved in 3D feature films that help to transfer the humanlike traits of the actors to their anthropomorphised characters and discuss how this technology could affect animation in the future.

Recording/ Referencing- This is a fairly traditional way of capturing the performances of actors and it is still used despite the advances in technology. An example of this is the film 'Shark Tale', these characters have been designed as caricatures of the actors playing them and the animators used footage of the actors as they recorded their lines to reference and recreate the particular expressions and gestures they performed as they acted.

Emotion Capture- The film 'Rango' introduced this technique, the actors perform the scenes together and in costume whilst they are being filmed and (voice) recorded; the animators then reference the footage as they create the animations from scratch. This method spawned from a collaborative effort between people from live action film backgrounds and people from animated film backgrounds, as directors of live action are beginning to cross over into the animation realm they are bringing these new techniques and mind sets to the medium.

Performance Capture- Avatar, though not strictly a 3D feature film, has affected the way in which performances are captured forever. The cameras mounted on helmets are able to record every minute motion within the face and transfer them onto the CG character for a much more in depth performance compared to the frame-by-frame expressions created by animators. Along with this are the cameras that are able to display the 3D world on a monitor so that the director can see the actors 'on set' and direct the scene as if it were a live action scene.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes has taken this a step further by having these performance capture cameras on set (rather than in a warehouse), this allows the actors to play off the surroundings to create an even better performance.

The problems with performance capture however are the boundaries between actors and animators that are slowly being blurred, both party's feel that they may someday become obsolete.

And secondly, the more realistic the character becomes, the greater the chance of falling into the 'Uncanny Valley' which is where a character looks and moves extremely realistically but there is something slightly 'off' about them, this is because the brain no longer perceives the film as animation, but as reality with something wrong about it; this creates an extremely negative reaction from audiences - even the team on Avatar had to work tirelessly to try and avoid this.

TinTin is a perfect example of the Uncanny Valley, the improved performance capture technology and realistic CG mixed with the simplistic and caricatured style has created errily lifelike characters with an appearance that is both human and not human, this has created somewhat of a backlash from audiences.

Overall, animating anthropomorphised characters in a humanlike way can create an effective piece but designing them to be them too humanlike may lead to negative results.
Basically put, a more successful anthropomorphic character is one that captures the realistic human movements of their actors rather than their physical likeness.

As the animation world continues to open up to live action film makers thanks to technology, it will one day be merely a choice between traditionally made animation (whereby the Emotion Capture route would be taken and animators would be the more prominent workforce), or modern/ performance animation (whereby the Performance Capture route would be taken and actors would be the more prominent workforce).
Someday the opportunity to make 3D animated features will be available to everyone through motion capture, and the traditional frame-by-frame animation will become something of an elitist skill- much like the traditional 2D features that are now dying out because of CG animation.

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