Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Motion Cap & The Uncanny Valley

Seems like there's alot of controversy regarding motion capture animaton, similar to the one surrounding rotoscope animation. I personaly dont have a problem with the technique itself, but i find that it is often used with problematic results. Since i dont know all the technical details about going about it, perhaps i shouldnt be too quick to criticize, but i still feel that the same problem keeps coming up.

What bothers me the most about some mocap films is when they model the characters after their voice actors. Think of Tom Hanks in the Polar Express. If they want to character to look so much like Tom Hanks, why not just use Tom Hanks? The same people who made The Polar Express are now releasing a film titled Beowulf based on an old english poem. Its partly written by Neil Gaiman, so imagine the story will be great and all, but i just know the animation in dialogue scenes will be awkward. One of the characters is played by Angelina Jolie... and the character LOOKS JUST LIKE HER.

Its impressive in a way, but at the same time i cant help but notice how much of a waste it is. If you want a character to look real, film him in live action. Even if you have loads of special effects, the characters in dialogue scenes should be live action if "real" is what youre going for. 300 and Sin City are good examples. If the characters in those films were always animated characters, there would be an incredible loss of visual appeal.

It all comes back to this hypothesis i read about a little while ago called The Uncanny Valley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_Valley).

Basically, the more something looks human, the more you can notice the differences (this is amplified for things that move). Therefore if the Jolie character looks almost exactly like Jolie, but not quite, the moment she moves itll feel awkward since she is moving "realistically" through mocap, but doesnt have the perfectly similar appearance. I imagine that eventually we will be able to model characters that are indeed identical to their voice actors, then perhaps this problem wont occur, but even if we get to that point, wouldnt it be alot cheaper to just film the actor in live action?

Last night I saw another mocap film by the name of Renaissance (http://video.movies.go.com/renaissance/).

Its a french film noir/detective/sci-fi film set in Paris. This film at least stylised it's characters alot, however i feel like the animation shouldve been stylised just as much to compensate. What happens is that all the characters move like real people but visibly are not, therefore we get the same awkwardness as in most other mocap efforts. That being said, the film has some very beautiful sequences and is well worth seeing. The sets/layouts/backgrounds are particularly breathtaking. The story is a pretty typical detective story, but fun nonetheless.

As a final note, ive noticed that motion capture is particularly awkward with children. The children in Renaissance felt very odd, so did the ones in Final Fantasy: Advent Children. I cant say i know what it is exaclty, but there's definatley a problem with motion capture animation of children. Even the kids in Moster House felt odd to me, though perhaps less due to the bobble head factor.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Work, work, work!

Well, I just finished my first week on aniamting at work, twas pretty intense. I work 9 hour shifts! But it's all good, cuz it's definately the best job ive ever had.

I think its safe to say that ive gotten the hang of Toon Boom Solo, despite its MANY frustrations and non-user friendlyness. My co-animators ask me for help when there's a problem, so i guess i must know something! Were doing like vectorial cut-out animation, its certainly doesnt have the charm of golden age hand drawn toons, but its damn efficient and probably the only way we couldve gotten 30 mins of aniamtion done in a month with only 3 animators! Id love to post some of the animations ive done, but unfortunately i dont exactly own the rights to them. Eventually i should be able to when the film is released.

One of the animators im working with is my good friend Jess AKA EsSe, who's blog link i finally added on my page. Her blog is shared with her significant other and a buddy of mine, David AKA Ika. Both are extremely talented, so check out themz works.

Other than all that, the occasional Starcraft game, movie outing and late night city dwelling are part of my curriculum. And of course the weekly Drink & Draws, which will be missed when im back in Oakville.... Ill hafto start up another one there, but i know the Montreal one will keep going strong.

Ill be posting some new sketches soon, but here's my latest colored illustration (in casee you havent seen it on my new DA account, www.spillzalot.deviantart.com):

Monday, July 9, 2007

Drawing Jamz

Ive been keeping on my toes with the doodling thanks to weekly drawing jams with my friends.