I was watching my newly purchased Blu-Ray of Avatar tonight, when it suddenly hit me that I forgot to write my blog.
Nah, just kidding, I never forget…
While I’m on the subject of movies though, I figure now would be a good time for me to talk about my feelings on motion capture technology; something that Avatar couldn’t have been made without.
I’ve always been fascinated by the artistry of the human body in motion.
I’m a firm believer in the concept that much of how we communicate our image and demeanor to the the people around us, stems from our body language.
That being said, whether it be in stage acting, professional wrestling, dance, mime, sports, or fighting; a person’s character, both fictionalized or genuine; shines through in the manner in which the move their body.
For me, a person that doesn’t converse with new people often, or well for that matter; being able to understand gesticulations and body language goes a long way towards getting to know people.
Though I can’t pin down the first time I saw it in action, motion capture technology is an amazing tool that I’ve grown to love very much.
The basic concept of it alone is utterly intriguing to the point in which I found myself wanting to be involved with it at some point.
Seriously, if you know anyone with an “in” to the motion capture industry, let me know!
For those who are unaware, motion capture is a technology that uses a specialized camera and computerized tracking system to map out and record the movements of a subject’s form.
Using the data recorded through this process, said movements can then be transposed onto the anatomy of a digital character.
In the context of movie or videogame production, doing so allows CGI animators to save (some) time by using actual human actors to map out a performance for digital characters, which can then be finessed or tweaked further by the animators.
In many ways, it’s the heir apparent to the classic animation technique of rotoscoping.
In many ways, the largest benefit of motion capture technology, is that it grants directors and animators an incredible degree of control over their projects.
If George Lucas is any indication, control is something that is very important to filmmakers.
They say some of the best moments in film history have been the results of happy coincidences, or even mistakes.
While that may be true, CGI stands as a counter to that, as a tool that allows filmmakers a degree of control that makes the word “mistake” seem almost obsolete.
CGI allows directors to create and animate just about any imagery that pops into their head, but motion capture technology allows them the ability to continue to work with actors, while taking advantage of the technology to precisely extract the desired performance from said actors.
While I don’t see live-action movies going away at any point in human existence, the inherent possibilities of producing digital motion captured films are downright incredible.
Think of it this way:
When producing CGI films with motion captured performances, one gains the freedom to set their film anywhere they want, populated by whatever they want.
They also retain the ability to cast big-name actors that put asses in the seats, not to mention gain the capacity to modify the actor’s appearance to their liking.
Not only that, motion capture also allows for stunt actors to be inserted into scenes without having to be shot at distance or from behind, as the whole process would be seamless.
Come to think of it, the whole concept of “stunts” as a whole could potentially be removed when making a motion captured film.
After all, the whole thing is performed in a sound stage, not to mention the actor can be “removed” from scenes whenever necessary, thereby allowing the animators to take over for the dangerous or “un-performable” sequences.
To me though, the most interesting aspect of motion capture in film, is it’s effect on the acting process.
Acting in a green room, surrounded by artifice, actors have to dig deep and use their imagination to summon strong performances.
In short, more stress is put on the actor to use their body to convincingly occupy the digital landscape their character inhabits.
From the audience’s perspective, I find it changes how we view these performances as well.
While I myself am normally attuned to the physical aspects of an actors performance, when I watch motion captured performances, I find myself drawn to dig a little deeper.
I can’t tell you how much fun it is to see a digital character walk around in a movie, only to find the tiniest little inkling of evidence of the fact that you are in fact seeing a familiar actor, give a performance in an unfamiliar shell.
When Haruo Nakajima stomped around in a Godzilla suit, you could instantly tell it was him by the “largeness” and sheer character of his movements.
When Peter Weller was switched out in favor of Robert John Burke (the fattie from Thinner) in Robocop 3, we were all up in arms; not just because that movie sucked, but because Burke’s physical performance simply wasn’t Robocop.
While motion captured performances will never beat good ‘ole “man-in-suit” acting, the concept is similar enough that is brings me great joy to watch.
I look forward to seeing the day when Donnie Yen steps into the motion capture studio and shows us what motion capture pictures have been missing out on.
Seriously, why the fuck hasn’t anyone made a martial arts movie in mo-cap yet, huh?