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Friday, August 03, 2007

'Beowulf' Begs the Question: What is animation, anyway?

The debate is already starting as to whether Robert Zemeckis' 'Beowulf' (coming in November) will be eligible for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, since it uses live actors and performance capture as a foundation. The Oscar rules require animated movies to have been created "using a frame-by-frame technique."

(Aside: is there anyone else who wishes Zemeckis would just go back to using actual non-animated actors in his movies? Let's start a petition...)

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  • You know, it's actually easy to tell if something is animated or not. Live action records movement that exists in the real world, breaks it into samples (24 per second for film) and then the illusion of motion is created by the rapid display of those samples.

    In animation, there is no real world motion. The samples are created from scratch using drawings, puppets, clay or software.

    Some argue that motion capture is animation because somebody had to edit the motion frame by frame or add facial animation frame by frame or the camera movement was created frame by frame. In these cases, though, animation techniques are being used to enhance motion that did exist in the real world.

    The problem is that the Oscars are not objective categories, they're marketing tools. And if there's a way to get your film to qualify in a category and add another potential dollar at the box office, you'll fight to get it qualified.

    Beowulf should be eligible in the special effects category, but I'm betting that Zemeckis will fight for any category he can get.

    By Blogger Mark Mayerson, at 5:21 PM  

  • Yeh I don't think the pure mocap stuff should be considered animation but then I don't think the Scanner Darkly tracing over live action frames should be considered animation either... they are both cheap(not cost wise) ways to make a film animated.

    By Blogger M dot Strange, at 5:53 PM  

  • why would we want zemeckis to stop what he's doing? he's pushing the envelope and trying something new every time out. that's great and we need to encourage more of that. especially in the established big boys.

    By Blogger deepstructure, at 6:14 PM  

  • Heya Mike! I concur on both points.
    (BTW Still looking forward to getting your film on DVD!)

    Motion capture is a good reference tool, but I think Zemeckis doesn't really grok what animation is about. Actually, I think Zemeckis is a good storyteller, but not a very inventive filmmaker.

    As far as Scanner Darkly's rotoscoping? The style looks like a computer did it (like a the AE plug-in from Cult Effects). I know they did it by hand, but it doesn't show.

    By Blogger GB, at 3:20 AM  

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