Monday, February 05, 2007

Zemeckis Motions Captured At Disney

Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey are setting up a motion capture division at Disney. Because motion capture trades in CG imagery so heavily, people are assuming this new faction will in some way be tied to Pixar but of course, that's not looking to be the case at all.

Motion capture is not animation and to confuse the two is a diservice to both - though the motion capture end results do, so far, depend on a lot of finessing by animators. These days that's very often the case with live action too, of course.

Monster House represented a quantum leap on from Polar Express which, for all of it's technical flaws was a genuine benchmark. Next from Zemeckis and co is Beowulf, which again looks to take the techniques forward by a couple of long strides.

Disney are likely to have paid top dollar in brokering this deal, but I think they've done the right thing. Zemeckis and his collaborators have been at the vanguard of movie making technology for over a decade now, and my mind boggles at the new shapes he may bend cinema into over the coming decade, two, or three...


Rich said...

There was loads of motion capture in Snow White, but try saying that wasn't an animated film.

Brendon said...


A couple of points:

a) that was rotoscoping, not motion capture

b) only a minority of characters were rotoscoped at all in Snow White

I agree that there is a lot of common ground between motion capture and rotoscoping, but already motion capture provides more detailed information than rotoscoping, and it already requires less input from an interpretive artist.

A motion captured film like Beowulf, say, will take a huge amount of performance information from motion capture, and this will then be augmented by animators. The proportion of unaltered data to altered data, however, isn't far away from, say, shots in the Lord of the Rings trilogy - and I don't mean of Gollum. Imagine the shots in Bag End or at the Council of Elrond. Are those animated shots, as would be in Snow White?

There are many shades of grey between completely documentary footage and completely altered footage, and one axis they are spread along is from live action to animation. Motion capture is somewhere on that axis, sure - but much, much closer to Hellboy, Serendipity or Stripes than it is to Toy Story, Totoro or One Froggy Evening.