Sunday, November 07, 2010

The Limitations of Motion Capture

Pretty evident from this picture.

I've talked several times here about how much I hate motion capture, and I think this comparison of Hergé's Tintin to the characters as they will appear in the upcoming Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson trilogy makes it clear why.

Just look at that comparison. On the bottom, you have Hergé's appealing artwork, with its roundness and character. Look at Tintin's signature angle; the way he runs tells you a lot about who Tintin is, I think. It's a defining cartoon mannerism. Look at Snowy's reaction; you're immediately drawn into what's going on.

Now look at that mess above it. Tintin and Snowy look like lifeless zombies, suspended in midair as though part of a creepy museum display, and utterly repellent to the eye. The details are unnecessary and excessive; the shadows obscure the limitations of the design rather than enhance the illusory life of the characters, the way Hergé's art does. It's ironic that Hergé's two-dimensional art looks more three-dimensional than Spielberg and Jackson's 3-D models. The digital image looks flat and lifeless.

But it all comes down to the angle, I think. No human being can run at the same angle as Tintin, and that's a really good example of what's hindering the animators of this motion capture flick. The special effects technicians are hamstrung here, limited by what they can record. But in cartooning, the wonderful caricature of human movement that is Tintin's run can be achieved. That's the strength of cartooning.

So what you're looking at, in my opinion, is a fool's errand: spending hundreds of millions of dollars to take some of the most recognizable and most appealing art in the world and turning it into something ugly, befuddled, and appalling to look at. Ineptitude in action.

Really, if Spielberg and Jackson wanted to turn Tintin into a film so badly, they'd have been better off doing it in live action or in real animation. And this is ultimately why I despise motion capture so much: it's neither. It's not animation, despite what people like Robert Zemeckis keep saying, and it's not live action. The medium in which it is made does nothing but distract you from any attempts to tell a story in that medium. It insists on itself through its unrealistic attempts to duplicate reality.

Remember when Peter Jackson said this about why Tintin wasn't being done in live action? "With live action you’re going to have actors pretending to be Captain Haddock and Tintin. You’d be casting people to look like them. It’s not really going to feel like the Tintin Hergé drew. It’s going to be somewhat different. With CGI we can bring Hergé’s world to life, keep the stylized caricatured faces, keep everything looking like Hergé’s artwork, but make it photo-real."

Pretty laughable, considering the stills that are popping up on the internet, which look almost nothing like Hergé.

You know what could have preserved that look? Animation.

Just saying.


Regularjoe said...

Peter Jackson & Steven Speilberg are to good movies what McDonald's is to fine food, especially the latter.

Speilberg just bludgeons his audience..."you will feel damn you if I have to hammer it into you!" It's called understatement and he should give it a whirl sometime.

Jackson, meh, he's part of the group of filmmakers that are creating soulless garbage with CGI. I hear they use Bored of the Rings to break 'em down at Gitmo.

SamuraiFrog said...

They should use The Lovely Bones. It's shorter and will mess you up pretty badly if you try to think about what's going on.

Kal said...

This reminds me of the Frech live action films of Asterix and all his drawn advenures. These were just hard to watch live action. All the magic was gone.