The Mo-Cap Battle Between Actors and Animators

The Mo-Cap Battle Between Actors and Animators

Is the success of motion capture in modern cinema because of the efforts of actors or animators? The battle rages on.

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I don't see any good reason why Andy Serkis shouldn't get an award, if not more.

What happens if, when the technology exists, actors begin using things like gene-manipulation on cybernetics to augment themselves for certain roles?

Then Leo DiCaprio still won't win that Oscar. Hey-oh!

Burnouts3s3:
I don't see any good reason why Andy Serkis shouldn't get an award, if not more.

The question isn't "Should Andy Serkis get an award?" It's "Should Andy Serkis get an award all by himself, or should it be part of a group thing with the animators?"

I think that a "Best Assisted Actor" award would be unnecessary, at least at this stage in Hollywood. The animators might deserve an award, and the actor might deserve one as well, but they shouldn't be viewed as one cohesive unit.

Thunderous Cacophony:

Burnouts3s3:
I don't see any good reason why Andy Serkis shouldn't get an award, if not more.

The question isn't "Should Andy Serkis get an award?" It's "Should Andy Serkis get an award all by himself, or should it be part of a group thing with the animators?"

I think that a "Best Assisted Actor" award would be unnecessary, at least at this stage in Hollywood. The animators might deserve an award, and the actor might deserve one as well, but they shouldn't be viewed as one cohesive unit.

But, in reality, they ARE one cohesive unit. As Bob says, an actor's performance is often determined by the script he or she was reading, the music accompanying a scene, the director directing, the clothing they're wearing, the lighting of the set or stage, the most expertly chosen edit, etc.

For instance, The Godfather is now regarded as a classic, and it earned plenty of Oscars... but the original screening went horrible. Audiences hated the film, hated the acting, hating the pacing... they were about to accept the film was destined to just suck. They hired one new, upstart editor who promised he could salvage the whole thing without reshoots, and all he did was use his skills in editing to arrange the film in a way that was dynamic, engaging, and exciting, moving music around, pacing scenes in unique ways, etc. His edits of the film saved the entire film, letting the actor's performance be seen clearly, the prop work to stand out, the music to be heard more clearly, etc.

For motion-capture, the "performance" is still Andy Serkis, augmented through CGI. That does not diminish the CG artists (I'm one myself), but his is the "core" to work from, the base starting point, which is why they often get the final recognition. For example, Russel Crowe won Best Actor for Gladiator, but they had scenes in the film where they used a stunt double and CGI double... But the performance he DID make still earned him the Oscar.

I would argue that, no, Andy Serkis is not the ONLY person bringing the characters to life, but there is enough of a performance there, WITHOUT the CGI and animators, to warrant recognition. If the CGI sheen was taken away, leaving him just in a mo-cap suit, I'd still argue that that performance is worthy of commendation and appraisal. It does not mean he did it alone, but rather that enough of the performance was his contributions, and his alone for those scenes, that the scene would fall apart without him and only him performing it.

I a way I think its the actor while the special effects gets his own award for special effects (if they can nail every other effects they can nail mocap, and they get the special effects award for their role in the movie, while how expressive the characters ends up being is more out of the actor at this point so he gets the award for that).

Basicly at this point I somehow doubt its easy for such a professional special effects crew (enough to be nominated) to do everything so well and then screw up the mocap with bad technology or poor experience, if it sucks it probably because the actor isnt expressive enough.

EDIT: How good it is certainly depends of both sides but I think both get to have their own awards with the team going for the special effects award and the actor going for acting award

I seem to remember from the behind-the-scenes footage of The Two Towers, that there was a bit of sense of toe stepping between the mo-cappers and Randy Cook's key-frame team. So it doesn't surprise me that Cook is jumping to defend the rights of the guys behind the "digital make-up". And he's right to do so.

With Gollum especially however we would've never gotten the performance we did had Serkis not taken the role serious as an actor. He was cast to just do the voice, but his physical performance was so good it caught the eye of Peter Jackson who then decided to make him the driving force behind the character. Serkis definately deserves personal accolades for that.

But the thing with performance capture is that is that it's never going to be as distilled as a live-action performance. You'd need a seperate category, but then you'd run into the problem of 'what if there's only two mo-cap performances that year' and/or 'what if Andy Serkis did half of them'.

I do love watching all these actors who fear for their jobs squirm though. They've been shitting their pants ever since Spirits Within.

nice article.

although i'm against the cloning of Bill Clinton...ye gawds man how could we ever compete...and the movie about that practically writes itself...

Good article. My take on this issue has always been SERKIS SHOULD HAVE A FUCKING OSCAR and everything else comes second. I don't think I've changed my overall opinion but it's probably a bit more nuanced now.

Handing out little-golden-man-shaped-pats-on-the-back is a complicated business.

Casual Shinji:
...They've been shitting their pants ever since Spirits Within.

Wait until Sony perfects Vocaloid and voice-over actors are no longer required, either. That will be the day of some serious diarrheal deluge in dramatic circles.

I'm not even sure the expression 'digital make-up' should be read as insulting or belittling to begin with. Sure, motion-capture may not be exactly the same discipline as make-up/costume design, but it serves the same practical purpose, and it's worth noting that physical make-up and costume design is acknowledged as a huge contribution to the cinematic process (Seriously, have you ever seen someone not wearing any make-up under set-lighting? It's not pretty, even if they are!).

Let mo-cap actors compete with traditional actors, and let mo-cap technicians compete for technical design awards. As Bob says, it's all just pieces of a whole anyway, so I really don't see any legitimate cause for conflict between these two sides, other than their both frustrated that Hollywood won't give either of them the credit they deserve.

I'd argue that since the "acting" done for an animated character is a combination of voice work and the animators' contributions, there should just be a category for "animated character performance" that could apply both to CGI characters in live-action films as well as characters in animated films. As for who the actual trophy goes to, well, what happens when a movie has two directors or a song has both a lyricist and a composer? Maybe they'll just have to mold a few extra little golden men for a single award, is all.

Trishbot:
snip

I think you took a lot of words to come back to my original point. Every production, by definition, involves tons of people working together. However, when it comes to awards, certainly exemplary members of a production are rewarded. They are a cohesive unit during production (in theory) but they shouldn't be viewed that way by the Oscar judges; if they start doing that, they might as well scrap the individual categories and only hand out "Best Picture" because that's the only thing that can bring together all the pieces for equal examination.

I don't understand the hate for Serkis. He's not said anything negative about animators.

Andy Serkis:
"But also the way that Weta digital, whom I've worked with on oct of those projects, that they have now schooled their animators to honor the performances that are given by the actors on set. And the teams of people who understand that way of working now are established. And that's something that has really changed. It's a given that they absolutely copy [the performance] to the letter, to the point in effect what they are doing is painting digital makeup onto actors' performances. It's that understanding which has changed as much as anything."

Important bit bolded :They have now. He is essentially excluding older movies Weta worked on such as LotR. People are being way too sensitive about this and I don't think saying somebody is a make-up artist is derogatory either. Make-up is so key to any film.

Casual Shinji:

I do love watching all these actors who fear for their jobs squirm though. They've been shitting their pants ever since Spirits Within.

do you hate actors or something?

gridsleep:

Wait until Sony perfects Vocaloid and voice-over actors are no longer required, either. That will be the day of some serious diarrheal deluge in dramatic circles.

I don't see what their gaining by removing actors altogether (after a certain point) unless making movies could be a solo endeavor like novels one day...that would be cool

All I know is, SOMEONE should have an Oscar for Gollum. One of the truly iconic characters in film. Serkis is the name I attach to that performance, and honestly, his CGI crew should be smart enough to know that they deserve partial credit for whatever accolades he receives as the "face" of Gollum.

Fascinating article btw Bob.

Vault101:

Casual Shinji:

I do love watching all these actors who fear for their jobs squirm though. They've been shitting their pants ever since Spirits Within.

do you hate actors or something?

Not particularly, no, but they probably thought themselves as untouchable, so it's nice to see them in a bit of uncertainty about their careers.

It's also fun to see people get all antsy over something that's never going to happen anyway. CGI is never going to take over from live-action performances. No matter how far the technology is going to advance you'll always be able to tell the difference. And even then, people want movie stars that they can reach out and touch... and read scandals about.

Serkis should be awarded, after all everything about the movement down to the most subtle of eye movements is all down to him. The cgi stuff is a kin to putting a actor in a suit. Look at the Godzilla movies - do you praise the actor for the role or give a lot of the credit to the suit designers? Its the actor that makes it come alive.

I think the problem is just that there really isn't any way to break down who contributed what. I mean, in other aspects of film making whether it be something blatantly visual like set design or wardrobe or whether it be something more technical like editing or sound design, it's easy to see/hear what that segment of the production brings to the finished film. The final film is a combination of many facets but you can clearly see what is what. In performance capture, you can't really do that. At best you can see a video of the actor in a mo-cap suit acting alongside others but that is very clearly not the final performance and is not intended to be the final performance. I'm not really sure where the line falls but it's easy to see why there is a debate and hesitation on the matter.

I love Serkis but this is bloody bad, animators have the most thankless job in any media. Even in Cartoons, it's always the voice actors who get the recognition not the people actually doing the frame by never ending bloody frame work! No wonder so many YouTube animators just voice their own stuff, they don't want their hard work to be ignored! Hollywood would be so freaking limited in terms of both genre and scale without animators, this sort of talk pisses me off to no end.
image

SonOfVoorhees:
Serkis should be awarded, after all everything about the movement down to the most subtle of eye movements is all down to him. The cgi stuff is a kin to putting a actor in a suit. Look at the Godzilla movies - do you praise the actor for the role or give a lot of the credit to the suit designers? Its the actor that makes it come alive.

But without the suit designers, it would never be there to begin with, even the best actor can't pull off Godzilla if all he's given is a green felt-tip pen and a pair of plastic fangs. The artists behind the actors put way to much work to just be ignored like they are. Animation is a painfully long, difficult process, to have someone take all the credit is ludicrous.

I've never understood why the Acaedemy did not simply create an award for "Best Composite Performance", years ago. An award that acknowledges all sides of the character. From the combined efforts that gave us Darth Vader and R2D2 onwards, through things like Smaug and Golum. Credit both the actor and the animation team for creating something real from nothing and making us believe. Is that not after all the ultimate goal of all of this?

Is it that time again?

There's little in cinema that isnt a collaboration.

It is increadibly difficult to decide what was the bit that really made the scene. Even some clear things are muddier than it may appear. Take a line of improv (Say Han Solo's "I know") while the actor takes a big chunk of credit, the director and probably the writer, and even the other actors likely influenced the actors feel for the charecter and moment that lead to it. Even once you've apportioned who's responsible for coming up with said line, it working is again a function of other things, the other actors reactions, the editors cuts,the cinematographers framing and lighting (among a ton of other choices there usually made in consultation with the director, gaffer etc), the work of the makeup artist and wardrobe department.

I did a Digital Animation degree. Making a model move realistically is the hardest part, and where true talent lies.In motion capture, the actor does a majority of that hard work for you. I've oversimplifying to the Nth degree, but that's the abridged version - digital makeup is the perfect term for what they do, and if they start bitching about it, it shows how insufferably elitist and disparaging against makeup artists that they are. Those guys do killer work.

 

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