Spielberg Talks Tintin
As far as Steven Spielberg is concerned, performance capture was the right technique for The Adventures of Tintin (Dec. 21). He knew that the moment he stepped onto the motion capture stage in LA to watch James Cameron shoot Avatar with the virtual camera. Cameron even offered to set up a test stage for Spielberg to test it out for a couple of days. He loved it. The virtual camera gave him a new kind of freedom: he got closer to the actors; and it enabled him to not only be his own cameraman and focus puller but also his own lighting consultant. I spoke with the acclaimed director, who turned 65 yesterday.
Bill Desowitz: What has been like using this new performance capture technique for animation?
Steven Spielberg: Tintin is only a new kind of animated movie if you immediately erase from existence Avatar and Polar Express and Beowulf and Christmas Carol because Bob Zemeckis and James Cameron set a precedent and raised a bar quite high. Tintin is the beneficiary of some amazing groundwork that has already been accomplished by two great artists, Zemeckis and Cameron, and we actually got to use every animator that worked on Avatar and moved right over to do Tintin. So I was in the crow's nest and didn't want to blow this opportunity to make a movie that was in the right medium for the right message.
BD: What do you say to those who wonder why you didn't use live actors with virtual environments?
SS: If you have any familiarity with the Tintin books, you'll see that they were the style guide for every single pose and every single facial expression, and everything that these characters look like in our movie is actually what they look like in the comic books. But if you're not familiar with the Tintin books, just know that it brings you into a photorealistic world of animation and imagination.
Had I made it live action, here's what people would be saying right now: 'I hated all that makeup on those actors' faces!' Why'd he have to give him big, fake noses and big, fake ears and fake chins?' You know, I would've been criticized for stylizing the movie beyond recognition and that's why I chose this medium.
BD: Was that fantastic motorcycle chase in Morocco where you stage it all in one take, something you've always wanted to do?
SS: No, I wanted to do this chase in one shot. I began working with the animators at Weta and we started with some previs, and I said, let's do this entire chase in one shot, and I laid the whole thing out with the animators in one shot. I knew they could do it: I had to make sure it wasn't going to be boring; I had to make sure it wasn't going to need cuts and close-ups and so I was able to bring the characters in and out of their close-ups without interrupting the flow of the sequence. And once I saw it in a very rough version, the previsualization, I knew we could do the entire thing in one shot.