World Magazine, Issue 2.11, February 1998
Animation and its many changing faces...
It continues to stun me how the world of animation techniques continue to grow. When I first sat down with the editorial calendar, now almost nine months ago (where did that time go...), I thought the subjects of stop-motion and motion-capture were a very odd pairing indeed. Sure, they are both forms of 3-D animation but one revolves around high-tech gear and computer programmers and the other around small models and sets. However, this has turned out to be one of the most interesting issues for me. I know I say this every month, but this time, while compiling the issue, I found myself drawing an amazing number of correlations between the two techniques and about the meaning of animation as a whole.
Our lunch with Chris Walker and Corky Quakenbush was an eye-opener. By the time we left, we realized that they are both walking down a narrow alley in-between the worlds of animation and live-action. Moreover, they are probably slowly heading toward one another as new innovations arise. Both shoot scenes almost like a live-action sitcom and move the camera, a là live-action. Plus, both were drawn to their particular techniques partially because of the tangible feeling that accompanies 3-D animation. Their love of animation and live-action was also revealed as they frequently spoke of live-action feature films. Unlike most of our guests, they have both included quite a few live-action feature films on their Desert Island lists.
What I found especially fascinating though was their definitions of animation. No longer are we speaking about a standard definition of "frame by frame manipulation." Rather, they agreed that live-action scenes that both create "magical worlds" or "hyper-realism" can be defined as animation as long as they "feel" animated. I think as time goes on this is going to be a more and more interesting question. (If I call you for an interview...be prepared.) The lines between live-action and animation are blurring as we forge into the areas of photorealistic 3-D, amazing special effects and motion-capture. When we combine these techniques with more traditional ones, an even wider array of choices appear. For instance, I walked into Medialab expecting to find the performance animators to be out-of-work Los Angeles actors. However, what I found were highly-skilled puppeteers who were applying this "old" technique to a new technology.
And then there is Gregory Peter Panos' article. When I first read his article I thought, "Copying Bill Clinton, right. You can't do that. Someone wouldn't allow that." Well, even before we went to print I was proven wrong by MTV's special, "The State of Music Videos." I think we are in for a wild and wooly ride when it comes to future applications of motion-capture. Just as the President of France, Jacques Chirac, recently called for a world-wide ban on cloning a human being, will we one day call for a ban on digitally cloning a human being? What havoc could someone with enough money, and motive, cause? Will we ever be able to trust our eyes again? Of course, Hollywood's high-concept feature films are already there with Wag the Dog. Everyone scoffs and says the plot is highly unlikely, but then there's people out there that still believe what they see in out-of-context video clips is the truth.
When I was an intern at Turner Feature Animation and doing script coverage, they told me that one of my highest considerations was whether or not a property was "animatable." Did it contain magic, mystery, the supernatural; an element that truly merited being animated as opposed to being filmed in live-action. I always went forth and looked for morphing pink elephants, werewolves, etc., but now it seems that with special effects, live-action people are asking themselves, `How can we add a little magic, a truly unexpected surprise?' The answer seems to be coming back much more often, `Animation!' in all of its hybrid forms.
I tell you, every month I sit here the magazine seems to get smaller because the arena of animation grows and I want to include everything. Where will it end? Nobody knows...and that's why it is so much fun to be sitting here, right now.
Until next time,
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