Performance And Acting For Animators
(continued from page 5)

Alberto Menache
Character Technical Direction Supervisor, PDI, and author of Understanding Motion-Capture for Computer Animation and Video Games

Depending on the project at PDI, the animators "act into the character," so they need to have certain acting skills. When I am setting up a character, I am aware of what the character is supposed to do mechanically, but it is always surprising to me, seeing it actually moving and coming to life. I am mostly involved in the technical issues. The people that actually design the characters come to me and ask if this is a character that is feasible to do in 3D and then we discuss which areas of the character are more complicated than others in those terms.

Courtesy of ArtToday.

I had a company that produced video games, visual fx, commercials and motion-capture. It's very easy to overestimate what can be done with motion-capture. Take Disney's 12 rules of animation, squash and stretch for example. How can that rule be followed by a human performer? A lot of clients came to us asking us to produce cartoon characters using motion-capture. They don't seem to notice we can't do that unless you have a magical performer. When humanoid characters are required, motion-capture can be useful. For example in Michael Jackson's Ghost, obviously it was better to capture the actual motions of Michael Jackson than have an animator try to replicate that. Ghost is a perfect example of what motion-capture should be used for, or if you need realistic movement for crowds or for stunts, such as in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

In many video games you usually have one person performing for each one of the characters in the game. Games playback resolution is still low compared to video. This is due to hardware limitations, so basically the real-time characters usually end up with no personality. When I had my studio, I found that most clients really underestimated the value of having a good director and a good performer. They would have one of their programmers do the motion. Nobody on the client's side would be directing. For video games you can maybe still get away with that but for commercials or visual fx that is really not acceptable.

Steve Giangrasso
Producer/Director/Production Manager, Sorceron

Our company deals with streaming technology, virtual characters and virtual set technology. Motion-capture turns animation into a director's medium whereby it's more like a live-action shoot. Motion-capture is more like pantomime than it is like acting. You have to overemphasize. Like acting in other medias, the performer has to interpret the character, mood, emotion, and purpose of the character for that script line.

Courtesy of ArtToday.

Sometimes our clients bring in a director or we direct. The directors have to somehow be conditioned to understand the limitations of motion-capture. For the talent, it helps if the person has a theatrical, athletic, comedic, mime sense, and sense of timing. Ideally, you want an imaginative person, somebody who can listen to direction, improvise and add something to it, and who ultimately turns themselves into that character. As a director, you don't always want the performer to be watching the character but you want to be able to let them see what they look like and you want to be able to play back a move for them so that there is a collaboration between the performer and the director. Better than the script is to provide the performer with a sound track so that they get a sense of the meter, attitude and where things change in time.

Keith Robinson
President, Modern Uprising Motion-Capture Studios

We rarely direct the talent, rather we consult with a client on directing. The best case scenario for us is to have a director who is familiar with motion-capture and who knows how to direct talent. We have a 16 camera real-time system which allows the data to be processed instantly. With this system, we can also output skeletal data and apply a model to it in a 3D animation package, thus, allowing the director and client to view the virtual performer while a performer is moving.

Good animators are actors too! Sometimes we use the animator as talent. In the last video game we captured, one of the animators was one of the characters, not only because of his talent, but because his body and movement matched the design of the character.

In video games or features, you are capturing the nuances of the performers' motion. There is no need for a performer to exaggerate unless that is called for. For example, we have had someone sit in a chair, and our motion-capture process picked up the subtle nuances from just the way the actor was breathing.

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