Notes about avatar

February 28, 2010 permalink

Animation: production vs. post

Mark Mayerson writes a pretty good rebuttal to the idea that the animators that worked on James Cameron’s Avatar were shortchanged by the film’s placement as a live-action feature:

“I’ve written extensively on how fragmented the process of making an animated film is and how so many of the acting decisions are made before the animator starts work. The character designs, the storyboard and the voice performance all make acting decisions that constrain the animator’s interpretation. There is no question that motion capture is yet another constraint, probably larger than all the others. To insist that Avatar is an animated film is to marginalize animators even more than they are in what are generally considered animated films. Is this the direction we want things to go? Better to agree with James Cameron and focus our attention on films where animators create, not enhance, performances.”

January 27, 2010 permalink

Finally the One Thing the Four Contending Films

Finally, the one thing the four contending films listed above [Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Disney’s A Christmas Carol, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Up have in common is they all employ CGI, just like Avatar and many, many other films we could open this discussion to. I bring this up because it has pretty much been agreed upon around the Internet Avatar will be taking home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, which creates an interesting conundrum. Why is the CG in Avatar considered visual effects while the CG employed for a Pixar or DreamWorks film simply considered animation? If Avatar is up for Oscar’s Best Visual Effects award shouldn’t Up and Monsters vs. Aliens be as well? The fact they aren’t, but A Christmas Carol is, interests me.

From a post by Brad Brevet on Rope of SIlicon on the graying divide between animation and visual effects, and the Academy Awards’ “animation ghetto”. Arbitrary definitions aside (the Oscar qualifications stipulate that a film must be “75% animated” to run in the animated feature category), it’s interesting to see folks try to distinguish between a “film” and a “cartoon” – is it the attempt at naturalism? The motive of the director (and subsequently how he himself submitted it for review)? The application of a specific technique like performance capture that makes CGI act more like makeup or costume?

January 13, 2010 permalink

This Presents an Interesting Problem Caricature

This presents an interesting problem. Caricature has never been taken as seriously as realism. The history of Western art, with the exception of the dark ages and the 20th century, has always been derived from realism, and the art of the dark ages probably had more to do with the loss of knowledge and craft than with a conscious artistic choice. Caricature might be seen as clever, but except for artists, nobody values caricature as more than a lightweight diversion. Disney moved more towards illustration when he went into features. The all-cgi features have pushed their visuals towards greater complexity (which sometimes clashes with their character designs). Video games have also gravitated towards realism. I believe that this has been motivated by a desire to be taken more seriously by getting closer to what Western eyes value in art.

From Mark Mayerson’s thoughtful post on Avatar’s use of mocap versus keyframe animation, why James Cameron and Peter Jackson can do it successfully (and artfully) but Robert Zemeckis fails at it (the zombie-eyed children of Polar Express, A Christmas Carol), and whether the rift between traditional animation and performance capture speaks to something deeper in the history of representational art.