Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ho Ho Mo Cap

Did anyone else see the new CG Santa ad before "Beowulf"? It's also showing on TV, and you can read an article about the commercial as well as read an article about it here.

I'm not sure if it's MoCap or not - it's hard to tell from the article - but it points out two important things: when I was watching the ad, I was uncertain about what I was seeing, because sometimes the people looked real and sometimes they looked like CG. It was really hard to even follow what was happening in this simple ad because I was so distracted by trying to figure out what I was seeing. My mind really got distracted by the question of whether the people were real or not. So I would think the same would hold true for any movie that was populated with digital versions of actors in all the roles. I would have a really hard time getting immersed in any world or story of a film if I was perplexed about whether they were real people or computerized clones.

Also, the fact that the makers of the commercial were trying to recreate the version of Santa as immortalized by Haddon Sunblom in his famous Coke ads. What works so well in the illustrations apparently doesn't translate too well into three dimensions. Obviously Mr. Sundblom used an illustrator's eye to cheat his Santa paintings so that they looked warm and inviting. However faithfully they might have been about using Mr. Sundblom's proportions to build Santa's face, in three-dimensions he looks pretty weird.

The original - click to see bigger.

I still think that MoCap and CG people will never take over the world as many critics seem to prophesize. We've all seen Department Store Santas or actors playing Santas that had as much charm and warmth as the real Santa must. There is no replacement for the charisma and humanity that a real actor brings to a performance, and there never will be. The best MoCap CG performance ever done is Gollum, I think, and only because there was a team of talented animators tweaking his performance, and also because it was clearly not something that a real person could have done. No real person could have looked like Gollum, so our mind accepts that it's a computer being and not real (just like when we see a CG dragon or monster) and we can sit back and enjoy his performance without wondering what we're seeing. And if you look at his performance, it's so well animated, and so far away from the stiff under-performances that were on display in "Beowulf", that I think real actors are here to stay and that in the future there will be no shortage of need for animators who can take a MoCap performance and work with it to turn it into a real work of art.


Joon said...

I saw this commercial on TV and constantly kept thinking, "That is one creepy looking robot Santa!"

Tom Scholes said...

Long live 2d animation!

Gabriel said...

i think they remade Santa's head on computer and pasted over the live action actor. No wonder his face is the weirdest part.

AndyG said...

I work in a big CG company in LA and it really worries me that all the youngsters I work with think this work is cool and is leading the way forward.

tiny dean said...

I have to agree: that Santa confounded me as well. It does look a bit creepy.

Mark, what did you think of Davy Jones from the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies? I thought he is another example of good MoCap, but perhaps you disagree.

Robert said...

to andyg:

It's too late... those youngsters have already been watching really bad character animation in video games for about 10 years and are thinking that that's the normal way for animated characters to move.

dany boom said...

i didns see what youre talking about yet. but you people who feel you need toneed to "cleanse your pallette !" please please follow the link above.

oil paint manipulated on glass by real human fingers. wonderful and warm ! go have a look.


David Nethery said...

"oil paint manipulated on glass by real human fingers. wonderful and warm ! go have a look."

Oh, gosh , yes ,the one that Alexander Petrov animated is a much more artistically successful invocation of the Sundblom Saint Nicholas.

Click link below to see it :

Alexander Petrov Animation of Père Noël

Off the Coast of Utopia said...

I know exactly what you mean about mo-cap causing confusion. It really took away from my enjoyment of Beowulf.

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