The Oscar nominations were announced today and the fact that two of the three nominees for Best Animated Film relied heavily on motion capture has not escaped the attention of many blogs on the internet. Some animators think this is the end of an era.
This isn't really anything new. Anytime a new technique or technology comes along and disrupts an existing art form the old guard get bent out of shape about it for a decade or two until things settle down and a new equilibrium is esthablished. In the 1990s puppeteers griped about the popularity of the then-new computer graphics in special effects work. Traditional animators griped about rise in popularity of 3D animation. Now computer animators are complaining about the rise of motion capture.
This seems silly to me. Photography wasn't the end of painting, electronic devices won't replace books anytime soon and despite the popularity of computer animation, old fashioned stop-motion animation is undergoing something of a renaissance. The tools and process of animation may change, but it will never go away any more than puppetry will.
I have no doubt that when (and I believe it's a matter of when, not if) real-time animation/digital puppetry/Machinima/whatever you want to call it really takes off there will be a whole new round of moaning and groaning about how it will be the end of this artform or that technique, which of course is rubbish. There is always opportunity for smart and skilled artists in these types of transitions. For example, any decent real-time animation system is virtually impossible to put together without good traditional animation skills. Ditto for motion capture, which looks awful in it's raw form.
BTW, work on Panda Puppet this week is coming a long very nicely and much quicker than I expected. I hope to have some demos or screen shots up sometime next week.