Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why Realism Doesn't Work in Animation (or Machinima) has a great interview with character designer Shannon Tindle. The article mostly discusses character design and why so many animated characters (like the ones in the recent "Gnomeo and Juliet") look terrible, but also touches on the subject of motion capture animation vs. animator-driven key frame animation.

Shannon is very diplomatic throughout the interview, but makes his feelings known about movies that skew towards realism in terms of both their design and their use of motion capture. Here's what he had to say about "motion capture" animated movies like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol:

"All I know is that the studio that Disney formed to produce those films, Image Movers, doesn't exist anymore. "Christmas Carol" is one of my favorite stories of all time. But with those films, it doesn't look exactly like a real person and so it becomes something in between. In any animated film -- stop-motion, CGI and 2-D, and I've worked in all of those mediums -- you need to make a clear statement. Any time you waffle, if you're somewhere in between reality and stylization, a straight line and a curve, people feel it and they tend to have a bad reaction to it."

To me this is also one of the biggest barriers preventing real-time animation from reaching a more mainstream audience. Machinima might be getting more and more popular, but it's appeal is still very niche compared to mainstream animation. The movement in most real-time animation is driven by "realistic" mocap and/or skeletal tracking. At the same time, it's difficult to find an example of a real-time animated character that exhibits as much personality as Mickey Mouse did in the early Disney cartoons of the 1930s. I think there's a direct connection there; in order to be successful in the mainstream, audiences have to be able to connect emotionalally with the characters they're watching. As Shannon points out, it's much harder to do that using realistic motion or design.

Many Machinima creators are really innovative and do an excellent job of working with and around the limitations in the software they use to make their movies, but what they really need is a platform that allows them to create better, more emotive and relate-able characters so that their imaginations can be set free. article via Cartoon Brew.

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