Animated Acting, and KeyPA

While reading some old blogs, I came across this post about performance capture, from Observations on Film and Art.  While not as mind-bogglingly dumb as Mark Harris, Kristin Thompson still exhibits a terrible misunderstanding of the relationship between acting and effects.  She lists several differences between Zoe Saldana and the character she plays.  What she doesn’t seem to realize is that most of her comments can just as easily apply to make up.  Look at Mickey Rourke in Sin City.

But that’s not really what annoys me about this article.  Thompson says,

Where is the boundary between acting and special effects? Despite actors’ and directors’ claims to the contrary, the movements and expressions caught by performance capture are changed in many obvious and not so obvious ways.

Then she goes on to suggest a new Oscar category:

One way I can imagine actors competing for awards would be for the Academy to create a separate category for motion-capture performances…  A simpler and more logical alternative might be to create a category specifically for vocal performances.

Wait, what?  You just argued that it takes hundreds of people to create the likes of Neytiri and Gollum.  Why would you then want a category that recognizes a single person?  Someone, by the way, who is already eligible for four other categories.  (What, exactly, does lead actor do differently than a supporting actor?  And why is acting the only category with gender distinctions?)

I would propose a category for “Animated Performance.”  Like Art Direction, it would be awarded to two people– the voice actor, and the lead character animator.  In much the same way the cinematographer doesn’t physically place each lamp where he wants it, the lead character animator doesn’t draw (or manipulate, or whatever) each frame of the character, but is responsible for overseeing everyone who does.

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In other news, it appears I am no longer the only PA site around.  Check out  I haven’t had a chance to check them out thoroughly, but at first glance, they appear to offer good advice.  And they don’t charge for it.

I’m a little hurt they didn’t ask if I wanted to be involved, but hey, check ’em out anyway.

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2 Responses

  1. as a PA involved from time to time with the exact CGI pros your talking about, I’d disagree, the highest achievement for performance capture technology would be for an animated character to win Best Actor. Start pointing out creative responsibility in animation and your trudging into deep quicksand.

  2. Create a new category just for that? That’s insane. Acting is acting, no matter physically or animated. Tell that to the people who made Avatar.

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