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Author Topic: What is animation?
humanoid
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I'm sorry, but...
polar express... animation?

wtf?

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Russian Judge
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If you want to get technical, animation is any process by which non-moving objects are made to move. Thus, when George Pal did stop-frame movies with puppets, he was doing animation.

It also means that "Team America" is animation. A Muppet movie with no human actors visible on screen could also be animation. And it is that sense - with computer-generated images derived from human beings - that "Polar Express" is animation.

Where we can debate - and these debates are more interesting than outright refusals - is whether these are good, effective examples of animated entertainment. For example, in the case of "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within," the animation didn't effectively carry forth the story (what story there was in that movie).

Many people reported that they were "creeped out" by the supposedly photo-realistic CGI characters. And although all I've seen of "Polar" is Tom Hanks in various digital disguises, I get the same creepy feeling.

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Twedzel
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If you consider animation, 'the act of bring to life'... then you could consider puppetry animation. Then it follows that mocap, essentially a form of digital puppetry is a form of animation. Then it becomes a matter of wether its any good. Which then becomes a subjective issue of quality.
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Jennifer Hachigian Jerrard
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I heard a rumor that keyframe animators were brought in to salvage the motion capture on Polar Express. So what ended up on the screen might be as much keyframe animation as mo-cap.

I think Waking Life also qualified for an animation Oscar a few years ago -- and Waking Life was mostly filtered live-action footage.

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gumby
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I have only one thing to say:
Polar Excess. [snore] [snore] [snore]

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ben radd
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there was a considerable amount of animation done.

if you by some reason go see it watch the credits there are probabely just as many animators as mocap people.

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Eric Hedman
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Bringing to life.

Movement does not equal "animation".

The same way that all animation is not good acting.

And a lot of animated movement, regardless of how accurate is undone by bad staging/direction.

Tom Hanks would be the main meat puppeteer.
And Jenn, it would have to be fixed and cleaned.

Mocap, and especially face cap needs fixing.
Unfortunately, we are in a technophilic stage and the execs signed up for their high priest robes last year thinking that somehow by removing the artists, whose quality has been increasing steadily for years, that somehow it would make up for their story meddling. It looks like VanAllsburgs little play on the nature of faith has become an excuse for a special effects extravaganza...at least thats what they seem to be selling in the trailers.
When it comes down to it we will see both mocap and keyframe in Polar Express, and I hope its better than my imagination and the trailer let on.

I doubt the filmmaking will hide the gross animation errors as he have seen in the scene with the backflipping waiters...we will be forced to watch impossible stuff going on, without recourse to cringe as anatomy on a realistic character is destroyed to match a vision, without taking into acount our visceral responses to what would otherwise prove injurious. A simple cut could make that response just go away.

Please, if any of you are listening...before getting all the prints made......make the cut.

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Trondheimfan
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First of all, Russian Judge, if you really want to get technical, there really isn't any clear definition of what animation is. Don't bother to look it up in the dictionary, you'll just get some vague description that still doesn't really explain what animation is, or what it can be. And it can be just about anything, wether you like it or not.
But it is never, NEVER, a live performance, which, in the end, mocap is. So marionettes also don't count. Team America is puppetry, not animation.
George Pal's work, IS animation. Why wouldn't it be? It's stop-motion, which is just as much animation as hand drawn, CG, or Flash animation is.

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Russian Judge
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Trondheimfan, a puppeteer uses his fingers to make a little wooden figure move on strings. That involves elaborate muscle coordination; puppeteers are physical actors. There is very similar to the movements an artist makes to draw a character and estimate how to make it move.

And George Pal's stop-motion was using his muscles to move a puppet, too, only much more slowly.

Tom Hanks is using his facial muscles to control an electronic puppet. Yes, he didn't go to puppeteer school, and work at a thousand lousy birthday parties, to develop those skills. But he went to acting school to learn how to coordinate those muscles, to use whatever natural appealing quirks his face has to their best effort.

I think you're making a case against "Polar Express" because the trailers are creeping you out. They creep me out, too. But I wouldn't exclude it from the category of "animation" only because of that creepiness. After seeing the film I might call it troubling animation, uncomfortable, maybe even ineffective - but I wouldn't call it "not animation." Especially, as you say, because the definition of "animation" isn't specific enough to exclude it.

What do you think, other guys? Especially you other guys doing CGI and mocap?

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Eric Hedman
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I would say we are being devisive saying puppetry isn't a form of animation.

Heres the deal....live puppets aren't "cartoon animation." But you still invest a feeling of life into them. The puppeteer is in more jeopardy of losing losing audience "buy in", because the good ones have to be expert improvisors, and actors, where as animators just have to have a brilliant script, talent and weeks/months per scene.

CG is puppet animation without all the nasty problems associated with using real cameras and real lights and real armature failures.

The better question is, "what is good animation?"

This is getting into semantics when it should be dragged back into a quality discussion.
Is there anything about Polar Express character preview materials from an acting or staging standpoint that anyone has liked so far?

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Peg
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I adapted my definition of animation from an animator named Bunny Schendler. She suggested that animation can occur whenever an artist interferes with reality. So, shooting humans frame by frame is still animating, even though they aren't lifeless. Applying weird filters to live action footage and layering it, could also be animating.

Polar Express... um, I saw a preview yesterday, and there are some fun scenes where the train does these beautiful roller coaster moves. It actually does a whole, whole lot of roller coaster moves. Those are staged nicely (though it does make me wonder- what's the point of a magic train if it still does reckless, trecherous things?). They'll look great in the IMAX 3-D format. Yet, the characters do look a bit bizarre. During the height of its overwhelming Christmas spectacle, I heard a guy behind me mutter, "Those are some ugly frickin' elves!"

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humanoid
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You know, I guess I'll have to be more accepting on what animation "is" and can be. I have to admit some of these arguments are very convincing. But I still think mocap is just a glorified form of rotoscoping. I also think it gets over-glamourized by marketing. And content producers love the idea of cutting out the "expensive" animators from the process. But it never realizes that way. There is always cleaning up and more often than not most of it get cleaned up, or matched frame by frame to the actual live action footage. Rotoscoping. Yet they keep lauding it as pure mocap.

So I would say that in it's purest idealized form, bringing a character to live in real time *is* animation. But the the true end result? a rotoscoped hybrid? I would be willing to stretch my definition... I guess.

But from my biased point of view, I do not want this technological frankenstein nominated next to these other movies...

h.-

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Trondheimfan
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Judge, if you actually read my post, you'd see that at the end I said that animation is never a live performance.
I'm not saying live performance is something that's lesser animation or something, but it's just not animation.
I also said that lots of thing can be animation, wether you like it or not. So Polar Express' characters creeping me out, has absolutely nothing to do with me saying it's not animation.

From this moment on, I will never comment on anything you said again, since you really don't know what you're talking about, and, on top of that, like to twist people's posts into something they did not say. I wish you a great time here on AN.
Oh, and don't explain what stop-motion is to me please. I know what it is, thank you. Have you ever animated anything in stop-motion? Or at all? (Don't bother answering that. I think I already know the answer.)

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Sketchpad
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Looking at the clips of Polar Express immediately reminded me of the animation of Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within.

And looking at the figures in motion, they all appear as if they are moving through what probably should be called motion mud--there is no sense of individuality, clarity, or vitality in the movement of these forms. It seems a film shot dominantly in Mocap creates a uniformity of motion that appears limited or restricted. Theoretically speaking, it would probably look odd or weird if you try to exaggerate a movement or bring character to a movement in this type of motion-mud uniformity (or structure) that is dominant throughout the entire film?

Still, I plan to see Polar Express anyway because it is a Robert Zemeckis film and I want to see what the story is like. (Both Ebert and Roeper said they were creeped out by some of the designs of the people, but they said the film will rank as holiday classic).

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Russian Judge
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Trondheimfan, I'll miss you. But whether animation can contain anything "live" is a debateable question. If you choose not to debate, okay. I thought discussing such questions amicably was the purpose of this forum - that is, outside of political season.

Ah, well, it seems there's some consensus concerning "Polar Express." The positions seem to be:

* It's not animation, it stinks, and keep your cotton pickin' crumb grabbers off my artform. Or...

* It is animation, but it's not good animation.

There are two other positions people could take: that it's animation (or not animation) and it's okay or good. So far, there's only been two posts that opt for either of these categories.

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willryan
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Scroll down to the middle of this article to read what Zemeckis himself thinks:

"You’ll see such subtlety in the performance of these characters that you would have to have the genius-of-all-genius animators. In my opinion, there’s no animation in the world that could have created it."

You took the words right outta my mouth, Bob.

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Twedzel
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Some people have mentioned the use of facial capture... Anyone in the production know if they have actually been able to use it, or is this more ********? As far as I know facial capture systems have always failed miserably.
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rostrum
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the fine line between live-action,animation, FX and cinematography have all blured because of the recent advances in technology...
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Pigboy
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I would refer those interested in The potential "creepiness" factor of Polar Express to reference the earlier discussion about the "Uncanny Valley".

As far as "What is animation?" I've always considered it to imply frame by frame manipulation. Which means live action techniques(such as straight puppetry) don't count but pixelation (the frame by frame manipulation of human beings ala Norman McClaren's "Neighbors") does.

By this definition "Waking Life " is animated since individual live action frames were given a going over after being generated in live action. "Team America" is not based on the notion that they just filmed a puppeteers performance. If they went in and did wire removal frame by frame then I guess it would be.

No value judgements there, just a technical way of looking at things.

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Jennifer Hachigian Jerrard
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AICN criticized the technique of Polar Express, but has great praise for the film itself:
http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=18762

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Twedzel
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The generation of mocap data is captured performance but the application, clean up, and necassary major adjustments are definantly frame by frame. I've worked with it befor and I can safely say Mocap bridges both worlds.
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humanoid
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It's just amazing that once again the technology pimps of motion capture (vintage stephG term) are trying to "wow" us with this "amazing new technology" called "performance capture". Please. And It's just sad when BobZ and Hanks are out there telling us that this is beyond what animator could have done and how they saved the studio almost a billion dollars by doing this film "with digital environments". I mean they're talking about stuff that is not even new, as if it was. I don't know what to think. So much bs marketing about the technology and not the story.

h.-

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humanoid
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and yes, I'm hijacking my own thread...
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Jennifer Hachigian Jerrard
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quote:
So much bs marketing about the technology and not the story.
Hey, I remember when Beauty and the Beast came out and articles made much of the incredibly vast number of drawings required to bring the film to life and the major technological advance that the ballroom dance represented. I remember when Aladdin came out and articles cooed over the amazing technology used to paint a pattern on the magic carpet and the amazing use of CGI. Heck, I think even Little Mermaid articles gasped in awe at the huge number of painstakingly hand-painted cels used to create the film.

Marketing folks will try to get an audience to come into the theater by hook or by crook, and if curiosity will get the audience into the theater, the marketing folks will make the audience curious about the technological features that come with this year's new car model--I mean, animated film. [funny]

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Check out that AICN review that I posted earlier in this thread. A 4-year old kid was completely entranced by Polar Express from start to finish. This G-rated movie could appeal to parents of tiny children too young to see the PG-rated Incredibles.

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Twedzel
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I remember I did a segment for the 'making of' supplimental features for the Kingdom Hospital DVD. The first question out of their mouths, "What new technology did you guys pioneer to make Antubis a reality?". My answer, "nothing new, we just used a bunch of old techniques in good ways" definantly made the cutting room floor. They always go for that shinny new innovative bollshit.
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Russian Judge
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Twedzel, that's an old tune in Hollywood. One of the first critics I ever read, Ezra Goodman, once said that Hollywood had to choose between art and industry - and it always has called itself "the industry."

A lot of people are afraid of "art." Art cuts too close to the personal. But show them a new gimmick and they aren't scared, they're fascinated. Disney made a lot of money with their theme parks bragging about their "technological innovation and sophistication." Now that Eisner fired all the "Imagineers" and is buying his rides from the same people as everyone else, I expect fascination with Disney's parks to slowly decline.

Getting back to film, these "cutting edge techniques" have always been used to promise people they'll experience new things. Even cheap horror and science fiction movies did it. (The film "Matinee" perfectly captured this carny spirit of moviemaking.)

I wonder if "Polar Express" would have gotten better commentary if it had used RumbleRama (TM).

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Dickie Crickitts
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A lot of people are afraid of "art."

However, movies like Indiana Jones are truely artful and hold the attention of audiences with their craftful action scenes and suspense.

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Coffee Cat
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I don't care to argue over what is and is not animation...

I do think the "amazing" aspect of mocap is humorous, be it animation or not. Mocap makes things LESS amazing to me. I don't see how mocap is more thrilling than thousands of drawings, or any frame by frame animation.

I have a lot of respect for 3d cgi animators, and can't necissarily complain about the oddity that is the Polar Express... but the "amazement" escapes me entirely. Bill Plympton making features almost single handedly is more amazing to me.

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Russian Judge
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Dickie Cricketts, did you see what you said?

quote:
However, movies like Indiana Jones are truely artful and hold the attention of audiences with their craftful action scenes and suspense.
You said the films had "craftful" action. That's why they say "arts AND crafts" in school. Crafts are physical things that are made that aren't considered "arts" - a birdhouse made of popsickle sticks is not an expression of one's soul, but physical talents applied to something.

The film is "artful," but it isn't "art," because it doesn't call itself "art." Art always calls attention to itself and its artist...at least in the mind of the average person. To them, art is something "prideful" and therefore shameful to see or enjoy.

There's a lot of this thinking out there, believe it or not. How many of you folks who are artists were asked by your parents and friends, "So, you do art. Is there a lot of money in that?" To them, the fulfillment of your soul is nothing compared to the filling of your bank account.

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Twedzel
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I agree with you coffey, its not amazing... its barely even stimulating. I don't see the executive facination with promoting it so heavily in their commentary of the films. They think its the best thing since sliced bread that comes allready buttered. But realistically it is not a saving grace, its simply a tool that has its place in a special effects arsenal and not much of a place in animated film making. Its been around for ever. If you ask me, Peter Jackson and and the Weta crew knew how to use Mocap to its best performance. But that was live action and not a cartoon.
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Twedzel
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Interesting article on Hanks and the making of,

http://filmforce.ign.com/articles/564/564950p1.html

quote of the day,

"Q. Will you be involved in the Toy Story sequels Disney is planning without Pixar?

HANKS: I don't know. The creative team that put together the original Toy Story movies was very specific and quite organic, I think, to the success of the process, not that there aren't other talented people that would be involved. But I don't know. That would be a bridge to cross when I come to it…"

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Ray Pointer
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Animation has been with us for 90 years. And during that time, it has continually redefined itself. That is the magic of it. Regardless of
the technique, when we see it, we know instinctively what it is without having to analyze it. We know it when we see it.

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Ray Pointer

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humanoid
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Thank you Mr. Pointer! I like this logic.

When I see the Incredibles, I see animation... Oh glorious animation.

When I see PE... I see lifeless meat puppets.


h.-

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