In a follow-up to a front page story in the Los Angeles Times entitled “’Avatar’ stirs an animated actors debate in Hollywood,” the paper’s Rachel Abramowitz posted this interview with Steven Spielberg on his use of motion capture in his The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, which utilizes the same technology James Cameron did in Avatar. The comments of Spielberg, who has played an important role in nurturing the current animation renaissance, are indicative of why mocap has proven so attractive to live-action directors:
For the director … the new experience was transporting.
“I just adored it,“ he says. “It made me more like a painter than ever before. I got a chance to do so many jobs that I don’t often do as a director. You get to paint with this device that puts you into a virtual world, and allows you to make your shots and block all the actors with a small hand-held device only three times as large as an Xbox game controller.”
With that small monitor, Spielberg could look down and watch what the actors were doing — in real time — on a screen that showed them in the film universe. Working on the motion-capture stage — which is called the volume — Spielberg was routinely dazzled by the liberating artistic value of the new science.
The Los Angeles-based iotaCenter, an organization “devoted to Abstract Cinema and Visual Music,” now has a YouTube channel where a number of otherwise unavailable films can be seen. These include Len Lye’s pioneering experiment in cameraless animation: A Colour Box; this was his first film in which he painted directly onto film, a technique process which today is more closely identified with Norman McLaren. The film was made in 1935, but John Grierson later arranged for the GPO Film Unit to reissue it in 1937 with a blurb for the General Post Office appended, which is the version posted above.
Below is Permutations (1966), John Whitney’s lovely computer/optical printer film done at UCLA under a grant from IBM. Whitney is one of the true pioneers of computer animation, whose work is probably most familiar from the digital graphics created for Saul Bass’ title sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958); among Whitney’s disciples was Bob Abel, whose Robert Abel and Associates famously worked on Tron (1982).
This is by way of an overdue update on Tinga Tinga Tales, the Kenyan animated TV series I reported here on June 30th. The series (see trailer above) has begun broadcasting on the CBeebies,(Children’s BBC) (those living in the UK can see past episodes here). In the meantime, check out this BBC story on the studio here.
Thanks to Cartoon Brew.