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Noir comes to life in animation hybrid

September 18, 2006|Susan King

Film noir meets motion capture in the French computer-generated animated film "Renaissance," which arrives Friday at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A.

Set in Paris in 2054, the black-and-white thriller revolves around the kidnapping of a young female scientist from a company that exports products promising eternal youth and beauty. A hard-nosed detective, who has built a reputation of being able to find anyone, is put on the case.

The voices are supplied by the newest James Bond, Daniel Craig, Romola Garai and Catherine McCormack.

"Renaissance" is the brainchild of director Christian Volckman.

"I always dreamed that I could do something with taking painting to animation or putting movement into painting," he says. "I come from an art school, which is more toward graphic design and painting. But I loved animation since I was little -- not so much cartoons, but the experimental stuff, like what Ralph Bakshi did with 'The Lord of the Rings.' "

Volckman made a short animated film in college, "The Guinea Pig," which led to him doing animation for music videos. But he soon found himself handcuffed creatively.

"Even if you don't like the songs, you have to do something on it," he says. "You always have to make the singer the main interest."

So Volckman joined with producer Aton Soumache, who was a school friend, to form their own company. Volckman then spent three years making the animated short "Maaz," which received awards from 32 international festivals. A sci-fi drama, it was shot in 16 millimeter on blue screens with real actors. Then Volckman used a computer program to digitally paint each frame.

While "Maaz" was touring the festival circuit, Volckman met animator Marc Miance, whose Attitude Studio would give "Renaissance" its unique look.

"He had done some tests in black-and-white of motion-capture sessions," Volckman says. "I saw those images, and I fell in love. For me, it was like a way to put painting on screen without the brush strokes or complicated, image-by-image [digital painting]. It was a 3-D black-and-white rendering of graphic art.

"So then it was just finding the energy to find people to work with -- scriptwriters and animators and anything else that is needed in 3-D motion capture."

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-- Susan King

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