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Animation techniques create Oscar quandry

Motion capture in animated and digital effects in live action films are raising issues about whether such work should be consistently recognized by the Academy Awards in the proper categories.

December 08, 2011|By Rebecca Keegan, Los Angeles Times

"To be a great dancer, to be a Savion Glover, you're born with an innate gift, and you're dancing from the moment you're on your feet," Miller said, explaining why he used the technique. "An animator sitting at a desk drawing is a lifetime skill as well. To have those two skills combined [in one person] is unlikely. And to have that in many people — which you need for scenes with lots of characters — is even more unlikely."

The rapidly changing technology creates a dilemma come award season, however. Is that kind of on-screen magic the work of an actor or an animator? Is it a visual effect, which should be honored by the visual effects branch? What about the sweeping cinematography in this year's animated films — should it be considered by the cinematographer's branch?

Consider the opening sequence in "Cars 2," a James Bond-esque action sequence that takes place on the open sea. The technique used to create the digital waves helped earn a visual effects nomination for the 2000 live-action film "The Perfect Storm."

"Because of motion capture and CG animation, there's a whole lot of new stuff in terms of how we make these films," said Jim Morris, general manager and executive vice president of production at Pixar. "Some of it gets down to how you want to define it and how you want to recognize it. But it brings up a lot of questions. The beautiful camera work that Steven Spielberg does in 'Tintin' or Gore Verbinski does in 'Rango,' that stuff hasn't been traditionally recognized by the cinematography branch. None of it's been recognized much by the production design branch. There is as much artistry in the cinematography and the production design of those movies as there is in any live-action film. We're confronted with changing times and changing technologies, and it always takes time for people to recognize that and honor it."

PHOTOS: Oscar hopefuls in animation

rebecca.keegan@latimes.com

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