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Performance Capture

Ready or not, Roger Zemeckis is bringing his "Performance Capture" technique to the Walt Disney Studios, but there is still a lot of uneasiness about the results. Is it animation? Will it ever be able to cross that last gap of the uncanny valley? Judging by this weekend’s box office, the public doesn’t necessarily care. Beowulf tops the charts.

The Animation Guild blog points out that animators have been doing "performance capture" for over 70 years. They called it "Rotoscoping". Even then the masters realized that animation was not about capturing life, but recreating the illusion of it.

"…whenever we stayed too close
to the photostats (actors were filmed then the individual frames were
used to trace over), or directly copied even a tiny piece of human
action, the results looked very strange. The moves appeared real
enough, but the figure lost the illusion of life. There was a certain
authority in the movement and a presence that came out of the whole
action,but it was impossible to become emotionally involved with this
eerie, shadowy creature who was never a real inhabitant of our fantasy

Not until we realized that photographs must be redrawn in animatable
shapes (our proven tools of communicating) were we able to transfer
this knowledge to cartoon animation.”

–Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. p. 323; Disney Animation – The Illusion of Life