Sunday, January 29, 2012


Steven Spielberg appeared to be surprised when The Adventures of TINTIN was announced as the winner of the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film.  Perhaps  because he had directed the live actors who created most of the action of the film (some say 70%) and he knew that the role of the WETA Digital animators in New Zealand was secondary. So secondary, in fact, that he didn’t even mention them in his acceptance speech.
    The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was better informed and did not nominate TINTIN in the animation category, which was a relief.  That it wasn’t nominated in any category except Best Music, was also a relief, given that it in no way reproduced the splendid art it was based on: 

     In this very interesting video of the making of TINTIN we can see how the mocap was done and we can see Spielberg directing the actors with the WETA dashboard which showed him the digital sets where software simultaneously transformed the actors into the CG characters in real-time MoCap
    Since mocap suits for dogs seem unlikely, we can assume that Milou was key-frame animated in CGI, as were the vehicles. Smoothing and beautifying the images was done mostly by digital artists, facial motion capture artists and visual effects technicians. Some of the actors' captured action, as well as movement of clothes, tails etc. was tweaked or improved by digital animators. There are very few animators mentioned in the credits because the action is created by actors, not animators.
MOCAP is motion captured by actors in moCap suits,     PERFCAP is more subtle facial performance captured by little sensors on the face and facial cameras (see top photo).

    The New Zealand WETA animation crew
     Some journalists and producers mistakenly think that action produced by actors is “more natural” than action produced by animators and have suggested that animators need actors to do the action so they can copy it. Animators know that this is not the case, that they can reproduce any action without live-action reference. But the animation process is long and costly which is why mocap exists: it’s quick and cheap and we’re probably going to see a lot more of it.  Actors in mocap suits produce the action much faster than any kind of animation but without CG artists tweaking, smoothing and providing overlap action, mocap action looks unnatural and spastic. Even though digital artists and animators are involved, mocap is not animation
, it’s a hybrid process with none of the grace and charm of hand-drawn or even CG animation.  It’s techno/acting with a little CG animation and a lot of visual effects.
PS - It’s interesting to see how Spielberg got around the Uncanny Valley  effect, by editing very fast, having few close-ups and those few were usually in shadow.   In case you're wondering how to tell the difference between CGI and mocap films, the one with the more wooden faces and the unnatural movements is the mocap.                           

Sunday, January 15, 2012


I bought these champagne flutes because they looked good on the shelf.  From above, you couldn’t see that the body of the glass was too long, much longer than the stem and too wide too.  I was mainly concerned with finding glasses that didn’t have a lip around the top.  I like a clean feel when I take a sip so I can concentrate on the wine not the glass and these German-made glasses didn’t have a thick lip.
    It was only when I poured wine into them and took a sip that I noticed that, because the stem was so short my hand was right next to the glass, a proximity which causes the wine to warm to the temperature of your skin, not a good thing when you're drinking champagne and which is why wine glasses have a stem and a foot in the first place, to keep hand heat from altering the delicate aroma and bouquet.  Besides, a long-waisted glass doesn't look elegant.

       As I tilted the glass to sip, I also noticed that, by the time the wine reached my lips, my nose was touching the opposite side of the glass. Because the body of the flute was so long and so wide at the bottom and so narrow at the top, it resulted in unwanted nose contact. This is not good.  I also discovered that this overly long glass is hard to clean, you can’t get all the way down to the bottom with your fingers and a brush is too wide to enter the narrow top.
        Fiddle-dee-dee, you might say, a wine glass is a wine glass,  wine is wine.  You can drink wine out  of a tin can.  But that would be wrong.  A properly designed glass is an important part of the thrill and delight of tasting fine wine.  The reason for narrow champagne flutes is that a wider glass would permit more bubbles to escape and the wine to warm faster.   Two reasons why champagne coupes were abandoned.

    Form follows function is the first rule of any design.
    When your tongue expects the fresh explosion of green grapes and a tingle of bubbles but instead it’s your nose that gets hit by the opposite side of the glass, it’s a bit of a shock rather than a pleasant taste experience. 
    You want your champagne flute not to have a distractingly thick lip, to be fairly straight and narrow and to have and a nice long stem so the delicate nectar stays cold longer and the bubbles bubble longer. Yes, you’ll need to refill more often but the wine will be cold and bubbly, instead of warm and flat. 
    Besides, a well-proportioned glass is a pleasure for the eye and the hand as well as the tongue and the throat and makes a nice sound when you flick it with your fingers.

Sunday, January 1, 2012


Michel - The death of a friend. 
Animation for Amateurs - How it's done.     
More Than Groceries - Managing with heart.
Love in the Movies - Valentine's Day.
Has Pixar Lost its Touch? - Guest post BY John Lechner.
Animation at the Oscars - Animation doesn't need a separate Oscar category.
Real Men Eat Chocolate - The feminisation of chocolate.
Los Angeles Traffic - Take me to your Honda. 
The Lion King - Why you should see this wonderful animated film.
What Kind of Mother? - Mothers' Day. 
Mesdames les Misogynes - Debout les fran├žaises! 
Walt Disney Studios  - Photos of the studio lot.
Behind the Blue Hat - Photos of the inside of Disney animation.
New blog ‘ANIMATED’ A NOVEL - Excerpts, out-takes, notes on my novel 
Tintin and the Uncanny Valley - Mocap is not animation.
Writing for Animation - Storyboarding is a form of writing.
Into The Streets - Occupy something.   
Is Hollywood Animation a Boy’s Club? - Sexism in animation.