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Motion Capture

Is motion-capture acting really acting?

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As everything else, filmmaking and its process evolves over time. One way in which it is currently evolving is through the art of motion capture acting. Though motion capture acting has been revolutionary, starting in films like Lord of The Rings, it has grown tremendously over the years. It has now become a steady tool in movies such as Avatar. It is also much easier to work with than it originally was, now flexible with the set –a quality it did not have originally. Many people are claiming that the actors putting in the work are not getting the credit they deserve after Andy Serkis, noted for his motion capture roles in films from Lord of The Rings to Rise of The Planet of The Apes, was twice overlooked for an Oscar nomination.

Lord of The Rings has won a grand total of eleven Oscars and Avatar won four, it is no accident that the actors utilizing motion capture are being overlooked, even for nominations. There is clearly becoming a gap separating opinion on motion capture acting. Opinions lying on opposite sides of the fence: you either love it or you don’t. Interestingly enough, the gap is not one created by age-difference or the ideals of old film traditions verses new ones. The central contention lies between the popular opinion of audiences and opinion of academy members. So goes the million dollar question, why are academy members so against motion capturing acting? The question boils down to this: many question if the cross between animation and real life acting can really be considered acting. They would probably agree with Jeremy Renner– “Some movies are actors’ kind of movies and some movies are more directors’ movies. ‘Avatar’ is a spectacle. It’s a beautiful experience, but it’s not really an actors’ kind of movie. It doesn’t really allow for an actor to truly tell a story. The director’s telling the story in that one.”

So what is next for motion capture acting? One compromise being promoted thus far is for motion capture acting to have its own category at the Oscars. But that doesn’t suit all. Andy Serkis responds with this: “What’s fantastic is that there’s a real growing appreciation for performance-capture technology as a tool for acting. Over the years, people have asked me, ‘Do you think there should be a separate category for acting in the digital realm? Or hybrid sort of awards for digital characters?’ and so on. And I’ve always really maintained that I don’t believe so. I think it should be considered acting, because it is. My part in it, what I do, as say the authorship of the role, the creation, the emotional content of the role, the physicality up until the point of delivering that for the director, it is acting.”

Written by Amy Olson, NFFTY Intern

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