Open Forum Friday: Should There Be an Oscar Category for Motion Capture?

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Recently we’ve been lamenting the fact that director Robert Zemeckis seems to be only interested in doing movies that use his patented “performance capture” technology — that is, movies like Beowulf, The Polar Express, and A Christmas Carol, where the actors’ movements and voices are recorded but then everything on screen is rendered with CG. It’s not so much that the technology doesn’t have potential, but the main issue is that he’s so focused on the tech that the actual stories aren’t necessarily compelling. Well, this week the folks over at Film Drunk found an interesting article where Zemeckis pushes for motion capture to be taken more seriously, particularly by the Academy Awards. The quote (translated from Spanish) is as follows:

“I’d say that the appropriate thing would be to create a new category, like when Walt Disney made the first animated movie. He got a special award since no one had ever done that.”

The statement seems a bit silly since we all know Zemeckis wouldn’t have much competition for the Oscar at this point in time, but it does bring up an interesting question. Is performance capture different enough from straight up animation or pure live action to qualify for its own category? And if not, which category does it belong in? Even the fact that Oscar nominees are placed in different categories based on their medium is a bit odd… it’s like saying that animated films and documentaries are a lesser art form and generally can’t compete alongside the live action films. Either way, I doubt this will change anything at the moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a new category if more mo-cap films start getting made. What do you think, does Robert Zemeckis have a good point, or is he completely out to lunch? Are you a fan of motion capture, and is it worthy of its own Oscar? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

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  • Justice

    It’s hard to remember this idiot made Forrest Gump and Back to the Future. He needs to get off his own dick on the Mocap and relearn how to make a movie with a story that keeps people interested.

  • MJS

    They already have that catagory, its called best animated movie. Zhemeckis might be using a different tool to make it, but the end result is an animated movie.

  • Nick Robertson

    If there was a category for it, he should NEVER win. Is it just me or does the rendering in Carol look terrible?
    I hate this motion capture bullshit, especially when it would be a lot easier to just make the movie with a camera. Like Beowulf and Carol… Why are they motion capture?
    Avatar I understand. Fuck you Zemeckis, I’m crediting Spielberg with BTTF trilogy from now on.
    Does he really think he’s helping to propagate the medium? You’re dragging it down!

  • Kasper

    Mocap is an artform that I hope die out again. All pure-mocap movies so far have been crap.

    Zemeckis is like the plague. I guess it was him who went crazy filming Cast Away and not Tom Hanks’ character.

  • Maopheus

    I would say that the category should be called best animated performance so that it would include voices for traditional animated movies. Considering that voices are recorded first for most animated movies and the actors’ performances are usually videotaped and used as references for the animation later on, in some ways you could call that old school motion capture.

  • If anything, he should get an award at the Oscars ceremony for technical advances in film. Not one of the main Oscars– not ever. I agree with most when they say mocap is absolute shit. Beowulf sucked and Polar Express looks incredibly awkward. Almost unwatchable.

  • Marc

    Mocap is an extension of CG and there for already has a category in the animation running.

  • Brendan

    I haven’t watched any of these movies that use mo-cap for the majority of the performance. I appreciate the technology, but whenever I see mo-cap CG in place of a human actor, I feel like I’m watching a video game cut scene instead of a movie. Maybe when the tech gets better, I’ll feel differently. But when I see things like Avatar, I think, “why can’t hey use real actors?” They could even use “digital” makeup instead of full motion captured cg characters and achieve the same effect, with a bit more realism because the majority of the performance would be a real actor.

  • Brendan

    Also, if such a category were to exist, shouldn’t a lot of the credit go the the animators? I suppose you could compare it to an actor who wins an award for a performance where they are wearing a lot of physical makeup (the make-up artist doesn’t really get a piece of the award) but it seems like, at this point, the technology still leans heavily on the CG animators to pull the performance together.

  • Falsk

    No. NO. NONONONO.

    The category that exists is Best Visual Effects. Maybe this needs to be expounded upon or something but… an Oscar for motion capture? That’s really fucking stupid.

  • Tyson

    No.

  • Paul Andrews

    I’d like to see Zemeckis win something for ‘most pointless remake’.

  • kyriakos

    How about Oscar for Best Kiss???

  • Maopheus

    Zemeckis should probably nominate himself for most irrelevant. He pretty much monopolizes the “mo-cap” genre which kinda tells you something. No one else is bothering to make similar kinds of movies. Mo-cap works best when used to enhance the animation of certain CGI characters like Gollum or King Kong but the whole movie shouldn’t be mo-cap.

  • kyriakos

    oy, new podcast please!

  • Goon

    they’re recording tonight kyriakos. check in the morning for your fix.

  • Goon

    I don’t think Zemeckis is irrelevant, its just that the movies he’s making aren’t good.

    And on one hand he’s pandering with his choices and his casting, and on the other hand the way he’s using the tech is kind of self indulgent and for his own playing around rather than the benefit of the viewer.

    It’s entirely possible this tech could turn into something much better and RZ would be seen as a very relevant pioneer.