Monday, 27 April 2009

Lev Manovich discusses the icons of memesis

In an article entitled: 'Reality' effects in computer animation, Lev Manovich discusses what he calls, the icons of memesis.

To suggest the idea of progress of computer graphics towards realism, researchers privilege particular subjects that culturally connote the mastery of mimetic representation.

Historically, the idea of mimesis has been connected with the success in illusionistic representation of certain subjects. The original episode in the history of Western painting is the story of the competition of Zeuxis and Parrhasiuss. The grapes painted by Zeuxis symbolise his skill to create living nature out of inanimate matter of paint. Further examples in the history of art include the celebration of the mimetic skill of those painters who were able to simulate another symbol of living nature - the human flesh.

While the painting tradition had its own iconography of subjects connoting mimesis, moving image media relies on a different set of subjects. Steven Neale (1985) describes how early film demonstrated its authenticity by representing moving nature:

"What was lacking [in photographs] was the wind, the very index of real,
natural movement. Hence the obsessive contemporary fascination, not just with movement, not just with scale, but also with waves and sea spray, with smoke and spray".

Computer graphics researchers resort to similar subjects to signify the realism of animation.

This search for realism is associated more with 3D animation than 2D animation; as there seems to be a quest for more and more realism
within 3D, whereas within 2D there is more of a blend of traditional and digital skills. This perpetual pursuit for realism within 3D, doesn't always work with the viewer as they can feel unnerved by this ultra realism within animation, edging towards the perverse feeling within the 'uncanny valley'. Beowulf (2007) has been attributed with this phenomenon, as the prominent actors, such as Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie and Ray Winstone have been emulated through 3D animations with the use of Motion Capture. There is a debate as to whether some animators consider Motion Capture as 'animation', and a big debate as to whether this animation is ultra realistic or not. Half of a group of students who went to see this film at imax, thought it was absolutely amazing and half thought it was awful. Some thought that although the CGI was realistic, it was also soulless. There was confusion with the realism and the awkwardness of the 'acting'. As the characters were so realistic, more was expected of the 'acting', and this was why they interpreted the characters as impassive and wooden - because their expectations were higher due to the animation being closer to reality than they are accustomed to. Ultimately, this led to an element of disorientation when viewing the animation.

I do not agree with the concept that Motion Capture is not animation, because the animators work tremendously hard on animating into the captured footage in order to achieve the final product, but I have to agree that the characters do come across as soulless. The human attribute that is so elusive...... the spirit of the individual will continue to be problematic for the animators to capture, whilst attempting to create this sought after hyper realism.

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