Blurring The Lines: The Case for Motion Capture in the Oscars

Gollum. The character that started in all.

Portrayed by English actor, Andy Serkis, Gollum was the first character in film history to have been portrayed by motion capture performance. Andy Serkis, decked out in a full body suit, provided the voice, facial expressions and the movements for the Gollum character. His work was met with critical acclaim. With the advent of motion capture becoming increasingly prevalent in films, there has been a call for the Academy to recognize motion capture in the Oscars. Some call for action, others aren’t even sure where the character creation even begins.

You can take for example, the incredibly dismissive words of Amid Amidi, as the man takes credit away from the actors who are providing the emotional template for the character performances, and instead says it is the starving artists who are creating these rich characters we see on screen. The animators are vital, undeniably so. The work wouldn’t exist without them, but is it fair to write the actor out completely?

Serkis himself isn’t wholly in the right either. In this interesting little interview by Meredith Woener for io9, Serkis says that the actors “author” there performances. Now that seems a little unfair. He doesn’t outright dismiss the animators role in character creation, but he does seem to cheapen it, even if its unintentional.

So if both sides have friction with each other, where does the Academy stand in on this? Well, thats a tricky area. No one seems to have a clean cut answer on the issue. One of the definitive voices on the debate I’ve found is Mark Mill’s stance on “No”. In the post, Mills writes

“Merriam-Webster’s definition of acting is: “the art or practice of representing a character on a stage or before cameras.” This is exactly what Serkis does. He creates a voice, expressions, mannerisms and a style of moving that allows the audience to feel they are watching say Gollum. Motion-capture performance is a sub-set of acting not an alternative to it.”

It’s a solid argument, but not enough to sate the public who want recognition for the motion capture, or as its alternatively called, performance capture. I do believe the advent of a new category, one that awards the lead animators and actor, is good enough. It’s a new form of movie acting, and character creation. It’s the perfect blend of digital effects and full body acting, “Best Digital Performance” is what it can be called.

Maybe that’s all we need.


2 thoughts on “Blurring The Lines: The Case for Motion Capture in the Oscars

  1. I honestly had no idea about this issue! You included a lot of information and the links helped me a lot to grasp the whole issue. great post.


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