21 Days of Oscar – Motion Capture Performances

neytiri.jpg Neytiri image by MyPlaceboEffects

An interesting thing about Avatar is that despite it getting 9 nominations at this year’s Academy Awards it has not received a single nomination for its actors. In fact not a single one of its actors has received a nomination at any awards ceremony. While one can argue that the performances in Avatar simply aren’t good enough to garner nominations, some had actually been campaigning for Zoe Saldana to receive an Academy Award nomination for her performance as Neytiri.

A producer of the film, Jon Landau stated that, “We made a commitment to our actors that what they would see up on the screen were their performances, not somebody else’s interpretation of what their performance might or might not be.”

No one can deny that Avatar has expertly used motion capture technology to create incredibly lifelike characters. However, can we say that an actor who is dressed in a motion capture bodysuit can really give the same kind of performance as an actor whose performance is not plugged into a computer and manipulated with computer graphics? I think not. A motion capture performance just seems too different from a standard acting performance. So in my opinion Zoe Saldana did not deserve a nomination…for Best Actress. What I propose the Academy do is to include two new categories to its Awards Ceremony, these would be something along the lines of “Best Motion Capture Performance by an Actor” and “Best Motion Capture Performance by an Actress.” Of course it will take a few more years for motion capture technology to become so prevalent in the industry that there will be enough performances in a given year to nominate.

Film professor Richard Brown has argued that, “what we need to do is expand our concept of what the word ‘actor’ means. It’s unfair to take performances as good as these and not designate them as actors.”

Perhaps one day Zoe Saldana will be given credit for her work in Avatar and who knows, maybe even Andy Serkis will be recognized for his fantastic portrayal of Gollum in Lord of the Rings.

gollum-and-the-precious.jpg Gollum and the Precious image by GodWillNspire

File:Neytiri cries.jpg

Here’s an example of how motion capture technology works:

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