Spielberg Talks About the Technology and Art of Tintin

The last time we talked about Steven Spielberg's upcoming 3D motion-capture film The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, we lamented the fact that although the film is complete, it would take approximately two years for the computer animation of the film to be fully completed. Now, thanks to an article in the Los Angeles Times, we have a better understanding of why Spielberg is adamant that animators take their time with Tintin and why he was so excited to use James Cameron's revolutionary performance-capture technology.

If you are a fan of The Adventures of Tintin, one of the things that most likely stands out in your mind is the comic's signature ligne claire style of illustration. In bringing Tintin to the big screen, Spielberg wanted to make sure that he preserved this style as much as possible.

From the LA Times article:

"It was based on my respect for the art of Hergéand wanting to get as close to that art as I could," says the director, referring to Tintin's author-illustrator, who created the international blockbuster graphic novel series (200 million copies in print) starring intrepid cub reporter Tintin, and his irrepressible canine companion, Snowy, as they venture through the pre-WWII world.

"Hergé wrote about fictional people in a real world, not in a fantasy universe," Spielberg said. "It was the real universe he was working with, and he used National Geographic to research his adventure stories. It just seemed that live action would be too stylized for an audience to relate to. You’d have to have costumes that are a little outrageous when you see actors wearing them. The costumes seem to fit better when the medium chosen is a digital one."

The article goes on to describe how Spielberg took great pleasure in using James Cameron's performance-capture technology, which allows the director to see his actors perform in real time as digital replicas, and why he equates it to painting.

"It made me more like a painter than ever before. I got a chance to do so many jobs that I don’t often do as a director. You get to paint with this device that puts you into a virtual world, and allows you to make your shots and block all the actors with a small hand-held device only three times as large as anXbox game controller.

When Captain Haddock runs across the volume, the cameras capture all the information of his physical and emotional moves. So as Andy Serkis runs across the stage, there’s Captain Haddock on the monitor, in full anime, running along the streets of Belgium. Not only are the actors represented in real time, they enter into a three-dimensional world."

While Avatar has divided audiences in terms of story quality (I for one loved it), very few people are arguing over how impressive the film's performance-capture technology was. In my opinion, beyond the film's massive action sequences, Cameron's technology allowed for the most natural and realistic looking mo-cap performances that we've ever seen. The fact that Spielberg, who is already fairly brilliant at working with actors, has been able to delve even deeper into the directorial process through this technology is a great thing that will make Tintin a much better movie than it could have been as few as two or three years ago.

What do you think? Does Spielberg's description of filming Tintin make you excited to see the film? Is James Cameron's performance-capture technology a good thing for movies?

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secrets of the Unicorn is scheduled to hit theaters in 2011. The film is expected to premier internationally first, in late October/early November, and then on December 23rd in the United States.

Source: LA Times

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