Empathy and Emotion in Computer Animation

The concept of human motivation in CG character verses that of a skilled method actor, speaks to a central issue of computer graphics. Namely, how do animators convey genuine emotion when there is no inherent emotional depth (from a CG character). In fact, the CG character is nothing but a wire-framed shell. The surface of the character is less than skin deep. There are no experiences or emotions for the character to draw from to create a genuine, emotive performance. The CG character is a puppet and the animator the puppeteer. In computer graphics (as a technology dependent, creative medium) it is inherently difficult to portray genuine emotions. Yet when an outstanding animated performance is married to classic cinematic principles the emotive power of animation particularly in the synthesis of lighting, sound, gesture, expression and character performance can be genuine and powerful. Although, not yet equal to a brilliant live-action performance from an actor, in terms of the depth of emotion and the apparent spontaneity of a performance.

Author(s): John Balfour McIntosh

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