Database for Animation Studies


Seeing Movement: On Motion Capture Animation and James Cameron’s Avatar

This article proposes that motion capture (mocap) animation relates movement to cinema in a unique way, in that rather than being a quality of the profilmic, in mocap animation movement is itself directly the profilmic. Motion capture records imagery consisting of data of a profilmic object’s positional change in space, rather than data of the object itself. Using this critical distinction between movement and object, the author argues that the experience of mocap changes the nature of the image so that it involves, or is, a specific sense of being, rather than seeing. Due to its thematic treatment of seeing as well as its own application of mocap technology, she also draws on James Cameron’s film Avatar (2009) as an illustration for this thesis on mocap and seeing/being. In the process, she revisits our experiences of seeing light when watching films and considers how mocap and the experience of movement change our engagement with cinema. This discussion is thus not only about our understanding of and interaction with the moving image, but also points to how we can understand movement and being, and the sum of our sensory experiences in the world of cinema ensconced in light and darkness.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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