Database for Animation Studies


Collaboration without Representation: Labor Issues in Motion and Performance Capture

Classical film theory topics, such as the divide between live action and animation, the definition of cinematic performance, and the configuration and impact of the star system continue to shape – while also being reshaped by – discourse on animation labor in the digital age. Focusing on motion capture in contemporary Hollywood, the first part of this article historicizes and examines the diminishment of the animators’ contribution to this filmmaking process in promotional materials and public discussions, and the accompanying overemphasis on the star persona’s performance. In doing so, it aims to contextualize and shed light on the practices and imperatives that determine current labor policies and power dynamics in the industry. The second part introduces questions of gender relations and gender-based hierarchies of representation into the discussion of motion and performance capture’s labor climate. In order to highlight and reflect on the ambivalence of the motion capture industry’s labor politics, it offers a feminist reading of a distinct, yet related form of disenfranchisement in motion-capture filmmaking, namely digital voyeurism and the objectification of the female performer in films such as Beowulf (Robert Zemeckis, 2007) and Avatar (James Cameron, 2009), and video games such as Beyond: Two Souls (Quantic Dream, 2013). Finally, by highlighting such interrelated policies of marginalization and erasure of labor, the author aims to emphasize the inadequacy of describing motion capture as a collaborative process and to call for a reconceptualization of the critical approaches towards its study.

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Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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