Zemeckis in motion at IBC

Praises digital process at confab

AMSTERDAM -- Performance capture carries the potential to liberate actors, director Robert Zemeckis said Sunday in a speech via satellite to the 2007 International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam.

He has used the technique, he said, in "The Polar Express" and "Monster House" as well as his upcoming Paramount Pictures release "Beowulf." He plans to use it for his Walt Disney Studios remake of "A Christmas Carol," starring Jim Carrey as Scrooge and the three ghosts.

"I love the ability to separate the technology from the performance," he said of performance capture, the process of digitally capturing an actor's movements and expressions. "Actors are able to perform without being under the tyranny of the technology."

"They love it," he said of the actors with whom he has worked. "They are able to just perform. They say it is like theater." As a result, Zemeckis suggested, the actor is liberated to accept a role regardless of gender, size or look.

From the director's perspective, he said: "It frees me to only pay attention to the character and the actor, not where the camera is going to be. ... I don't have to be concerned with the other details until later in the process."

Zemeckis stressed the distinction between performance capture and animation. "To call performance capture animation is a disservice to the great animators," he said. "They draw a performance one frame at a time. Performance capture uses everything that an actor does. It is digitized and translated to the scene."

He suggested using the capture technique for a project that can't be done in live action but shouldn't be made with animation.

The process is becoming more affordable, Zemeckis said: "Right now, making movies this way is for your top-line, big-budget Hollywood movies, but digital is getting less and less expensive. The costs have gone down from one movie to another. It's not going to be that cost-prohibitive."

Looking ahead, he said: "We are at a tipping point where we are very close to being able to create any image we can imagine. (Performance capture) allows for filmmakers to have control over their art."
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