Manifesto: The Future of Character Animation

The future of computer games and animated films is not in spaceships or dragons or laser death rays, but rather in the mysteries of the human heart. What makes a relationship really work? What is the magic within human bonds of friendship, sexual chemistry, the intuitive understanding of why somebody has just told you the exact opposite of what they meant, and yet communicated to you the deeper truth beneath? We are moved by great performances, either live or animated, by the expression of the inner thoughts and emotions of the characters by the talent of the actor or animator.

Much of the 3D animation and gaming industry will soon be shifting to a new way to create and animate 3D characters.

Rather than being required to animate a character separately for each motion sequence, animators will be able to interact with software authoring tools that will let them train an Autonomous Digital Actor (ADA) how to employ various styles of movement, body language, techniques for conveying specific emotions, best acting choices, and other general performance skills.

Once properly trained, such an ADA will be able to take direction interactively from a non-animator, to play many different scenes while effectively conveying changing nuances of mood, personality and intention.

Directors will become accustomed to working with troupes of ADAs that can interactively play scenes together. These digital actors will be able to follow stage directions and sight lines, manipulate props, and effectively express the shifting relationships between characters in the scene.

These capabilities will lead to new styles of production practice that have the potential to shift the economics of character animation. The ability to impart skills to an ADA amounts to a new form of intellectual property. The animators who teach such skills, or the employers who pay those animators' salaries, will be able to sell and trade such I.P. to anyone who wishes to make animated movies and interactive entertainment.

Another consequence of this development is that animated movies and interactive media will begin to converge, both in their production practices and in their content, potentially evolving into new genres of interactive character-driven storytelling that can emotionally engage audiences in ways that cannot be achieved by either movies or games.

This trend may also lead to an explosion in user-created animated content, which could have a transformative impact on public venues for the distribution of user-created content such as YouTube.

 

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