Are Digital Characters with Expressions Possible? And Why Should You Care?

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SentientPixels would like to announce the release of Kyra, a film essay in a promising new genre: Realistic Digitally Created Movie.

SentientPixels would like to announce the release of Kyra, a film essay in a promising new genre: Realistic Digitally Created Movie

Realistic Digitally Created Movie (also confusingly called 3D or CG) appeared on the scene a few years back with the release of Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within but since then, have been ignored like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the room. Digital Movies are a momentous development in the art of cinema that is practically going unnoticed. Yes, there is a buzz amongst the people who work in the field, but the general public is pretty much unaware of their existence and totally confused about the nature of the medium.

This medium is not animation. It's not conventional cinema. It's not just slick special effects or weird monsters. It is the birth of a totally brand new medium in its own right: a medium where you can actually reconstruct a reality from your own imagination. For a director, this is terrifying, and unbelievably exciting.

The progress in motion pictures, through its century of existence, was about one thing: controlling what the spectator sees and hears, and using that control to better communicate what the authors want to express. From Griffith, Gance, and Eisenstein, through Welles and Kurosawa, to Spielberg, Lucas, Scott, Jackson, and Cameron, artists and technicians have contributed advances to the control of film's various aspects: staging, camera work, editing, makeup and costume, sets, special effects, and sound. These were giant steps in the right direction, but now, there is a new kid on the block: Realistic Digitally Created Movies.

With Digital Movies, the creators can control absolutely everything… and can do absolutely anything. The author can actually reconstruct reality from his own imagination.

For a director, this is terrifying, and unbelievably exciting. Only a few brave souls have tried their hands at this so far. For their courage, Sakaguchi and Zemekis (Beowulf) deserve our unmitigated admiration, and so do their producers.

But more directors and producers need to get into the game. More films need to be made and more commercial successes achieved for the public to really take notice of this new medium.

Filmmakers have only started to exploit the infinite possibilities of Digital Movies. Yes, it has brought the dinosaurs back to life. Yes, it has created dream worlds and weird creatures. Yes, it has realized slick and impossible special effects. But filmmakers are only scratching the surface. What is needed are great scripts, it goes without saying, but also original design and concepts.

But more importantly, what is needed are better, more complex, more subtle, and more compelling virtual characters. When filmmakers learn to create real human beings, the medium will explode.

SentientPixels is presenting Kyra to prove that indeed digital characters with expressions that have sincerity, intensity, and subtlety are possible. The aim in making this film was to create a realistic character with emotions. Kyra was created trying not to cheat and the authors elected to create a young woman (because young women are more difficult than males or older people: less wrinkles to hide the faults), to design her as normal girl (no heavy makeup or incredibly long legs), to put her in an everyday situation (again, more difficult than fantasy situations), to shoot her in close-up and fully lit (no cheating in the dark), and to write a script that makes her go through a gamut of emotions in a short amount of time (not just a walk-on but a real performance) . This was not gratuitous bravado. The aim was to see how far it is possible to go in creating a believable human being.

Quality will not come from better technology alone. What technology can give us are better tools. Mainly technicians and artists need more immediate feedback in modeling, texturing, lighting, and animating… and, one day, hopefully, a better, simpler, less obtrusive, more precise mocap.

But the best technology in the world will not create more realistic human beings, more sincere emotions, more expressive movements, or more drama and intensity. Only skilled technicians and talented artists will do that.

SentientPixels is now looking for a backer/producer/investor who believes, like we do, in the extraordinary potential of "digital movies" to realize a commercial venture: short film, advertisement, or movie (have scripts, will travel).

So if you are intrigued by the whole idea, take a few minutes, GO To, and meet Kyra… the next generation of virtual characters.

    Jean Lafleur
    jeanlafleur @
    Canada 514-848-0810


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