Sunday, December 19, 2010

CG versus Traditional: No contest

I'm frankly getting tired of people feeling hatred for CG animation. I understand where you guys are coming from, because you love traditional animation and don't want it to be replaced, but there's something you don't understand about CG.

The most ignorant of CG-haters seem to think that the computers animate for you. Like the days when the original Tron was new, there are those who consider using a computer to animate "cheating", as if it's at all easier to do. Let me tell you, I've watched lots and lots of making-of documentaries- especially for Pixar films- and the animation process is just like traditional, except you're using a computer cursor instead of a pencil, moving the model around like clay.

The same principles established by the Nine Old Men still hold true in CG animation. The most primitive CG animation (such as the video for "Money For Nothing") resembles stiff plastic puppets, because they couldn't make them move any more fluidly. It takes effort to apply squash-and-stretch and make the characters seem as malleable and flexible as real life, and create detailed texture- the models don't move for you, all on their own.
In fact, the only thing that's any easier in CG is foreshortening and perspective shots.

I've also seen people call CG "too perfect", or simply dislike the aesthetic. I don't understand where they're coming from. For one thing, traditional animation doesn't seek to be flawed, nor does CG seek to be flawless. Yes, there are inherent inconsistencies of proportion, perspective, and foreshortening in traditional animation- and I suppose you can find some charm in those errors- but those are hardly intentional.
I think the best example of classic cartoon physics and squash-and-stretch being used in a CG production is Horton Hears A Who, although I wouldn't blame you if you thought the adaptation of the book could be better.

I think the difference between CG and traditional is merely a matter of what materials are used- like the difference between using clay and wooden puppets- and the resulting look and feel of their respective processes. If you think there's an inequality of beauty and effort between them, then you're not paying attention.

And to be honest, I think it's about time traditional animation caught up with CG, when it comes to sheer spectacle, detail, and cinematography. I don't expect any traditional animation to look like da Vinci, but I think more tricky angles and such would make traditional more of a competitor these days. Maybe if The Thief and the Cobbler was properly released...

Oh, and the Robert Zemeckis animated features? You can still rant about those. Those have terrible texture...

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