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Cartoon Culture

Watch Dean DeBlois Explain Motion Capture to President Obama

During President Barack Obama’s visit to DreamWorks Animation on Tuesday, How to Train Your Dragon 2 director Dean DeBlois offered a quick demonstration of how they use motion capture at DreamWorks:

It’s not clear if Obama actually visited any animators to get a more accurate understanding of the animation process, but Katzenberg did present him with a short clip of an alien character animated to Obama’s voice:

  • Jonah Sidhom

    Must be a surreal experience meeting the President of the United States and being in a silly-looking jumpsuit. haha

  • Crazy Eyes

    whaa? Since when does dreamworks have a motion capture room? What do they use it for in their key frame animated films?

    • Garth

      It looks to be for the TV show of HTTYD. Probably a quick way to do it. It’s how Sid the Science kid is done as well….but with added facial puppetry. They can really speed through scenes/episodes this way.

    • Tony

      It seems to be mainly for reference, to get a base for the main body action. The animators would then tweak the action as they see fit. Notice that there are no sensors for the hands and face.

      • Kyle_Maloney

        If its just for reference why use mo cap at all? What what wrong with live action footage?

        • canimal

          Yep, just push some furniture around and pull out a camera phone… done

      • burymylovely

        no not tweak. start from scratch. There is no mocap in the final animation.

    • Tom

      Heck, Tin Tin and Polar Express used a lot of motion capture of the actual actors for how they animated the character movements.

    • canimal

      Not sure but I’m hoping they don’t rely on it too much.

    • fish

      The mocap stage is for layout purposes. The layout dept uses it to get rough anim quicker for their camera visualization efforts. When the production moves from layout to animation there is NO MOCAP USED.
      I repeat, it is ONLY used for layout purposes.
      Oh, and that clip you saw wasn’t for the dragon tv show.

      • Crazy Eyes

        I always thought Mocap was a director’s tool. It gives you a looseness and freedom to achieve an assembly of shots quickly. So i think it’s great they are taking advantage of the mocap to serve the animation process at dreamworks. It also gives more ownership to the director if he is out there on the floor with the camera gadget filming the shots himself.

    • Dreamworks Hollow-deck.

      Katzenberg found out he wasn’t wasting enough money on these productions….. So he installed a multi-million dollar motion capture studio at Dreamworks. Now, animators can strap on goofy looking suits, record their performances so that short-sighted Producers and Executives can ‘understand’ the creative process. Then the same Animators take off the suits, go back to their offices, throw away all the motion capture data, and re-animate the shots by hand.

      Its an incredibly efficient solution for wasting lots of time and money.

      Kudos Jeffrey….

  • Matt Norcross

    He fits right in.

  • canimal

    I remember somebody from Dreamworks (probably DeBlois) talking about how they were using some cool new technology for httyd2… so were they just referring to mo-cap? I guess I can understand them using it for a something like a fight scene but I’m not sure how I feel about it being used for scenes like the one in the clip…

    • Nate

      They use it for Staging/Layout. All animation in the final product is still 100% keyframe

    • Eric Swymer

      He may have been talking about the new software primo. It’s so cool.

      • canimal

        Oh really? What can you tell me about it?

  • Pedro Nakama
  • Derik

    I really hope there will be some black characters in httyd2. There was no other race but white people in the first one.

    • I think that’s because it’s in a European/Norwegian area in the middle of the ocean around 1000 BC. Just saying.

      • Derik

        I understand this argument, but I don’t believe they need to stay 100% accurate, since it’s based off a fake island, make believe people, and dragons. Even the names in the movie aren’t accurate to the names that real vikings would’ve had.

        • IJK

          But you act as if just having a black person would somehow make the story more engaging, better visuals, or change really any key notes that makes it “How to Train Your Dragon”.

          Why stop there? Let’s have new characters of all different races just because the last film didn’t have it.

        • Funkybat

          Honestly, I would consider inserting black folks into the HTTYD setting to be an annoying bit of PC tokenism if I saw it in the movie. Same thing if they showed up in Frozen. I didn’t expect to see any white people in Aladdin, and I didn’t. Nor did I expect to see afro-carribean folks in Mulan, and I didn’t. Have people from multiple backgrounds when the environment of the story permits is, such as The Princess and the Frog. New Orleans is a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual crossroads, and that was reflected. And no, it didn’t bother me that pretty much all the white people in that movie were depicted as buffoons, taking this stuff so seriously is a real wet blanket attitude.

        • …So you’re saying it would be LESS accurate to include black characters. I’m confused. While HTTYD does have its historical inaccuracies, that would completely throw my suspension of disbelief.

          And also read this for more: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BlackVikings It explains why it’s a bad idea.

    • canimal

      Djimon Hounsou is voicing a character, that doesnt necessarily mean they’ll make his character black but the fact that he has a distinct african accent makes it more of a possibility.

    • Toothless is black…right?


  • cckrad

    so what happened with the green shirts yesterday? anyone who was there gonna chime in? did anyone address it at the talk?

  • Mark

    I thought it was telling that even the president was compelled to recognize Jeffrey’s inflated ego. It’s so ironic to me…you have Dean Deblois there who is such a skilled artist demoing MOCAP – which is probably the antithesis of what his talents offer. Then, the bigger picture of them demonstrating technology that kills creative jobs in favor of technical ones. Obama’s speech really highlighted artistry and creativity as cornerstones of what we “transmit”; both of which are being supplanted by the very things Dreamworks chose to highlight. At least Obama is bright enough to know that story and empathy are key. Maybe one day Jeffrey will understand that too.