Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Stop motion tested for 'Jurassic Park.'

Before deciding to switch to computer generated animation techniques, Spielberg original planned to use state-of-the-art stop motion animation for the movie 'Jurassic Park.' Often, when we thing of the traditional clay or model animation, we associate the styles with quite jerky un-realistic illusions:

Here is a fantastic stop motion animation produced by Ray Harryhausen for the 1963 film 'Jason And The Argonauts.' In my opinion, the way in which the skeleton animations interact with the live actors is an animation marvel even today. Back in the early 60s, this sequence, I imagine, would have been an immense achievement in movie special effects. Still though, some of the movements aren't fluid and the interactions with the live actors are still limited some what. If you jump to 4 minutes and 4 seconds in the above sequence, you can tell that the actor is being very reserved and thoughtful with his sword movements. This is likely because he is aware that a painstaking process of molding the skeleton figures frame by frame in to the sequence is yet to come, making his actions more reserved and less complex. For these reasons, it comes as no surprise that Spielberg was seeking something a little bit more cutting edge for his 1993 high budget feature. Bellow is a stop motion test for the Tyrannosaurus:

I believe that this animation is very impressive. It achieves a kind of realism you don't always get with shiny overly smooth computer images. The skin appears to stretch as the figure walks, which is a very life-like quality. Even the slight jerks in the movement do not take away from the realism, as we imagine an animals movement not to be perfectly smooth and flawless. Phil Tippet was responsible for this walk cycle, using his 'go motion' technique. This technique aims to create a realistic motion blur by instead of taking frame by frame stills, an animation sequence consists of small split second movements to eliminate the jerk we see in traditional stop motion.

So why did Spielberg switch to CG even after seeing this great looking walk cycle? Perhaps it was because the whole stop motion process is very painstaking and time consuming. Also, when working with computer images I imagine it would be much easier to go back and manipulate the animations and make changes.

It is a great shame that this 'go motion' process was not used in Spielberg's masterpiece. I think that the walk cycle looks highly effective and could easily stand up against, if not exceed the computer generated animations used in the final movie.

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