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Renaissance/Interview with Mark Miance

Miance is credited with creating the original visual concept for what would become

Renaissance

. His visual design employs live action motion capture and computer animation rendered in high contrast black and white. Its neither the 3D computer animation of

Toy Story

, nor is it rotoscoping, which is photographing live actors and drawing over their image. Instead, its a stylish 2D black and white animation that plays like a graphic novel come to life. The look prompted director Christian Vlockman to fashion a futuristic noir tale of corporate espionage and crime.

Executive: A 22 year old woman with a bright future was abducted today, I view such crime as an attack on our entire corporation.

Renaissance (Miramax)

Set fifty years in the future, Renaissance serves up a Paris where skyscrapers collide with classic architecture, and all activity is monitored and recorded. Insinuating itself into everything is a mega-corporation called Avalon, which is supposedly in the business of keeping everyone young and beautiful. But we sense that Avalon has its fingers in a lot of pies. The company calls in Karas, a man known for his ruthless ability to find people, to locate the abducted woman who happens to be one of their top scientists. What Karas finds, however, is a nether world of corporate conspiracy and corruption.

Karas: Police! Freeze.

Renaissance benefits from advances in technology and the growing popularity of animation for adults. The film is sleek and sexy with a hard-boiled retro edge. Miance says it draws not only on past films like Blade Runner but also on contemporary graphic novels like Frank Millers Sin City .

MARC MIANCE: Its true that Frank Millers Sin City is one of our influences. Renaissance what we have tried to achieve is to put a camera directly in the comic books. I mean when you are reading a comic book you are seeing the characters moving with your brain and we have tried to go inside the comic book and to frame the movie directly inside it.

Sometimes this presented a technical challenge as in the high speed car chase.

Renaissance (Miramax)

MARC MIANCE: The car chase was a very complex sequence because you have interaction between acting sequence with the character in the car and big action with the car in the city.

Officer: Comon Karas move it!

MARC MIANCE: But that was a technical challenge much more than an artistic challenge. I have to say that for me the most complex moments of the movie is where youve got one or two characters and nothing happens, and theres some small movement and you need the emotion to go through the screen to the audience thats the most difficult moment in a CG movie.

In order to capture those emotions, Miance says they had to create new technology.

MARC MIANCE: One of the big things when you do framing for a close up is believable eye animation. When you do it traditionally frame by frame using an animator its very hard to achieve something which is good so we have developed in house technology to be able to capture the eye animation, the eye emotion directly on the actor so it is glasses that the actor puts on where we are able to record animation information from the eye and give it back to the character which would be in the movie.

Technology is moving filmmakers and their crews into a new virtual space that exists in the computer. When youre directing live action the actor, the lighting, the framing, and the photography are all captured at the same time on the set during filming. But not so in animation.

MARC MIANCE: When you are doing CG it is separated. You first focus on your actor performance on the stage then you get a step when you are doing the framing and editing then you get a step when the framing and editing are done and you are doing the lighting.

The term renaissance means rebirth, and the film Renaissance marks, if not a rebirth, at least a new developmental stage of animation, and a renewed vitality in French cinema.

Companion viewing: Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, The Fantastic Planet (1973 French animated film)

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