Theoretical Model (Abstract from my masters thesis)

A project log for Egor V.2 Robo-Animatronic

An intelligent adaptive automated robotic system

Carl StrathearnCarl Strathearn 05/27/2016 at 17:050 Comments

I am going to share this with you as it grounds the purpose of my practical work in theory.


Beginning with Tom Gunning’s theoretical model of cinema as a machine for creating optical visceral experiences, the core proposition of this study stipulates that pure CGI characters no longer have the ability to accurately simulate consciousness and materiality, or to meet the expectancies of the modern day cinematic audience. It has been claimed that the movement towards Hybrid systems (Motion Capture / Live action integration) provides a form of mediation between actuality and virtuality, adding depth 'soul / consciousness' and a kinaesthetic grounding of external operations in an attempt to solidify and reify the virtual image into something organic. However, it is suggested here that hybrid systems have problematic issues concerning inaccurate approximation of: surficial reflection, portrayal of additional appendages, incomplete character formation (interaction / performance) and encapsulating / staying true to an actor’s performance during editing. The imprecision of these elements become increasingly apparent over time - especially at close proximity, where it becomes discernible via the evolving critical eye of the average modern day cinematic observer.

This projection positions Hybrid systems not merely as mediation between physical reality and holographical dimensions but as a means of returning to the greater substantial and grounded animatronic character systems. Modern animatronic characters / puppets exhibit greater detailed aesthetic verisimilitude and organic simulative, external and internal operations at close proximity in comparison to the most advanced CGI and Hybrid systems as they are augmented via the parameters of the physical world. This research explores a possible return to animatronic special effects in the future of film as the primary medium for character creation, overtaking CGI and other virtual hybrid systems which lack the ability to propagate visceral optical experiences, fine detail / nuance and genuine/responsive characters to meet the evolving critical expectations of the cinematic observer. Technological advancements in animatronic interactive control systems allow accurate tracking of movement, autonomous extemporaneous expressions (programmable level), voice recognition: recording / response technology, exact precision of kinetic functions with meticulous coordination and the ability to continually repeat sequences of action. In addition to these properties there is potential postproduction value via adaptation (Interactive Rocket Raccoon, Guardians of the Galaxy 2014 promo: Tetsushi Okuyama). Further reinforcing this theoretical position, the film, Harbinger Down (2015) became the first successful publicly backed Kickstarter campaign for a cinematic feature to exhibit animatronic characters as the primary special effects medium (3,066, backers pledging $384,181). The major Hollywood production, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) has demonstrated a return to practical and animatronic special effects over the predominant modern orthodox virtual progression, grounding the possibility of an animatronic renaissance.