With the 90th Academy Awards ceremony less than a week away, Dan Sarto, publisher and editor-at-large of Animation World Network, spoke with our head of Animation and Visual Effects Bill Kroyer, and four-time Oscar-winner/Chapman Pankey Distinguished Artist Richard Edlund, to discuss whether CG character performances deserve Academy Award consideration. Writes Sarto: “Advances in CG technology have provided VFX houses with unprecedented creative tools and computing horsepower, which studios have harnessed more and more effectively in the production of realistic fully digital characters, including photorealistic humans. Which brings us to the inevitable point in time where the entertainment industry finds itself confronting the very definition of an “acting performance” and whether or not digital character performances can, and more importantly should, be judged by the same criteria as human character performances are when awards season comes calling.” In terms of awards consideration for these performances, Kroyer calls for an open dialogue between the industry and established/new Academy members centered around an ongoing education of advancements in the field and what that means for the future of film.

Here’s a snippet of what they had to say:

Writes Sarto: Edlund also raises the issue that the CG revolution has fundamentally changed all filmmaking, making it harder and harder for everyone to fully comprehend the extent of a film’s digital elements. He notes, “It was different in the analog era because it was a little bit easier to see what was what. But, it’s gotten to the point now where the work is so transparent that even people in the business, the visual effects practitioners, can’t figure out how it was done, what was done, what’s real and what isn’t.”

For Kroyer, the key to any change in the Academy’s consideration of digital characters and new, technology-driven film performances, is patient and informed dialogue. He explains, “Where things are actually heading right now is examination and discussion. I mean, this [area of discussion] is absolutely on the table. Very few people know all sides of these issues. So, what we’re trying to do at the Academy is educate all the pertinent branches on each other’s feelings and disciplines and have this discussion. Because absolutely…the time has come to do it.”

While Academy membership skews younger each year, there are still many older members who are less familiar with recent technological advances in filmmaking that to many, including Edlund, seem to dominate contemporary movie making. For Kroyer, educating these less tech-savvy members is part of the Academy’s examination process. “Admittedly, a lot of the Academy members are older. This new technology stuff is all really unfamiliar to them, But, what we found in other areas, is once you educate people and get them familiar with what’s going on, they’re much more likely to make decisions that reflect the new information. So right now, I see a ‘wait and see, convince me’ kind of attitude. As the Academy’s membership gets younger and more educated [on the technology of filmmaking], I think they’re much more open to this and they don’t out of hand dismiss things.” 

Read the article in its entirety on Animation World Network here.