Say hello to Ed the Head. Ed is an animation project by accomplished Lightwave animator Chris Jones of Australia. He got his degree from Swinburne University of Technology and began as an illustrator of children’s books, before becoming an animator for the game company Infogrames.

Ed started as a rigging experiment, but Chris couldn’t resist adding textures and detailing.

The danger of animating human beings is two-fold. First, it’s hard to do it convincingly, because we are so familiar with what human beings are supposed to look like that even the slightest error will be spotted. Getting this close to the illusion is just begging for trouble. Fail in any respect, the appearance, the fine hairs on the skin, the way it moves, and the viewer becomes suddenly aware of being deceived, and what seemed magical becomes creepy. Secondly, it raises the question of what happens to the human actor in the equation if a simulacrum can be created in such convincing precision.

Is the time of flesh and blood actors over? An actor is still needed to deliver a performance. In the case of Ed here, that actor happens to be the animator, but we’re talking about the traditional plank-and-a-passion kind of acting here. To be honest, we don’t think there’s that much to worry about. While an animator can create a performance, it’s a tedious, laborious process, and it depends on somebody with a very high degree of technical ability that few possess in addition to fine acting ability. Surprisingly few animators have the kind of ability that Chris Jones demonstrates in today’s video. No, acting still requires, for the most part, actual actors.

It does not necessarily follow that acting will still require that the actors look good on camera, though. Actors will still be needed, but their voices and performances can now be lent to computer animated creations. Of course, getting a human being on screen acting is still going to be most easily done by pointing a camera at an actor. The difference between doing that and executing the technical incantations necessary to join a human’s performance with a computer animated avatar will still heavily favor the human actor, and probably will for a very long time to come.

That said, what Chris Jones did here is still shockingly cool to watch.  With some care, it’s clearly possible to avoid a visit to Uncanny Valley.

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