Interview with Marc Miance of Attitude Studios
by Josh Green
July 27, 2006
While out at Comic-Con 2006 in San Diego, FirstShowing.net took a few minutes to meet up with Marc Miance of Attitude Studios to discuss his inspiration behind the visual concept of the film Renaissance and his work at Attitude Studios. Marc co-founded Attitude Studios and is credited as providing the original visual concept for the film Renaissance and helping its animation process at Attitude. He's always been fascinated with the combination of cinema and digital images and Renaissance is the first feature film (in addition to Sin City, A Scanner Darkly, and A Waking Life) of its kind to use motion-capture conversion to animation and an incredibly unique visual style. Marc is an exciting individual with an incredible vision that has opened many possibilities for the future in cinema.
Or read the transcript of it below:
FirstShowing: Can you give us a background on how you started and what it is you currently do with Attitude Studios?
Marc Miance: I used to be a graphic artist, my name is Marc Miance. I was the original visual concepter of the Renaissance movie and I'm also the founder of an animation studio called Attitude Studio. I started Renaissance in '97 doing the first picture, and it takes a while to find the right producer and right the director and person to do the movie. Attitude Studios started in 2000 with my two partners Sandrine Nguyen and Boris Herzog.
FS: What are your own comic and non-comic inspirations for the look?
MM: I think that Renaissance has a lot of different influences. For sure its main influences are from US comic books; Sin City is one of them. But also European comic books like Super Asia (?) is one. Everything [sort of is a] big picture of black and white drawings in Europe. And then I have two sets of Japanimation, [which] is also a big one in Renaissance. Both on the technology side because I mean technology is better; and has been shown a lot in Japanimation movies. But also because Japanese people are used to [being at] adjunct audience movies with animation [for] about 15 years, which is something we didn't do in Europe and that we don't do in the US. That was very exciting for us to see that [there were so many] successful movies in Japan for an adjunct audience and [we tried] to do the same thing with Europe and [Renaissance].
FS: What film styles influenced this movie?
MM: The main inspiration for Renaissance, in terms of style, comes from film noir from the US in the 30's and 40's. But we want to do it in a… in taking a clichÃ© character of film noir and put it in the stories that were based a futuristic city.
FS: What is the process in which the film gets translated into the final animation?
MM: So when we started the movie, the main idea was to make this black and white, very pure design style with this reticent animation and to put these two things together, which was through CG animation and motion capture. So basically the process was the following: we first perform on stage with actors and these actors have been motion captured, which means that we have put some dots on their body to be able to record their movement and we use this with animation to animate real-time characters. So we've got kind of CG scenes with the government, and we have different black and white lighting to give the final results.
FS: What type of animation design were you looking to achieve?
MM: I mean since the beginning of the movie's story, we wanted to get this very pure graphic design. This just white spot on a black screen and keep this going to the end of the process.
FS: How did you want make Paris look like it was in the future?
MM: One the design side, one we start with designing Paris. What we wanted to do is make a futuristic version of Paris, but we wanted to avoid is making science fiction. For sure we've got big influences from Gattaca and Blade Runner and so on. But what we wanted to do is to keep it believable, so push it as far away as we can, without getting too science fiction looking. So that was the main topics about the design.
FS: Was it hard for the actors to work with the motion capture unit?
MM: The first day of shooting is quite strange for an actor when you are doing motion capture, because the way we do sets, it's very approximative. I mean, you don't see a lot of things around you to play with, so its quite a challenge. But at the end of the day, it's very interesting for an actor because he's able to see his own movement, his own emotion, without his shape and his face and so on. So it's like a mirror for him, but without the help of the final picture. So I think it [depends, all the] actors that were walk-ons, there were around 40 actors to shoot Renaissance, say that it was really a very terrific experience for them.
FS: What are the differences between rotoscoping (method used in A Scanner Darkly) and motion-capture animation and how its presented on screen?
MM: Scanner Darkly is really a very interesting experience. But the way it has been done is very different from Renaissance. In a way we could've done Renaissance with the same techniques in Scanner Darkly, but the results would be very different at the end. Scanner Darkly is rotoscoping, which means that we recall a picture of the actor and we draw it every frame using a special software. It's quite a direct way to get the results, but you are limited in the way can't decide what will be the shape of the character, what will be the shape of the sets, you can't move the camera, because that's what's in the picture. The way its drawn, the curves are very soft, and there is no way you can make it sharp.
So it's a bit far away from what you are doing when you've got just a pencil and you are doing a drawing. Using CG, for sure we've got all the freedom of making characters that don't portray the actor and so on. And we've got also all the framing and editing freedom. It's a big part and at the end you don't even see it. In terms of results, it's a big difference that you get. You can get a very sharp picture, and you can get wrinkles and so on, on the face. It's much more [differently] approached [than] to traditional drawings.
FS: What were some of the most difficult shots in the film?
MM: There are 2 difficult shots. There are difficult shots because of the huge sets which are seen through the camera and so on. So for example, a big camera movement, which is going down on Paris with the river and so on. That was quite a big piece. And the car chase also, because you've got a lot of set when your around camera and so on. So that's one part of the complex shots. And the other ones are the shots where nothing's happened. Like Karas and Bislane speaking together in the apartment, a very smooth movement, hesitation and so on, everything needs to be very clean. So that you understand the feelings of the character.
FS: Can this type of animation style be applied to other color films and genres?
MM: So visual styles in the movie are just the end of the walkthrough (?). The way we have done the animation, the way we have constructed the sets, the characters and so on, can be used for any type of rendering style.
FS: What is Attitude Studio currently working on and what can expect to see in the future from the studio?
MM: The studio has released already three big pieces: the first one is Renaissance that we are speaking about, but have also two TV series which are broadcasted in the US. There is Skyland on Nickelodeon and Galactik Soccer on Jetix. And we are right now working on two new animated movies.
FS: How were you able to connect with the audience to create a unique experience for the people watching Renaissance?
MM: I think that one of the experiences that Renaissance provides with the audience is that when you are [watching] a live action movie, you've got the limit between the theatre and the screen. You see the square, basically. With Renaissance, we have… (?) Many shots you don't have any black lines that go on the border on the screen, so that what you get in the screen is directly a prolongation of the room. So it's very immersive in a way, and I think that it helps. You see the first picture, it's quite bizarre. And after 5, 10 minutes you won't remember its black and white, because we are directly in the room with the character.
Thank you to Marc Miance and Miramax for their time out at Comic-Con in San Diego. Renaissance is a very unique film with a very stylistic look to it and it was an honor to speak to the man himself who put together the original concept for this style.
Check out Renaissance opening in theatres on September 22nd!
You can also read our review of Renaissance: Early Thoughts on Renaissance
(If you find any corrections in our transcript, please don't hesitate to contact us and let us know the changes.)