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Tron Legacy's Steve Lisberger Talks About Digitized Actors

by
September 12, 2009
Source: ScreenCrave

Young Flynn - Tron Legacy

As part of the D23 Expo presentations, Disney brought in some of the team behind the upcoming Tron Legacy. While we weren't there, ScreenCrave was, and they got to talk to the original 1982 Tron director Steve Lisberger, who helped write the new sequel and is producing it. They asked him about his thoughts on creating CGI characters, like the younger Flynn (as was reported back in February). Instead of actually answering the question, Lisberger started talking about the idea of creating a realistic artificial intelligence program that can literally replicate a human, which is an intriguing thought in connection with Tron.

"You can start thinking in terms of replacing the actor as a shell, the ghost in the shell if you will. You can replace the shell, but you can't really replace the ghost. The difference for me is that real life has a lot of infinity to it. There are so many things that you don't understand, that we'll never understand, and we can't get a handle on, and cyberspace by its very nature has an element of the finite in it. You can always break it down, you can always figure it out."

"You start thinking, yeah we can have a Jeff Bridges [that] we could replace physically, but the Jeff Bridges that I know, there's a strange brew of mystery, zen master, and crazy artist, and it's all in this non-definable form. I don't think we're even close to saying 'Oh, I've got a piece of software that will mimic that.' But the other one is falling, we've brought down that God, that statue, the physical reality we're gonna beat that. But next comes the human software? That's a long way away."

Even though its been some 27 years since Lisberger made Tron, he's obviously still a fascinating guy to talk with. I'm quite excited to see him working on Tron Legacy again, as it means he'll hopefully try and push the filmmaking boundaries this time just as he did back then. The question for him originally focused on the advancement of technology in creating full CGI characters, like younger versions of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in X-Men 3 and everything done to Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button. However, in relation to the Tron world specifically, where Lisberger took the answer was to an entirely different, yet still intriguing, realm.

So we've seen the first test teaser trailer and early footage from Comic-Con, now we're just waiting to get a real trailer, maybe attached to Avatar this December? It's a long wait until late 2010, but as long as we've got Lisberger and Joe Kosinski leading the way, I don't think I mind waiting for them to get this just right.

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  • Krusty
    Why why have I been programed to feel pain...- robot to homer
  • Nethanel DeCarmo
    Seeing Ghost in the Shell in bold made me wonder whats happening with that movie.
  • Prestron
    I do disagree that computer generated characters can't give as nuanced performances as physical actors. Pixar has proven that to me. I do, however, agree that artificial intelligence is an awesome way to achieve these nuances. It's another way that video games and films are intersecting now. This reminded me of Cinimatic Physics--a feature in Valve's Source Engine that was developed by Gray Horsfield, a Weta Digital employee. Basically the features uses pre-engineered physical events that can be played within the game environment. This means bigger scripted destruction without putting pressure on the users system. Anytime I see game and film technology intersecting I get giddy.
  • Jay
    Prestron, in fact Pixar looks at the actors as they perform their lines and often puts in little eccentricities of the actors. Not only that, but the animators themselves will often perform in front of a camera and mirror and use their own performance to draw from. What Lisberger is talking about, I believe, is our ability to create procedural animations and performances: giving the computer ultimate decision into which performances to use or create as it saw fit. Lisberger is right, there will never be a time when a large human component to the performance will not be needed. First there's the prohibitive cost of a technology that is not "needed", and the fact that Hollywood and the movie industry is run by Unions that will basically ensure the use of real actors for the foreseeable future.
  • Prestron
    Alright, I concede that point. We do have emotive CGI characters, but ultimately there is a human imparting that emotion.
  • Tra la la la la di da
    MORE FLOATING HEADS!!! YEA!!!!
  • Dreckent
    We need more psycho-looking-cgi Jeff Bridges...
  • bozo
    Not really on topic, but upon seeing that picture, I couldn't help but to realize how far CGI has come. Take the "young Jeff Bridges" in this one, and compare it to the MCP's face/animation in TRON. Staggering really.
  • SS
    The other thing one notices when seeing the old TRON is that you realize Flynn was always kind of a sadistic type when it came to "playing the games".

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