Acting, Animation (Cinematography), Computer animation, Movement (Acting), Theater


“The untrained body, like the sculptor's marble, can express nothing but its own limitations” (Lust 70). As acting styles have changed through the years, corresponding schools of thought have arisen to prepare performers for their unique challenges. Perhaps the goal of producing a “gripping performance,” one in which the audience is truly invested, has remained the same since the time of Thespis. How one arrives at this desired result, however, has varied greatly through the ages. Techniques, not surprisingly, tend to build on previous theories, beliefs and practices. Étienne Decroux’s corporeal mime technique builds on the teachings of Jacques Copeau, but as a result, takes the art form into a radically new direction. Vsevolod Meyerhold studied with Stanislavski, learning his inside-out approach to performance, and, with biomechanics, creates a performance technique that turns Stanislavski’s approach on its head. The point is not that these theorists developed something that undermines the previous work, but that they built their theories from knowledge of older techniques. In essence, these theorists learned from the past to prepare for the future. Advancements in film technology have dramatically changed both the nature of film, and performance, itself. Computer-generated characters and environments are becoming more commonplace in film due to the flexibility they provide in composing shots, and the relatively low price tag that comes with them. Technology still can’t replace the subtlety that comes from a human performance, so currently, actors find themselves in the unique position of having one foot in the real world and the other foot in the virtual world. The motion-capture process, or moCap, is the best example of this unique relationship. By placing sensors at key joints on an actor’s body, their performance can be tracked by a computer and then directly applied to a computer-generated model (Hooks 30). In a iv sense, it’s digital puppetry. Because only the movements are being recorded and not the actor’s physical appearance, performers can play parts that are not necessarily their physical type or even their own species. Director Peter Jackson cast Andy Serkis to play a forty-foot-tall ape in the 2005 remake of King Kong, and thanks to the motion-capture process, the result is a perfect blend of live acting and computer-generated graphics. The relatively low cost and flexibility of this process has made it available, not just to filmmakers in Hollywood, but also to the independent market. I am currently directing a feature length film that utilizes both computergenerated backgrounds and virtual characters accomplished through the motion-capture process. This production has been in the works since I started graduate school. As I learn more and more about specific acting techniques in class, I am always looking for something that I could apply specifically to motion-capture performance. Currently there is little research on the topic and certainly, there’s no specific acting theory that applies to this medium. In this paper I hope to formulate an acting technique that is tailored for the field of motion-capture performance, building upon theories of the past. Further study in this technique will better prepare future performers in this field, as well as provide insights for directors new to the medium. The following three techniques in particular, each with their emphasis on an outside-in approach to acting, will provide the basis for this theory: Meyerhold’s biomechanics; Decroux’s corporeal mime; and Edward Gordon Craig’s uber-marionette concept. I will provide detailed sections on each one of these approaches, discussing the theoretical sides of each, as well as specific exercises students in these schools are asked to perform. Next, I will provide a detailed section on the motion-capture process, discussing how it works and the challenges it presents to performers. Finally I will apply each one of the three theories to the motion-capture process, v finding points where the theories apply and also where they fall short. By choosing specifically what applies to the moCap process from each one of the techniques, we will be left with a new theory that specifically relates to virtual performance. This will not only serve as an invaluable guide to both future performers and directors entering the field of motion capture, but will hopefully be the beginnings of an acting theory that can bring performance education programs into the 21st century. Working in the virtual realm requires a performer to use his imagination, but having training and knowledge in theories of the past will mean the imagination is not the only thing actors have to work with.


If this is your thesis or dissertation, and want to learn how to access it or for more information about readership statistics, contact us at

Graduation Date





Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program









Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Arts and Humanities -- Dissertations, Academic, Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Humanities