The Uncanny Valley

This clip from 30 Rock is great. It simply describes the phenomenon of the Uncanny Valley. This is why going for realism in CG is very difficult. The closer you are to real, the more you plummet in to the valley of repulsion. Even if you nail something as looking 100% perfect human reality. There is a lack of emotion and a connection to the real that the effect lacks, and thus we feel as there’s something not there. Even in the best moments of photo real CG like in Beowulf or Final Fantasy, it was still uncomfortable and unnerving.


  • Aaron says:

    I have to disagree with you on this one – Being a CG enthusiast for decades, I found Final Fantasy and Beowulf quite comfortable.

    Two scenes I want to point out in both films which I felt the characters felt the most human:

    Beowulf: When the Dragon starts to attack the castle and Beowulf is putting on his armor, he yells at his mistress then talks to the queen about the curse and how he always loved her. The queen in this scene looked & animated extremely real and in my opinion was her most realistic scene.

    Final Fantasy: Though not as photo-real as Beowulf, the animation seemed most “human” in the scene when Aki and Gray were stuck in the elevator and started having an argument. The animation of Aki in particular stood out to me in that scene.

    If any film felt a little creepy it might have been the Polar Express, but after getting used to the look of the film, it was fine.

  • 3Dfool says:

    On the subject of Polar Express. I saw it both in 3D (stereoscopic) and on DVD. It really falls apart in 2D in my opinion. In IMAX the 3D and huge field of view made the film feel like a dream world, which added so much to the overall experience and lent acceptance to the uncanny actors. In 3D it worked. I bought into it 100% As a 2D film, its no where near as strong.

    There are scenes in Beowulf 3D and Final Fantasy that did work, but it they were far too few.

  • Aaron says:

    Yep, I too saw Polar and Beowulf in IMAX 3D and thought that the effect worked even better in 3D vs. watching the film later in 2D.

    And I do agree that there are too few of those scenes that I pointed out in both Beowulf and Final Fantasy. It’s like the animators got better at animating the further the film went along which is something I hope future films will get better at.

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