Jumper Magazine Interview


October 2006 
By Giovanna Sala
Milan, Italy

"If she had nothing more than her voice she could break your heart with it. But  she has that beautiful body and the timeless loveliness of her face. It makes no difference  how she breaks your heart if she is there to mend it". This is what Hemingway used to say describing the sensuality and beauty of Marlene Dietrich: a myth, the femme fatale who seduced millions of men (and not only men...), a character who still keeps its own charm after such a long time. It was her face who caught my attention reading a book about 3D animation and graphics: between all those (not so) sexy girls, there she was, in a retro black and white, smiling a little, her eyes lowered. Those digital creations - so far from the photos we see around - were able to convey the sensuality of Marlene's and her movies', more than any photographic witness. 
Then I discovered that behind these masterpieces is Daniel Robichaud, a Canadian artist, a computer graphic "guru" who created breathtaking animation projects and special effects for colossal movies like Titanic. Thanks to his digital tools he's able to turn imagination into reality... or, at least, in a reality he can share with us, as he told us in this interview. 

What's your "equipment" and what are the digital tools (hardware, softwares) you usually use in your job? And what are the other "ingredients" and influences of your creations? 
I use an arsenal of softwares, 2D and 3D: Softimage XSI, Maya, Shake, the Adobe suite of tools, etc., on PC platforms. I have the privilege to work with a team of highly talented individuals, which is the key to the creation of groundbreaking animation. 

As far as your "Digital Marlene" series is concerned, is it the attempt to reproduce the human body with a photographic precision or to create a perfect woman who lives just in our dreams and imagination? 
Digital Marlene was created as an experimental project to explore the potential of facial capture. This process allowed us to "record" the movements of a real actor's face as digital data and to apply it to our digital model of Marlene Dietrich. It was never meant to be an attempt at creating a photorealistic human, but rather to capture in a stylish fashion the essence of the film noir genre that made Marlene Dietrich so famous. 

Why is the "virtual beauty" so successful? Is it... what everybody would like to be? Is it the same as our willing to change our body - think about tattoos, make up, transexuals, cosplay and so on? 
I think people are fascinated by the fact that believable and idealised beings can be created from scratch thanks to the latest technology, and appear to be alive. However, in my personal opinion, I consider that there is a greater challenge in designing and bringing to life characters that are stylised and truly original (cartoon characters for example), rather than trying to reproduce our known reality. 

Your latest movie as a director is "Pinocchio 3000". In this remake of a notorious Collodi's fairy tale, Geppetto is an electronic ingeneer that creates a cyborg and not a puppet... and this story today looks more likely than the original one. What do you think? 
Yes, probably more plausible indeed. The idea to represent our Pinocchio as a robot rather than a wooden marionnette was to explore a new twist on Collodi's universally acclaimed tale. The premise remains the same as the original story, which is the quest of our hero to become a real boy. Through his journey, we attempt to answer some fundamental questions about the concept of "humanity". What is it to be human? Is it a question of having a physical envelope of flesh and bones? Or rather to have the ability to feel emotions and understand the difference between right and wrong...