Marc Miance, builder of virtual emotions

Is it possible to create emotion- virtual experiences based on real life? Discover Marc Miance's journey to "humanize the machine”.

The virtual world is one hard to grasp. Our sci-fi literature is filled with concepts of virtual worlds, but despite the invasive reach of technology, we still live IRL (in real life). The rise and fall of Second Life was a shocking revelation for tech investors: People do not crave for a virtual avatar and a pixel-made world. However, the existence of the booming video game industry demonstrates that people may actually wish to live in a virtual world IF this world conveys strong emotions, like speed, strength, invincibility… Great, but popular video games are all fictive, and often far-fetched, scenarios. Is it possible to create emotion-filled virtual experiences based on real life? Where’s the hook?

The goal is not only to achieve pictorial realism but mostly emotional realism.

Marc Miance

Marc Miance is a French movie and television producer and a technologist. Throughout his career, he leveraged the power of visual effects and virtual technologies to achieve what previously seemed impossible in terms of “humanizing the machine”. In 2000, he created one of the first 100%-virtual celebrity built with motion capture technologies. His approach to create virtual emotions is to capture as accurately as possible the real world’s kinetics. The animation companies he founded have worked for all the major US-based animation and video games studios. From 2010 to 2015, he was focused on the production of Europe’s first full motion-capture movie, starring Jamel Debbouze. He is now heading the development of a new mobile application where users can share mobile phone moments with each other. Here is our portrait of Marc Miance.

Pioneer of virtual emotions

Born in the outer suburbs of Paris, Marc Miance had an early passion for video games and digital imagery. After completing high school, he enrolled in the CGI-specialized program of the École Supérieure de Réalisation Audiovisuelle (ESRA). He created an animated noir comic-style story using digital tools, Project BW, which was screened during the 1998 Cannes Festival.

In 2000, he co-founded Attitude Studio. The studio’s first creation was an entirely virtual human person, baptized Eve Solal. The development of this “person” was focused on conveying human emotions, rather than recreating skins and textures. Attitude Studio made Eve’s movements human-like, with authentic facial expressions.

Eve Solal

This novel approach to graphic design was completed with a real-life scenario: Eve Solal had a job in a real place, an apartment at a real location (Paris 11th arrondissement), a PR agent, a website, appeared in commercials (Orange, 2000), and made the cover of the national magazine Le Figaro Madame. Eve Solal exemplified Miance’s ability to explore the boundaries of imagination  to further realism in the field of CGI-powered solutions.

The industry of cinema is far more volatile. TV, animation, and videogames are essentially balanced.

Marc Miance

Attitude Studio’s technological capabilities rivaled with the likes of Imageworks (Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, The Matrix Reloaded…) and Weta (The Lord of the Rings trilogy), but rather than taking on widely distributed blockbuster productions, Miance’s firm focused on indie animated movies, television and video-games.


Reprising his early film noir exploration, the producer called upon Christian Volckman to direct Renaissance, a dystopian story set in a grim-looking 2054 Paris.

Renaissance trailer

In 2003, when the film was bought by Miramax, Marc Miance and his associates only had a script and a 4-minute pilot to show to Disney’s execs. The clip played like a graphic novel come to life and was convincing enough to round-up a 15 million euro budget. Motion capture was, again, the chosen technique to combine real performances with the bleak, stark, black and white visual style that defined the characters’ looks and the futuristic scenery.

One of the most difficult moments in a CGI movie is where you’ve got one or two characters and nothing happens. Their emotion has to reach the audience only through small movements.

Marc Miance

Released in 2006, Renaissance acquired a cult status among sci-fi and animation cinephiles. The film’s carefully designed graphics and visual style were awarded during the 2006 Annecy International Animation Film Festival.

From Apes….

Miance’s next technological challenge came in 2010, with Why I Did (Not) Eat My Father (2015)- also known as Animal Kingdom: Let’s Go Ape – a film starring Jamel Debbouze and based on Roy Lewis’ Stone Age novel The Evolution Man. Produced in association with Pathé, the film was released in 2015 and reached over 2 million entries at the box-office.

Initially conceived as a live action film, Miance insisted to bring the focus on real human emotions to the digital animal characters to make them more relatable, turning the movie into a full CGI-animated feature, the first of its kind in Europe. Owning and directing two companies (Let’So Ya since 2005 and Alkymia since 2010), Marc Miance decided to tackle his audiovisual ventures from different flanks: while Let’So Ya took over the production of the animation, Alkymia focused on the innovation required to achieve Miance’s vision for the project.

It’s an incredible technological feat. I feel we’ve pushed the boundaries of motion capture to the max.

Jamel Debbouze

Miance’s achievement was the ingredient needed to convince Debbouze to perform in mocap equipment. Third Eye, the motion capture headset devised and manufactured by Miance’s team, only weighed about 1.1 lbs, beating by far the industry standard at the time (11 lbs). When asked about the shooting experience, Debbouze outlined Miance’s seamless motion-capture equipment.

… To Apps

Leading the edge of innovation in computer graphics has turned Marc Miance into a serial patent holder. To sustain his large-scale motion-picture ambitions, he created a program and its device to store and restore a navigation context, and a method to interact with multiple software applications through a single application.

In recent years, the digital world has reached the physical one through the invasion of social networks, which has led Marc Miance to bundle up his homebuilt proprietary technology into a new mobile application, Wave, a social mobile browser. With Wave, users can “share mobile moments” by live-sharing their screen activities with their friends and chat about it.

Other social networks capture what you do AROUND your phone, Wave captures what you do ON your phone.

Marc Miance

Considering the time we spend just being on our phones, Wave may have spotted a niche with a full-growth potential. Since 2019, the application has already been downloaded more than 1 million times. The mobile-centric approach of Wave has tech-appeal, it may seduce many mobile users who just want to seamlessly share what they’re browsing right now, turning mobile browsing into a direct trigger for social interactions. In a way, Wave reconciles Marc Miance’s quest to build authentic virtual emotions, by facilitating and enhancing emotion-sharing through the purely virtual experience of browsing content on a screen.