Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Alchemy of Animation

Imagine you're a famouse actor who has just been hired to appear in a big - budget movie. You read the script, study your lines, and do wardrobe and hair tests and make up. On your first day of shooting, you arrive on the movie set, but just as the cameras are about to roll, the director says, "Here's a pencil, I want you to draw your performance instead." That's what an animator does every day ...

"Creating Life"...

1. THINK ...
  • What is the purpose of this scene in the movie?
  • What is the most entertaining way to show the action?
  • What is the character thinking and feeling?
  • Where is this in the plot?
  • Why am I here ? I can't do this...
2. PLAN ...
  • Visualise the scene in your head first; animate last.
  • Act out the scene... What does it feel like physically?
  • How does the scene connect with the shots before it and after it?
  • Do you understand the layout, set design, prop location, and proposed camera moves?
  • Do you know the overall mood, lighting, and time of day ?
  • What is the emotion in this scene?
  • What are the subtleties of emotion in the vocal performance and dialogue?
  • Plan out all the patterns of movement with thumbnail sketches.
  • Stock up on Coffee, close your door, and go to work.

3. ANIMATE ...
  • Strive for the most effective and clearest extreme poses.
  • Where do you want the audience to look?What is the rhythm of this scene (fast vs. slow, kinetic vs. restful)?
  • Dont't move anything without a purpose. Holding still is just as important as moving.
  • Let the whole character tell the story, not just the eyes or head.
  • Don't be lazy and let the computer do the work. Computers don't animate, people do. If the computer software creates a timing or movement that you don't like, don't accept it. Get in and change it until it's right.
  • Think clarity. Could you follow what's happening in the scene even if the character were in silhoutte?
  • Don't just illustrate dialogue; illustrate emotions, thoughts, and ideas.
  • Simplify dialogue into phrases, and illustrate the dominant vowel and consonant sounds, especially for fast dialogue. (We don't flap our whole mouth with every word of dialogue. We phrase our speech into simple, economical patterns of movement.)
  • Changes of expression are major points of interest to audience. Make sure the expression is clearly visible and that it reads clearly as it changes.
3. "PLUS" IT ...
  • Don't fall in love with your first effort. Revisit your scene and look again.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify: most new animators move the character too much without letting the character think, absorb, and reflect. Be critical and edit out movement that doesn't contribute to the performance.
  • Look at the secondary actions in a scene (overlapping fabric, hair). Do they contribute to the idae of the scene or just distract from it?
  • Is the character alive? Animation is not about movement, it's about life. Breathe life into a scene both visually and emotionally.
  • Look again clarity of communication. the audience only has one twenty - fourth of a second to read an individual frame of animation, so it has to read really clearly.
  • Don't hide. Animation is a team sport. Show your work to the director and other animators and listen to their reaction. It doesn't mean you have to make every change they recomment, but fresh eyes always help to plus a scene.