Friday, February 29, 2008

anti cliche

Avoid cliche, set up a situation, then go in the most unexpected direction you can.

Dad comes home, swings baby up into air to play with baby. Happy. Cliche: baby pukes on Dad, baby diaper stinks. Anti-Cliche: baby pulls out a knife and chases the Dad around the house, who saw that coming?

Break the routine

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Invisible Ink mentioned Hitchcock's "pure cinema" idea, which googled me over to with some interesting ideas

Emotion comes directly from the actor's eyes. You can control the intensity of that emotion by placing the camera close or far away from those eyes. A close-up will fill the screen with emotion, and pulling away to a wide angle shot will dissipate that emotion.

before audio, silent film camera's wandered around examining the scene, showing the audience props that were important to the story. Once talkies came they stopped and relied on the dialogue.

Putting an idea into the mind of the character without explaining it in dialogue is done by using a point-of-view shot sequence. This is subjective cinema.
- Start with a close-up of the actor
- Cut to a shot of what they're seeing
- Cut back to the actor to see his reaction

Information" is essential to Hitchcock suspense; showing the audience what the characters don’t see. If something is about to harm the characters, show it at beginning of the scene and let the scene play out as normal, it will be much more entrancing because the audience wants to warn the characters.

Invisible Ink again

He's all about a good story has a 3 act structure. The 3 acts are "tell them what you're going to tell them, act 2 tell them, tell them what you told them" or "proposal, arguement, conclusion". He feels like the fault of a lot of modern cinema is that it doesn't have a first act, it gets straight to the action, and his point is without the first act explaining why you care, then who cares about the action, he uses jokes and magic tricks as examples, a punchline without the setup (1st act) isn't funny, a magic trick where you weren't directed to expect the ball to be in the left hand isn't impressive when it's not. People notice what you tell them to notice, which is why you can introduce yourself say a few sentences and then say your name is something else and no one will notice.

Proposal: propose your point, which is the armature of your story. If you phrase it as a question, then you can argue both sides of it in act 2 and conclude with the answer you knew all along in 3. "The armature question should be answered by the drama that follows"

Strong emotion at the center of a story will capture interest. True emotion will create an empathetic response from the audience. (He was talking about the film he made where he almost broke down talking about his friend, and someone in the audience told him that made them cry, we respond and take on the emotions of those we see, if the emotions are true)

"A joke is just a story with a part missing. That missing piece is supplied by the listener; when they make the connection they laugh. In fact, kids will often exclaim, “I get it!” They have pieced the clues together and closed the gap. With a well-constructed joke we all close the same gap – everyone draws the same conclusion.
If the gap is too close, as in the case of a pun, people often don’t think much of it. The further the gap, the funnier the joke." It's not funny if you have to explain it. So give the audience the pieces it needs to come to the conclusion you want. Give them 2+2 and let them add =4

a hero is measured by the size of their struggle. Could be a villain, could be an internal struggle with a fatal flaw.

Stories are primarily a way of passing along information from one person to another. Good stories remain essentially the same after many retellings.Games are a way of practicing, physically or intellectually. A good game varies its scenario, and makes us change how we play it.

When I teach students to set things up in the first act that will pay off later, they complain that it is too predictable to do things that way. Like the simple magic trick they think that it will never work. They have all seen too many bad films where they could see how everything returns and works out. But this is like my poorly executed trick: it is only poor craftsmanship that is at fault, not the method itself.

Remember that dramatizing the armature is a way of getting an intellectual idea across emotionally. If you learn to do this you’ll move more people more often and more deeply. In Planet of the Apes theres a big flaw – the apes read and write English. This is a huge flaw. But no one cares because THEME BEATS LOGIC.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

invisible ink

Just discovered invisible ink blog blog about story.

The thing I'm remembering now is build your story around a point, or as aesop says a moral. He called it the armature of the story, the core that you hang the rest of it on.
"With King Midas, the storyteller wanted to teach people that some things were more important than money. What were his tasks as a writer? First, he had to create a character who was greedy. Then he needed to set up a situation wherein the character gets what he wants. Then he needed to turn this wish into something that would teach the character a lesson. Everything in this story is designed to make the writer’s point. This should be true of your work as well."

Also, we know the depth of someone's character when they are up against the wall. And it's really hard to grow as a person, basically you wait until it is more painful to not change then it is to change, which often is just about the point of emotional or physical death. So in other words, torture the hell out of your characters, because that's what it's going to take to make them grow and that's why we're watching them.

If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the 1st act. "“Tell them what you are going to tell them” part. That is act one. If your story’s point is that even a good man can be corrupted by power then your first act shows a good man without power. You must show that he is squeaky clean and even show him a situation where he could be corrupt and is not." Skipping the first act to get right to the meat of the story is like skipping the set up to get to the punchline, it doesn't work because their's no context.

"Subtext is all in the set-up. Once you establish that two characters hate each other, for instance, all you need to do is put them in the same room together and have them talk about the weather—the audience will do most of your work for you." He had the dialogue example of a mother pestering her daughter about a cold the daughter was getting over, and then gave the setup that the Daughter's husband had just died of AIDS and she had it but wasn't showing signs yet, and that totally colored how the dialogue plays.

Too funny for words

There is tremendous opportunity for humor when strong personalities were involved in a tense situation. The audience has to believe in the characters, and when things get heavy a little gag gets a huge response as it temporarily breaks the tension. A little nothing bit becomes memorable in contrast to the emotional strain around it. Putting the dwarfs walking to the mine after the wicked witch all set up to poison snow white made everyone love the dwarf scene super lots and not want it to end, because once it's through, so is snow white. The laughs are not so much a release from tension as an expression of the tension itself.

In fact it was all infused with a spirit of love and tenderness to ease us over the sad parts, and magic and luaghter to live with us throughout our lives.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Too Funny For Words

We believed they were real, and since we lived with them day after day, every facet of their personalities became so well defined that they would rebel if we tried to force them into an attitude or a bit of acting that was not consistent with their character.

All it took was the ability to observe and understand what was basically funny about it. That special knowledge insured that when the incident appeared as a gag in film sometime later, the audience always felt it was a familiar situation, something with which they could personally identify.

Any comic should have moments when he's clever so that he's not a stoop. It's not funny to make him an imbecile.

Play it straight. If you're mugging to the audience you lose the humor, if you are clumsy while earnestly trying to do something that's funnier.

Walt's philosophy of good and evil, compassion for the little guy, shyness, morality, courage, and determination struck a very popular chord wherever his pictures where shown. Walt wanted his villains to be threatening but intersting. He much preferred that they be vanquished through some clever trick, smart move, or even something that made them look ridiculous. He never made films solely for children, believing that we should use only material that was funny to everybody.

Pathos is the very heart of comedy. In 1934, The Flying Mouse caused real concern in the audience because of the hero's poignant predicament. Producing convincing pathos combined with comic relief that stemmed from believable acting was golden with audiences. Pathos gives comedy the heart and warmth that keeps it from becoming brittle. As the animators found ways to portray humor through the inner feelings of the characters, the audiences became more involved with each new personality and more concerned with his welfare.

Audiences easily identify with universal childhood experiences, such as being ridiculed for how you look. When Elmer the elephant tries to get rid of his embarrassing trunk it wasn't just a gag, it was a relatable feeling of frustration. When he finally found how important his trunk was in saving the life of his girlfriend, the audience laughed and savored every warm moment with him.

The early shorts seldom had a script, since they were essentially the development of a single idea: Minnie kidnapped by Peg Leg Pete and Mickey coming to her rescue; a picnic in the country broken up by ants, mosquitoes, or a storm: Pluto falling in love with a sophisticated Show dog. As they worked to add more gags and build situations, a general structure of beginning, middle, and end began to evolve.

After a long period of quiet staring at the boards that are okay, but not good enough, Walt would choose 3 sketches from the hundreds on the board, and begin to build them into a new and entertaining continuity. The continuity of the film meant nothing if the individual sequences were not entertaining.

Richpersonalities always have a rich potential for sustained, memorable situations, and Walt insisted we should always "go with the thing that's coming off." If it is funny, stay with it, add more gags, stretch out the humor, squeeze every last ounce of entertainment out of the predicament before leaving it. Continuous building on a basic predicament with an established character became the sole story line of many of the most successful shorts. The Pointer was around the single idea that a good hunting dog "whatever happens, don't move"

Flippant dialogue will not get a laugh from any character unless he has been established as having a strong, clear, appealing personality. He can be sour, critical, or even a villain, but the audience must know who and what he is.

An inappropriate addition of any kind could spoil an interesting situation. The trouble with King Midas was that we were obviously trying to be funny instead of letting the characters be themselves in the most interesting manner. It is often difficult to recognize whether a gag is really appropriate to either a character or a situation. It is never easy to think of a gag, and when a good one has suddenly been found there is a strong temptation to use it at once, without regard to how it might affect that part of the picture.

There are several ways a gag can be inappropriate. It might be something a certain personality should never do, or it might slow the prgress of the story by being too long or overdeveloped. It also could be misleading or confusing, or even repulsive to certain segments of the audience.

We had a story that called for a big dog who always made a mess of things. Many dogs would fit this description, whether appealing or ugly, stupid or bright, etc, they would all fit the script, but they would not be equally funny doing the same things. Special gags would have to be written for each to find the humor inherent in the different types.

Donald is a hothead and is going to get mad if things go wrong: Plot is curious and this is going to lead him into trouble. The humor for both comes from predictable persnality reactions in funny story situations. Both Donald and Pluto only dig themselves in deeper by their actions.

People relieved their own frustrations through Donald, particularly enjoying the fact that he was funniest when he had created his own problems. The mere fact of a character's being quick to anger is not funny in itslef. Walt and his crew had to be sure that Donald started each day expecting things to go well, and that he showed his belligerence only after something had been done to him, to which he had made the wrong response.

It's funny because it's true. People laugh (are entertained) in recognition of feeling similarly to how the character feels.

The character did not have to make a funny face when his sincere reaction to a situation was so strongly communicated. However, it was not funny unless the dog was thinking and trying to figure htings out and letting the audience see his problems as he saw them.

They also had to feel that the figures they were drawing really existed and had sensitive feelings and that an audience woudl enjoy knowing about them. When the scenes came from the heart, they had an implied realism that went beyond the rules and practice of ordinary animation. There was often more humor in the entertaining relationships among the characters than in the actual gags, but such scenes can be just as enjoyable and possibly remembered longer than the "gut" reaction to broader comedy. (believe completely in the characters, they are not a model you are pushing around, they are a person you know and understand revealing what they want to do to you 1 frame at a time)

The humor in the situation (meatball scene: Lady and the Tramp) was found when convincing actions started bringing the scenes to life. (In other words the character's reacting true to character, just like we would react in a similar situation)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Too Funny For Words

I got Too Funny for Words by Frank and Ollie today because libraries kick ass. Here's the thoughts that struck me so far.

Obviously in Walt's mind, the first priority in any film was the laughter, and too much story quickly became tedious. He never forgot that point throughout his whole life, constantly shying away from projects that had more continuity than entertainment.

While some gags are funny in themselves, regardless of who is involved, most situations are funnier with one type of individual than with another. Peg leg pete is immortal, he's a big bully so you can torture him all you want and it will be entertaining, Mickey who is "good" you can't physically torture with buzz saws and such.

Grab the audience's interest first, the best way to do that is with laughter.

Entertainment grows from knowing who a character is and looking forwards to how this character will deal with this predicament. Choose the right problem for the right character.

The best laughs come from funny situations that the audience recognized as being close to their own experiences. The humor always comes from the same source: entertaining personalities in believable situations.

Frank and Ollie categorized the different gags:
Originally there was personality gags, gags that are funny because of the involved personality, but that eventually became every gag as the art form evolved. There was also surprise gags, which also eventually diffused and merged with all gags, basically surprising the audience with something they didn't expect.

spot gag a quick funny visual joke, doesn't advance the story, doesn't need an intro or climax, the weiner dog becoming a stair case for mickey.

running gag re-occuring joke, gaining more funny with repetition (repetition reduces resistance)

gag that builds series of connected gags increasing in intensity

action gag a regular thing performed amusingly (basically anything normal goofy attempts to do)

tableau gag held picture that's supposed to be funny, like anytime someone gets smacked with a frying pan and has fried eggs for eyes

inanimate character gag giving an inanimate object a matching personality like a nervous teapot shouting all the time

funny drawing a drawing that's fun to look at

A fresh new method of performing any action has to be a surprise to the audience by definition, and the gag that is presented with this elebent startles them into an impulsive laugh by introducing the unexpected .In fact, preparing the audience for a more traditional occurrence is the best way of surprising them with the unforeseen gag.

While it is most important that the audience know what the characters are doing on the screen, nothing will add as much spirit and zest to the activities as constant surprises.

Cameron Fielding on Weight

Cameron Fielding said...


Thanks for your comments. I suppose when animating weight I just try and think of 4 main things:

1. Getting acceleration and decelleration feeling as right as i can.

2. making sure all the timing and speeds match the size and mass of the objects

3. if there is an impact, trying to think how the weight is represented through this ( bounce ? number of bounces etc )

4. trying to show how forces travel through the rest of the body as represented by mass and weight ( overlap and follow through )

bad ass sculptor demo

Philippe Faraut/

vid ref

Checking out Cameron Fielding's amazing game reel from Turok video game. He posted a walk thru of his approach. He talks about the first 20 minutes in front of the camera are basically just warm up time and not worth keeping. Stephen Gregory also said the first 20 takes are crap. Which means you have to put in a ton of time acting it out before you have something worth keeping. For human stuff Cameron recommends ref for the subtlety, but for the dino's he's okay winging it, since we don't know dino's as well as human motion. He says vid ref will prove or disprove any poses you may have thought of. Also it's a good way to brainstorm up new ones.

He's self taught, so for the longest time didn't block. Would work to finish between two poses, which made the piece a mystery what it would end up as, but gave it a lot of organic spontaneous life. He first plans out the overall direction of movement on the screen (big swoosh coming in from ScR going deep and stopping in mid) and then figures out what actions will fit that overall idea.

Friday, February 22, 2008

animation podcast

some notes I took while listening to Nik Ranieri and Andrea Dejas on the animation podcast:

good animation is believable, it has a certain wait, a certain fluidity, and the 2ndary(follow thru stuff) is just as important as the primary. When you go through all that effort for a good performance, you owe it to the performance to bring the 2ndary up to the level to sell it.

Life is never perfect, there's human error. Carrying a load of laundry, you're bound to drop something and have to come back and get it. Pulling down a blind you might miss the first time (an animator might just animate the action happening perfect the first time)

You don't animate drawings, you animate feelings. Ollie

you don't force a personality onto a model, you understand the personality so well that you see how it fills up that model. The model is just the shell, the personality is the engine, you have to know that engine inside and out to know how it's going to make the shell move.

It really narrows your options, everyone acts a certain way, so there's only a few possible reactions to a situation from each individual personality.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Stephen Gregory

Stephen Gregory's a Spline Doctor who started private tutoring late 2007. Ran across his tutor's (Bobby Pontillas blog about the sessions...

One of the things that he sees, seperating the great from the so-so animation reels is the thought process. The feeling that this animator actually sat down to think about what the character is doing, and why they're doing it. Learning to break down who the character is, any why they make the choices they make, is the harder part.

Before you start ask those pertinent questions. Who the character is and how s/he feel about what s/he's doing, essentially. Character's internal dialogue, and limiting your choices for acting based on the specifics of who the character is.

Where smitten guy in class is checking out girl, gets caught, and sheepishly feigns looking elsewhere, Stephen thought the idea a little bit generic, but to go for it anway. Here are some things he wanted me to do and think about before jumping in:
Start off by thumbnailing or writing down acting ideas you want to hit. Emotions poses etc. then take that with you in front of the camera and try acting out those ideas. Eventually it will all start to flow naturally and by the 10th or 20th take in front of the camera you might have some interesting stuff happening you can use for your test. This idea is typical of student work and the only thing that will separate it from the typical, is if you just don't animate your first idea. You'll need spend enough time working it out in front of a mirror or camera to break away from the typical. The other thing is don't try and copy the acting of this moment from "Superbad". People always pick up on acting that is taken from other movies.

Figure out your 1st golden, get the idea and emotion you want to sell and the pose you want to sell it. Make damn sure, then move on and see if you need or have time for any more golden's.

the key poses would tell the story, how you animated between those poses would sell the acting by making the physicality believable.

Nothing should be random, subtle movement shifts (keep-alives) should come from thinking about the physics and inertia of moving from one pose to another. How each part of the body settles, overshoots, or begins to sets up another pose, at times independently from one another. Its actually very difficult for anything to come to a complete stop without some specific residual movement.

The big key pose is the silhouette for the whole scene and then

I've been thinking about is how you lead the eye w/ how much movement you give a character. Where in the focal point is where most of the movement would be, and from there you sort of radiate out to much more subtle movement. So as not to take attention away from the focal point.

-Acting: Ideas & Choices - Somewheres along the line we were talking about acting choices based on the character & story vs. choices made for movement sake. And he told me about an instance last year where a student reel they got for the summer internship , had a character do a little acting bit idly playing with a bottle cap or something, and it just felt right and completely natural. And even though the rest of the reel didnt have the most "polished" animation in it. They were sold on strength of the ideas and choices for that one clip, and that person was picked up for the summer internship. And that alot of times people get hired into the studio on the strength of one shot, one moment from their reel. He mentioned again that someone can come in, sit down with the animators, and be taught how to polish and finish a shot well. But the acting instincts and choices an animator makes is hard to teach. So work to be extremely selective about those acting choices! Clarify if its ambiguous, and remember to simplfy! Make acting choices and not movement choices!

and from Dan Forgione

(paraphrased) every twitch and shift should be motivated by a thought/feeling. Those uncomfortable "I'm going to ask you out" nervous movements, each one should have a thought/feeling behind it "here we go... no, not quite brave enough yet"

You have you're main poses which in themselves say one thing, but how do you get to each of those poses, whether it is deciding whether to lead with the head, or torso, trail the arms, to antic, or overshoot, to zip into A from B, or ease in to one or another...whichever choice you make will have a direct impact on the translation of your main poses, because the character's body language during those transitions says just as much about how the character is feeling as do the key poses.

People tend to make choices on reels that show off they can animate, choosing a broader bigger gesture just to prove they can swing the arms around, instead of choosing a subtle one that's more in character.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

ollie johnston notes

Ollie Johnston notes

Have you the right expression to show what your character is thinking? Are all the parts of the head & face related to this one idea?

The expression of the idea behind the words must be captured through the whole body as well as in the face. But remember: that expression originates in the eyes.

It is the change of shape of the eyes (probably partly because you can't get eye darts as strong in 2D) that shows what the character is thinking, It is the thinking that gives the illusion of life.

Eyes in close-up should move 3 FRS ahead of accent.
In a blink, eyes should close 3-4 FRS ahead of accent.

Friday, February 15, 2008


This video on walter Lantz at around 3:15 had a quick glimpse of a 2D guy using a metronome. He sets it and then used his fingers as if they were legs, step step step step hop step step in time to the metronome, then changed the speed and tried again. Makes sense, you can set the metronome to 8's or 4's or 16's or whatever, and then you are visualizing to a beat, the mirror image of animating to one.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

11 sec Jan critique

Watching the 11secondClub's January 2008 critique, Dimos was talking about 1 of the character's and saying that because he's such a straight and narrow straight shooter guy that the pose he's in can stand with a little bit of twinning. In other words, poses are based on personality.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Impro: narrative skills

Notes/quotes from the next chapter of Impro. Maybe I should just buy the damn thing, course then it would clutter up my house, and I'm sucking it dry right here anyway. The more of these posts the more I interpret and paraphrase the book, the earlier ones were straight quotes, these later ones not necessarily as true to the original.

Content lies in the structure, in what happens, not in what the characters say.

When King Lear really gets going- the mad King, the man pretending to be mad, the fool paid to be mand, and the whole mass of overlapping and contradictory associoations-what can the spectator sensibly do but be swept away on the flood, and experience the play, instead of trying to think what it 'means'.

Ignore content, don't bother trying to make something 'mean' something. If you improvise spontaneously in front of an audience you have to accept that your innermost self will be revealed. The same is true of any artist. An artist has to accept what his imagination gives him, or screw up his talent.

Listening to a story, You are waiting for another activity to start, not free association, but reincorporation. Going from one thing to the next in a story is open ended and never ending, it doesn't become a story until you start weaving pieces from earlier in the story back into the current moment, making a pattern of some kind. A story is finished when enough pieces have been sufficiently linked back up.

A game: free associatefree associate random unconnected things (a duck, eiffel tower, pastel colored mountains) and then reincorporate the duck climbed the eiffel tower hoping to see the pastel mountains it came from. A knowledge of this game is very useful to a writer. First of all it encourages you to write whatever you feel like; it also means that you look back when you get stuck, instead of searching forwards. You look for things you've shelved, and reinclude them.

One way to free associate free from the internal censor. Write a paragraph unpremeditated, while counting backwards outloud from 100.

When you act or speak spontaneously, you reveal your self, as opposed to the self you've been trained to present.

The brain constructs the universe for us, so how is it possible to be 'stuck' for an idea? The student hesitates not because he doesn't have an idea, but to conceal the inappropriate ones that arrive uninvited.

One way to trigger off narrative material is to put the students in groups of three, and have them invent a name for a character, and see if they can agreee on what he's like. Get really developed character's this way.

An iproviser can study status transactions, and advancing, and 'reincorporating', and can learn to free-associate, and to generate narrative spontaneously, and yet still find it difficult to compose stories. This is really for aesthetic reasons, or conceptual reasons, He shouldn't really think of making up stories, but of interrupting routines. Many people think of finding more interesting routines, which doesn't solve the problem, it may be interesting to show brain surgeons doing a particularly delicate operation, but it's still just the routine of their lives. If instead the brain surgeons went nascar racing, then that is likely to generate a narrative. Red Riding Hood presents an interruption of the routine "taking stuff to grandma's". As a story progresses it begins to establish other routines, and these in their turn have to broken. It doesn't matter how stupidly you interrupt a routine, you will be automatically creating a narrative, and people will listen. The scene in the Tespest where Caliban hears the clown coming works marvelously, but it's ludicrous. If we treat it as routine that the clown sees the monster hiding under the sheet, the it's obvious that the clown should run away. What he does is incredible-the very last thing anyone would do is to crawl under the sheet beside the monster. It's actuallyl the best thing to do, since it spectacularly breaks the routine.

Many students try up at the moment they realize that the routine they're describing is nearing it's completion. They absolutely understand that a routine needs to be broken, or they wouldn't feel so unimaginative. Their problem is that they haven't realized what's wrong consciously. Once they understand the concept of 'interrupting routines', then they aren't stuck for ideas any more.

An audience will remain interested if the story is advancing in some sort of organzied manner, but they want to see routines interrupted, and the action continuing between the actors. Don't let the story get deflected off stage, don't talk about 'them that are coming" or "my car in the garage", instead prepare the set for "them" or yell for assistance because your foot got run over by a car.

Don't cancel. Don't solve an idea right after you introduce it. I'm thirsty, I get a drink of water, problem here problem solved. Better I'm thirsty, oh no the tap's dry and there's nothing in the fridge.

The rules are: (1) interrupt a routine; (2) keep the action onstage-don't get diverted on to an action that has happened elsewhere, or at some other time; (3) don't cancel the story.

The last chapter is on Masks and Trance. Really interesting, but maybe not for animation reasons. But if I ever wind up pursuing psychology more I should re read this book for that

Milt thoughts

Listening to James Baxter on the animation podcast. Him and Clay were talking about key poses, and Milt Kahl. The discussion was about how when he was earlier to the game James would have charts timing all the different body parts at with their own unique timing, which was a nightmare for his cleanup crew. They talked about how they now dislike how it doesn't feel 'grounded' and it feels disjointed and not connected when they work like that. Then they talk about Milt Kahl's animations, and that he never had more than 2 charts going at a time (I think, I don't want to go and listen to it again right now), and he worked really solidly with Key Poses. If there was something fancy Milt wanted on a unique body part he would throw that in as a partial drawing. Then they said that Milt thought like a stopmo animator, he was always thinking about where things come from and where they're going. They mention how CG animator's try and hide the poses, so it doesn't feel mechanical (I think they're afraid of the piece looking like someone doing the robot, zzt..pose..zzzt...pose) , but they say you need the poses, that's what tells the story. So Milt style, knowing where things are coming and where they're going, you get both, you get solid poses that tell the story, and you get an organic flowing feeling between them so it doesn't feel like pose pause pose pause. Think you must need to put in overlaps and settles, don't just hit the golden but overshoot (different amounts with different body parts but not making the clean up crazy) and settle back in, working the pose.
Which all comes down to me needing to get it together and mess around with stopmo until I internalize the thinking. Reminds me of how a guitar player can add something to their playing if they think like a wind instrument, think in phrases with pauses to take a new breath to blow with again. Think simple and clear, you do the work, so the clean up artist has a straight forwards job

Friday, February 8, 2008

Impro: Spontaneity

Next chapter in Keith Johnstone's Impro. I better hurry and make my notes, have to take it back to the library soon. (Libraries ROCK! free knowledge that doesn't clutter up your house)

Once we believe that art is self-expression, then the individual can be criticised not only for his skill or lack of skill, but simply for being what he is. (if art is self-expression then it explains why so many people deliberately are boring and uncreative, so that they do not expose any of themself)

Imagination is as effortless as perception, unless we think it might be 'wrong', which is what our education encourages us to believe. Then we experience ourselves as 'imagining', as 'thinking up an idea', but what we're really doing is faking up the sort of imagination we think we ought to have. (editing before you write anything down leads you to crush your imagination because it isn't suitable, create freely first edit afterwards)

'Raise your arm. Now, why are you raising it?'
'You asked me to.'
'Yes, but why might you have raised it?'
'To hold on to a strap in the Tube'
'Then that's why you raised your arm.'
'But I could have given any reason. I don't have time to choose the best reason'
'Don't choose anything. Trust your mind. Take the first idea it gives you. Now try being sad. Be unhappier. More. More. Now tell me why you're in this state?'
'My child has died.'
'Did you think that up?'
'I just knew. But my teacher said you shouldn't act adjectives.'
'You shouldn't act adjexctives without justifying them.'
(don't over think things, in fact don't even give yourself that option, just leap and trust your mind to furnish something to land on, trust your intuition, and work with what you get)

I learned in school that the first idea was unsatisfactory and should be rejected in favor of a better idea because the first one is usually psychotic, obscene, and unoriginal.

Sanity has nothing directly to do with the way you think. It's a matter of presenting yourself as safe (aka predictable) A Canadian study on attitudes to mental illness concluded that it was when someone's behaviour was perceived as 'unpredictable' that the community rejected them. Laughter is a whip that keeps us in line, we try to not stand out because we'll be laughed at. Mad thoughts are those which other people find unacceptable, and train us not to talk about, but which we go to the theatre to see expressed.

My feeling isn't that the group should be 'obscene', but that they should be aware of the ideas that are occuring to them. I don't want them to go rigid and blank out if an 'obscene' thought occurs to them.

The improvisor has to realise that the more obvious he is , the more original he appears. I constantly point out how much the audience like someone who is direct, and how they always laugh with pleasure at a really 'obvious' idea. No two people are exactly alike, and the more obvious an improviser is, the more hiimself he appears. Ask people to give you an original idea and see the chaos it throws them into as they try to be clever. If they said the first thing that came into their head, there'd be no problem because it would be a unique answer from a unique individual.Striving after originality takes you far away from your true self, and makes your work mediocre.

There are people who prefer to say 'Yes', and there are people who prefer to say 'No'. Thos who say 'Yes' are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say 'No' are rewarded by the safety they attain.
'Your name Smith?'
'No' (action is blocked, it's not going to go anywhere)
'Oh... are you Brown, then?'
'Yes' (action is open to moving forwards)
'You're the one who's been mucking about with my wife then?'
Low-status actors tend to accept, adn high-status players to block. High-status actors will block any action unless they feel they can control it. There's no reason why you can't play high status, and yet yield to other people's invention.
'Your name Smith?'
'And what if it is?'
'You've been making indecent suggestions to my wife.'
'I don't consider them indecent!'

I call anything that an actor does an 'offer'. Each offer can either be accepted, or blocked. If you yawn, your partner can yawn too, and therefore accept your offer. A block is anything that prevents the action from developing, or that wipes out your partner's premise. If it develops the action it isn't a block.
'Your name Smith?'
'What if it is you horrible little man!'
This is not a block, even thouhg it is anagonistic, the 2nd actor has accepted the offered situation and is working within it.

Good improvisers seem telepathic; everything looks prearranged. This is because they accept all offers made-which is something no 'normal' person would do. Once you learn to accept offers, then accidents can non longer interrupt the action. When someone's chair collapses that's an offer that you can accept and run with. If they yawn, if they stand there being taller then you, everything is an offer you can use.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

nine old men notes

Notes from that Disney Family Album series about the 9 old men

Frank says before you animate you should always try it out in planning at least 3 different ways

what matters is your ability to identify with the heart of the character, it allows you to bring in the little gestures and idiosyncratic movement that would grow from their heart and sell the fact that they are alive and who they are

the problem with working in layers, with every body part moving to it's own timing, is that the body parts may not feel connected, the head will feel like it's floating, so it's useful to work with strong poses for that reason.

Hands are so expressive and difficult to draw, they are the final statement of a pose.-Larsen

The way to use reference is to learn so much about it that you don't need it anymore -Kahl

Sunday, February 3, 2008

more ed

Here's wiki's definition of Michael Chehov's psychological gesture: "In this technique, the actor physicalizes a character’s need or internal dynamic in the form of an external gesture. He then mutes the outward gesture and incorporates it internally, allowing the physical memory to inform the performance on an unconscious level."

More stuff from Ed's newsletter

The gesture precedes the word. JoeDimaggio's old coffee commercials are funny because he would look into the camera and say, "Let me tell you what I think." -- and then he would tap his forehead to illustrate where the thinking was taking place. Actually, the tapping would come just slightly prior to, and overlapping, the line.

A good comedy moment, if played with lowered stakes, ought to work on a dramatic level. On one level, a perpetually hungry coyote isn't funny at all, right? It makes you want to leave him a dish of Alpo or something. But when the animator ups the stakes and renders him so perpetually hungry that he becomes obsessive for the bird, we in the audience enter the realm of comedy! But, if on his way out the town gates, he were to pass another guy coming into town that has also killed his own father and married his own mother and had put out his own eyes -- it would become comedy! One Oedipus is tragic. Two Oedipus's are funny. The reason is that we laugh when we cannot tolerate any more pain. Chaplin slipped on the same banana peel and was embarrassed by it! The audience empathizes with the embarrassment. The humor is not in the slip; it is in the reaction. We humans love to see ourselves imitated. It is fundamental to the way we learn how to survive, and it has a name: mimesis. We take a particular pleasure in seeing ourselves reflected on stage or on the screen, and that is another key to comedy. Who among us has not slipped on the banana peel at one time or another? We all are embarrassed, and that is the point of empathy. And so we laugh.

adrenaline moments", i.e. moments the characters will remember when they turn eighty and look back on their lives. When I teach that you can energize a character by converting want to need, I am thinking of increased urgency. Regardless of the action, your character will execute it with more thrust if it is motivated by need rather than want. If you turn up the heat under the emotion, you are going to get a more enthusiastic action. Stage actors learn that it is in fact impossible to act more energetically because that would amount to playing a "result" - and yet "more energy!" is one of the most common directions they hear. The trick to playing more energetically is to simply "care more about the subject". If you care more about the subject, you will automatically act more energetically.

You can't have a space in between the beads in a necklace. If you do, you won't have a necklace.

DEFINITION: AN ADRENALINE MOMENT IS A MOMENT THAT THE CHARACTER WILL REMEMBER WHEN HE OR SHE TURNS EIGHTY-FIVE AND LOOKS BACK ON HIS LIFE. IT IS, IN SHORT, A MOMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE.I am convinced that effective story telling necessarily includes at least one adrenaline moment, and it may include many. An adrenaline moment doesn't have to be a big earth-shaking deal. The world will not change because of the flypaper. but Pluto will never forget his encounter with the flypaper! An adrenaline moment is a factor of character, not of story, it happens to a character not to a story, and not to an audience member, the audience memeber empathizes with the character having the adrenaline moment.

watch how Gollum (Serkis) uses status transactions all the time, to negotiate for what he wants or needs. He will frequently toss his power center into the ground in a counterfeit subservient fashion.

"Thinking tends to lead to conclusions; emotion tends to lead to action." The first thing to understand about audiences is that they empathize with an on-screen character's emotion, not with the thinking. When your character feels something (an automatic value response), he tends to do something about it, and that is what draws the audience in emotionally. Paul Ekman says "It is hard not to behave emotionally when the stakes are high." and "The emotional signals given off by another person ...triggers our own emotional response, and that in turn colors our interpretation of what the person is saying, what we think are that person's motives, attitudes and intentions."

emotion leads to action in pursuit of an objective while overcoming an obstacle

A hero is a regular person who must overcome a huge obstacle to achieve a good of some kind.

A defining moment is usually a small, almost undetectable and private
thing for a character. It goes by in less than a heart beat. It is a
factor of a squint, the refocusing of a pupil, the bat of an eyelash
... But if you, the animator and story teller, can isolate it even
for a fraction of a second, there is a good chance the extra effort
will pay dividends triple-fold. A merely excellent scene can often be rendered profound by the addition of just a few frames. Yhe defining moment of that scene is not for the coyote, but for us in the audience to enjoy.

Audiences only empathize with emotion. In any negotiation, there is a way to win and a way to lose.

basic acting lesson: " A scene is a negotiation.

Your character's behavior is - or should be - influenced by the atmosphere in which he lives. Every scene, every location and every event has an atmosphere of its own. When considering atmosphere, remember that your character has five senses. Michael Chekhov ("On the Technique of Acting" essential reading.

Saturday, February 2, 2008


thoughts I've directly copy pasted from Ed Hook's online newsletter

Emotion is the primary thing that binds us humans to one another. Audiences empathize with emotion, not information. Animators, like other interpretative artists, speak to the audience with emotion.

A basic premise of acting is that a character needs to play an action to overcome an obstacle in pursuit of an objective. To me, a hero is an ordinary person who must act to overcome an extraordinary villain or terrible situation. A hero is a guy who goes out to catch the subway to go to work and, next thing he knows, he's running from -- and chasing -- the bad guys across the face of Mount Rushmore. A Villain is an ordinary person that has a fatal flaw. The trick to playing a character that is not smart is to remember that the character thinks he IS smart! There is nothing much funnier than a stupid person that thinks he is being clever.

A character's gesture is not simply an illustration of the
spoken word. It reflects a deeper truth and may even be in
opposition to the spoken word. We humans are wired by nature to read
and decipher the way that gestures coordinate with words. If
gestures come into conflict with words, we will tend to give the most
credence to what we see, not what we hear.It may be effective to have a character enter a scene because he wants to, but it will carry an emotional jolt for
the game player if the character enters because he needs to.

In acting terms, we know that a scene must have conflict, otherwise known as an obstacle or, my preferred designation, a negotiation. There are only three possible kinds of conflict: (1) conflict with yourself; (2) conflict with another character; (3) conflict with the situation.

A key to establishing a sense of empathy in an audience is to create believable life on screen. That means that the characters have to have survival mechanisms, and the audience needs to be able to relate to them.

And, most surprising of all, laughter has very little to do with jokes anyway. It is a "I'm OK - You're OK" kind of thing, an indicator of social interaction.

An EMOTION is an automatic value response. Emotion is a factor of a thinking brain. It has to do with the values we hold. Take away the thinking, and you remove any possibility of emotion. They go hand in hand. As a practical matter, how does this help an animator? Well, in general, thinking tends to lead to conclusions, and emotion tends to lead to action. Define your character, get him thinking, and then he will have emotional responses to whatever is going on -- leading him to physical action. The audience relates to the feeling that is behind the movement.

One way we are connected to one another is through empathy. We relate to one another on an emotional level. An audience empathizes with emotion. It puts up with thinking in order to get to the emotion. And to push this even further, the audience will empathize with the SURVIVAL MECHANISMS in a character, as they are expressed in emotion. What this means is that we humans act to survive, and we will recognize this tendency in characters on the screen.