Sunday, September 28, 2008

Thinking vs Emotions

Ratul had a comment on a previous post. I came to a new understanding trying to answer it. Here's the gem I sifted out from my thoughts (at least I think it's a gem ;) Acting wise, thinking is something that really makes your character's seem alive and believable, but emotions are what people connect to them through.

Ratul Sarna said...

Hi Alonso!
Great posts by Tom,,I read them through sometime back and wanted to ask him a question but my hesitancy stopped me. I think it would be great if you could shed some light on it.
Tom writes, " Thoughts are shaped by the personality, feeling and context. Thoughts are the last internal process."
But, if you read "Acting for Animators" by Ed Hooks, in the first chapter itself he points out that "Thinking leads to emotions and emotions lead to action." And here Tom is saying the exact opposite. Who is right? and How should we think about it while handling a shot with a character? Should emotions be dictated by the thoughts or vice versa.
I hope I'm not bugging you :D

Hey Ratul,

You should totally ask Tom, worst that happens is he doesn't respond.

I actually have a BA in Psychology, and what I remember is that emotion's were evolved because they were faster then thinking, so if a tiger jumps out at you, you're scared and flinch, instead of thinking about what to do. But there's probably opposite theories as well, the brain's a black box and everyone's just pitching theories trying to guess how it actually works.

Rereading that Ed Hooks section, he gives an example of "you're walking down a dark alley and you hear something behind you" and then he describes the "thought process" of deciding it's footsteps and not an airplane. I think he's totally wrong, if there's a sound behind me I don't "think" about what it is, I "know" unconsciously what it is.

We are so unconscious of ourselves, we usually act based on how we feel and then justify it after the fact with thoughts. Our emotions determine what things we notice and how we interpret them. If your girlfriend came in talking about how wonderful her new professor is, you may react nastily to her because you feel jealous, but think you are doing it because she is acting like a know it all. If you are prejudiced against a group of people, you notice any news reports that are negative about them as true, and any that are positive as exceptions and not the norm, and you think you are being objective but you are letting your emotions bias your thoughts.

Acting wise, thinking is something that really makes your character's seem alive and believable, but emotions are what people connect to them through. So we need to have both. So the key time to think is when the character is not talking, they are listening or observing the world, they are absorbing information and processing it. Then they take the information they've processed and compare it to what they want, and that affects their emotion. Then they initiate an action based on what's happened and how they feel about it to pursue what they want. I listen to the audio to try and discover what emotions I think the actor reveals in their voice. When the emotions change, that's when I try and show the thought process, indicate that they are processing the incoming information, checking how it affects their progress towards their goal, and then how it changes their emotion to a new beat, and new tactic towards gaining their goal.

We don't think "if I explain myself, then she will understand" we need or want her to love us so we explain ourselves in the hopes that it will achieve that goal. We don't consciously think "she's frowning and crossing her arms, her body language says she is not agreeing" we feel that our approach is not achieving our goal. Feeling her reluctance makes us feel frustrated so we yell, or sad so we collapse and give up. Play one beat until something happens to make you change your approach and play a new one. When something makes you change your approach we need to see that the information has penetrated and it is causing the gears to change. Thinking is showing the gears changing to a new emotion.

The other kind of thinking, conscious type, is more for when you are talking slowly trying to choose the right word, or recall a memory or something, those you can play through with a single emotion, or change if there is a beat change.

A lot of the time the emotions are really subtle, not really very distinguishable from each other. But as an animator you have to exagerate the change in emotions so you have different beats to play so the performance is varied. Don't exagerate the performance beyond what the voice gives you, but push the contrast between beats so it's easier for you to have somewhere to go. This is how the audience connects with your character, they may not have felt the same thing in the same situation, but they need to see it as a believable possibility. This is why all those demo reels with people freaking out, having the lower lid eye twitch, and then throwing stuff around, just don't work, without a build up to show the character getting that justifiably frustrated, or to establish what a hot temper they have, then it just looks like the actor hamming it up. So the emotions need to be believable that this character could react with that feeling, and appropriate for that character and that situation. If the emotions are sincere and authentic then the audience empathizes and shares them, if the emotions don't fit it breaks the suspension of disbelief and audience stops caring about the world you are trying to create on the screen.

But what the hell do I know? :P Just theories that I'm making up as I type them down, lord knows it hasn't shown up in my animation yet. So feel free to disregard, or come up with opposing theories or whatever :)

And thanks Ratul, the opposite of bugging me, you are helping me get better, so mucho thanks! :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Calvin and Hobbes

Speaking of Calvin and Hobbes made me want to go and see if Bill Watterson has spoken at all about storytelling and stuff. Found This interview between him and Richard West. (Why are interviewer's so stupid? Why is it so hard to wrap their heads around Hobbes being alive sometimes and not other times? So what? Why do they have to try and make a real world explanation for it?)

It’s a strip about a family - a familiar, universal setting that’s easy to identify with. I’m trying to put a unique twist on it, but it’s well-covered ground.

The whole challenge really is to set up rules. You can make your cartoon world have as much sense or as little sense as you want to, and the main thing is that you’re consis­tent within that vision.

The aspect of the strip that I have the most fun playing with is the personalities and the characters. In other words, their in­teraction is what is interesting to me, not the playing with the form of the comic strip.

WEST: You once said that Calvin’s imagination was greater than yours. Where do you go to find inspiration if you‘re not basing it on your world ?

WATTERSON: Well, for example, just a simple thing that I’ve played around with a couple of times is the issue of size. You take your size for granted. You get larger up to a point and then you stop, and then that is your size, and you relate to the world from that viewpoint. If size was a complete variable, what would the world be like? In other words, if there was not a hard and fast rule of growth, how would things change? That presents me with an awful lot of visual possibilities that I enjoy working with. And to adults who are used to thinking of the world from a certain vantage point, it sometimes seems fresh, I hope.

WEST: One of the best things about the strip is that you surprise readers with the areas of concern of the strip. Do you surprise yourself? Do you find yourself pursuing things that delight you, that you’ve stumbled upon? Is the inspiration on automatic pilot?

WATTERSON: I wish it was more than it actually is. I can’t just turn off the things that we all accept or have learned. For example, everybody works with a day-to­day assumption that gravity is going to be there from the time he gets up until he goes to bed and so on. To imagine if gravity were suddenly turned off requires an effort. My mind doesn’t just naturally go off in these odd directions all the time.

WEST: Well, in the last three years, have the fantasy sequences gotten easier? You seem to be doing less of them these days. Is there a reason?

WATTERSON: At first it was fun simply to juxtapose fantasy with reality - the simple fact that the reader could see the fantasy and then, at the end, see the flip. See it from the child’s view and then, later, see it from the adult view and realize that there’s an inconsistency there. That was originally a fun device, but the burden on the strip has been to make each switch more clever. The juxtaposi­tion alone can get predictable it it’s just done over and over in the same way. Each time it’s got to be done with some unpredictability, some cleverness to it so that it doesn’t become moribund. So, yes, I’m doing fewer because it’s getting more and more difficult.
But I still try to do the fantasies as they interest me. There’s a limitation to them. They’re fun to read and they’re certainly fun to draw, but they don’t have the emo­tional weight to them that an interaction between two in­teresting characters does. In other words, when Spiff is on Planet Zorg, it’s a visual feast. I get to draw bizarre landscapes and monsters and fool with lighting and color and so on, in the Sundays. It’s an adventure story on the simplest level. He reacts to the situation and then maybe at the end it flips into a classroom or whatever, but there's no emotional depth.
The depth of the friendship between Calvin and Hobbes interests me because of its significance. Each kind of story has its own problems in writing, but my main concern really is to keep the reader on his toes, or to keep the strip unpredictable. I try to achieve some sort of balance between the two that keeps the reader wondering what's going to happen next and be surprised.

WEST: What do you say to the thought that Calvin and Hobbes is basically the exploration of a friendship and that all of the other comic devices you use are comic relief from that emotional center?

WATTERSON: That’s not far off, but I don’t know if I’d say the other is just a relief from that. Both interest me for different reasons. Really, what I’m trying to do is to juggle as many balls as I can at once so that I’ll have a slapstick joke one day, a fantasy another day, a friendship, a sadness. I try to explore as diverse a world as I'm capable of. This, again, gives me the flexibility to keep the writing interesting and I hope it also keeps it lively for the reader as well.

WEST: What do you say to the thought that Calvin and Hobbes is basically the exploration of a friendship and that all of the other comic devices you use are comic relief from that emotional center?

WATTERSON: That’s not far off, but I don’t know if I’d say the other is just a relief from that. Both interest me for different reasons. Really, what I’m trying to do is to juggle as many balls as I can at once so that I’ll have a slapstick joke one day, a fantasy another day, a friendship, a sadness. I try to explore as diverse a world as I'm capable of. This, again, gives me the flexibility to keep the writing interesting and I hope it also keeps it lively for the reader as well.
Many strips have, you know, the funny character, the straight man, the foil - those characters are stereotypes and fairly flat. The role of these characters in the strip is entirely defined by their function as a member of a social group or age group, or whatever, and I’m trying to avoid that as much as I possibly can. I try to make each character, even the ones that aren’t that important, a unique personality that, over time, will develop. Some of the minor characters appear less often than Calvin and Hobbes, but, hopefully, over years, each one will become a unique personality that will be every bit as complex and interesting as Calvin and Hobbes.
In other words, I don’t want the parents to simply function as parents. I want them to be unique individuals as well. They are parents, of course, and, as sane people, they have to react to Calvin’s personality. What I try to do in writing any character is to put myself in his posi­tion, to the extent that I can, and I know that if I was Calvin's dad or Calvin's mom that I would not react to him with the gooey sentimentality that sometimes appears in other strips. Given Calvin's usual behavior, I think his parents show admirable restraint in theirs.

WEST: Is it easier for you to imagine being the father than it is to imagine being Calvin?

WATTERSON: The dad is, in some ways, a parody of my own dad and he's also part of myself. I’m also part of the mother, too, and Susie, and everyone else. I’m pulling out different aspects of my personality in writing each character and, if I’m doing my job well, I’m being true to the situation and true to the character. Hopefully, the mother is not just the disciplinarian, but is more well-rounded than that - the same thing with the father or Susie, and so on. My aim is to make each one complete and real.

What I found to be true of the earlier strips I developed was that I was often making my cast much greater than I had the authority to speak about. I was trying to deal with friendships and relationships that I don’t understand. With Calvin and Hobbes, I don’t really think of them as a comedy team that dances on stage and does an act for you. It’s a very natural and personal friendship of the type that I’m most familiar and comfortable with myself.

Calvin and Hobbes together are more than the sum of their parts. Each ticks because the other is around to share in the little conspiracies, or to argue and fight with. In many comic strips the animal eventually steals the show, just because animals offer more freedom to the cartoonist. As we were talking about earlier, the improbability of certain thoughts coming from the mouth of a child provides a kind of humor just from the context. Well, it’s even more the case with an animal because it’s even more unprobable.­
Also, there is more latitude that way. You know, you can draw a penguin on a toilet reading The New York Times and it’s adorable, but try doing it with an adult male character, and it’s disgusting. I think there is always the temptation to go with the most flexible and fun char­acter, and that’s almost always the animal. With Calvin and Hobbes, though, Hobbes is the more subtle of the two while Calvin is the loud, obnoxious one. Each is funnier in contrast to the other than they would be by themselves. In fact, because Hobbes is the much more subtle and quiet character, it sometimes surprises me that people respond so warmly to him because I think his character is much harder to get a grasp on. It may just be because he's cute.

Looking back, you’ll see that some of the old strips are one-gag formulas, endlessly varied. Krazy Kat revolves around the tossing of the brick. Little Nemo was always a dream and you knew the kid is going to wake up in a heap at the bottom of his bed in every single strip. I find Herriman a lot more interesting than McCay, but both are working within a very limited construct. It’s a very different approach to cartooning that what we do now. I would go insane working with limited formulas like theirs, but on the other hand, Herriman and McCay gave us something better than gags. Back then, the fun was in the getting there. The destination of each strip was the same, but every day you went there by a different road. Today, we want the strip over as soon as possible - ”Just hand me the punchline, please.” The fewer panels, words, and drawings, the better. I think Pogo was the last of the enjoy-the-ride strips. It’s a shame. We’ve really lost what comics do best.

Calvin and Hobbes isn’t a gag strip. It has a punchline, but the strip is about more than that. The humor is situational, and often episodic. It relies on conversation, and the development of per­sonalities and relationships. These aren’t concerns you can wrap up neatly in a clever little saying for people to send each other or to hang up on their walls. To explore character, you need lots of time and space. Note pads and coffee mugs just aren’t appropriate vehicles for what I’m trying to do here. I’m not interested in removing all the subtlety from my work to condense it for a product. The strip is about more than jokes.

Instead of ask­ing what's wrong with rampant commercialism, we ought to be asking, “What justifies it?” Popular art does not have to pander to the lowest level of intelligence and taste.

and from a different interview
It was a slow process, and actually what happened is another odd coincidence. One of the strips I'd sent had Calvin and Hobbes as minor characters. Calvin was the little brother of the strip's main character, and Hobbes was like he is now, a stuffed tiger that came to life in Calvin's imagination. One of the syndicates suggested that these two characters were the strongest and why didn't I develop a strip around them? I had thought they were the funniest characters myself, but I was unsure as to whether they could hold their own strip. I was afraid that maybe the key to their wackiness was the contrast between them and the more normal characters in the rest of the strip. I wasn't sure Calvin and Hobbes would be able to maintain that intensity on their own. But I tried it, and almost immediately it clicked in my mind; it became much easier to write material. Their personalities expanded easily, and that takes a good 75 percent of the work out of it. If you have the personalities down, you understand them and identify with them; you can stick them in any situation and have a pretty good idea of how they're going to respond. Then it's just a matter of sanding and polishing up the jokes. But if you've got more ambiguous characters or stock stereotypes, the plastic comes through and they don't work as well. These two characters clicked for me almost immediately and I feel very comfortable working with them. That syndicate, oddly enough, declined my strip, so I started sending it around. Universal expressed an interest in it and wanted to see more work, so I drew another month's worth of art, sent that to them, and they decided to take it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ollie Johnston on heart

Over at Seward Street I ran across this excerpt of a letter that Ollie wrote to Peter Emslie (who is the one who originally posted it in his blog) Interesting how Ollie places the most emphasis on character personalities interacting. All I can say is "Calvin and Hobbes" look how many adventures they get into, and all those adventures are all just natural sparks that come off from their two personalities interacting.

Frank and I get called in on most of the features as consultants. I’m not sure how much we help them because they are really thinking a different way than we did. We try to plug warmth and heart and personality relationships and good acting but they are more tuned to the new way of doing story where something new is happening every minute and you don’t really have time to stay with the stuff and bring out the personalities the way Walt tried to do. Part of the trouble is that the young animators don’t yet know how to get all this stuff into their work. They have some real good animators who are excellent draftsmen but they are only now beginning to discover the possibilities in character relationships and letting the audience know what their drawings are trying to say - what they are trying to tell the audience. I think in the next few years you will see some improvement in this.

I think there is some improvement in the animation in The Little Mermaid over what was done in OLIVER[and Company]. From what I’ve seen so far it has more heart but there is a ways to go, that’s for sure. The young directors will tell us that they like our ideas but they don’t know how to put them on the screen. I can sympathize because I sure had trouble too. It’s a tough medium - there is so much to think of and it’s so easy to mess up on something.

The big thing that is encouraging is the fact that the new management sees the importance of animation. Of course they look at it much from the standpoint of how much money they can make with it. But still, I’m pleased with the interest that Jeffrey Katzenburg has in the department and the fact that he would even call us in encourages me. I think that given time some of these guys will animate something not like we did, but something of their own that will have the ingredients that we always tried for and this may change the type of story material so that it involves the audience more. They they will make pictures that have a more lasting quality to them.

also of note is Seward Street appears to be back, and even more interesting, he appears to have a seperate blog StoryFanatic that looks like it might have some gems in it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Film Note, and Internet Video Savior?

"the audience loves who the camera loves" that was the thought that occurred to me tonight while I was thinking about Shot by Shot, I didn't get much out of that book, it all felt somewhat obvious, but that point that the longer and more direct the camera spends looking at someone the more the audience will identify with them and be on their side.

Unrelatedly, ran across which appears to be what I had had high hopes that youtube was going to be. Namely, with the gatekeepers of media (hollywood) sidestepped I thought it would open a floodgate of creativity, since all these people who are so in love with visual storytelling now had the possibility to make their own stories and put them out there to be seen. Sadly the world appears to be filled with 14 year olds who think that it's a mark of creativity to put a puddle of mud song onto a naruta video. Except for these guys. But suddenly I find Openfilm and am filled with hope that there is still some creativity out there, we'll see how it pans out with future exploration.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Tomas Jech on "original" characters

Couple great posts over at Tomas Jech's blog basically on the same thing. Bringing out a unique authentic performance. My thoughts in italics

Being Original
1. what's the character's personality? How would you describe them to your friend? "Oh anne, she's kind of mousy and shy, really smart though, how'd she wind up with Larry the big dumb oaf" right there you get a hint at how the character's going to move and use their body.
2. What are they feeling, specifically? Super pissed off at the unfairness of the world, with a sense of helplessness welling up quickly.
What context are they in? Are they confessing their emotions to their lover, or are they trying to maintain a professional demeanor in front of the board.
What just happened?
3. What are they thinking? I've always tried to do this, write their thoughts down for each line of dialogue, and then try and act the thoughts and not the words
4. What are they doing? Washing windows, digging a ditch, watching tv? How is their action affected by the other three questions? here my idea of psychic atmosphere comes back in, what if a person's emotions manifested in the world around them? If they were happy and energetic gravity would have less pull, if they were depressed even the air would be heavy

Personality: what is your character generally like? how does she hold herself? is she an introvert or extrovert? Personality will dictate your initial posing of the character, and how the feelings and thoughts are framed.
Feeling: what is your character like right now? what is the context of the scene? Feeling is layered onto the personality, an introvert who currently feels outgoing will look very different then someone outgoing who is feeling outgoing.
Thoughts: What is your character thinking? Thoughts are shaped by the personality, feeling and context. Thoughts are the last internal process. For instance, when you touch something hot, your body reacts first, then you think “SHIT, THAT IS HOT!” and it isn’t until after you think that you speak...if you use the body to say different things than the words, you really start to hit empathy and entertainment with your animation.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Anatomy of Story

ThroughRatul Sarna's blog I came across a review by Tomas Jech of an interesting sounding book called The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. (phew, that's a lot of linking around) (maybe I'll find time to read the book myself some time, but for now I'll just crib a summary of Tomas' notes)Let me say it again, I'm straight lifting Tomas Jech's notes

Story is Argument:

Story can be viewed strictly as an argument. Every story can be viewed as some kind of argument (stories that try to avoid making an argument usually just make a very weak, confusing or insignificant arguments that no-one could disagree with- for ex: good is better than inexplicable evil) According to Truby, argument is typically articulated through the main character’s major flaw. So when arguing in story form, treat your main character as the guinea pig who succeeds based on your argument. For example, if you wish to say “cooperation is better than independence“, you might set up a situation in which your main character is a viciously independent person who must cooperate to succeed.

Truby defines character and story in terms of value conflicts (2 values placed against each other (like freedom vs. security) values are useless unless contrasted against other values, ie intelligence vs bravery. Different people will place higher value on different values.

Truby recommends making a character web. Basically listing the main values of each character. In this way we more clearly define the characters and also make it easy to know how to show off the desired value conflicts, by bringing in putting the characters holding them together.

Truby also thinks your main character needs to have a value that is a flaw or weakness, basically so you can prove your story's arguement by them having to convert to it. (like preferring independence over cooperation, but not being able to succeed until cooperates) which often sticks you with a critical 2ndary character who shows the correct value for the weakness to be compared againt.

Weakness and need
The weakness (a flawed value) affects how the protagonist treats themself as well as how they treat others (a neurosis for some reason is less strong then a moral value). Once Protagonist discovers their weakness they need to change their flawed value in order to win (live a more moral life)

A superficial goal the character wants to achieve and the audience thinks the stories about.

Opponent (Antagonist(s))
constantly and relentlessly attack the weakness, so the hero must overcome their weakness or lose. The person most suited to be attacking the hero's weakness.

Hero should have some plan to attain the goal so the audience can understand the hero's decisions and feel their values at work.

final showdown where the hero has to switch their value to win

Point in the Battle where the hero realizes they've been an ass, and their following actions seek to not follow the flaw anymore.
Good stories, the opponent has a self revelation as well.

New Equilibrium
Epilogue, either everythings golden cuz hero switched and won, or hero lost and audience learns from their mistakes

"symbols are any "thing" that the storyteller attaches to an emotion." Like pavlov's bell, author pairs symbol and emotion often enough that you get the emotion just with the symbol. Like Jaws and the music, scaring people without the shark even being seen.

Story World
should also always be putting pressure on weakness

in order to build drama and interest every new piece of information revealed needs to be more important and sooner, spiraling upwards to the climax

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Five C's of Cinematography

wow, 3 posts in 2 days.

Five C's of Cinematography by Joseph Mascelli. I found this one more useful then Film Direction Shot by Shot by Steven Katz

1. Camera Angles
The camera is the audiences' eyes. If filmed subjectively as if the viewer were actually there experiencing it their interest, involvement, and engagement are increased, and it is easier for the audience to identify with the characters. Easy set up is have the actor look at something, then cut to what they're looking at. If an actor looks at the camera it surprises the viewer, as if they were caught evesdropping, can bring the viewer more into the picture if it is a regular occurance, or is an interview or advertisement. For a subjective close-up you can get right up in the actor's face, 3/4's or straight on, as long as they look slightly to the side of the camera at most (and keeping with correct eye direction) Lady in The Lake was filmed entirely as if the camera were the main character. Get as many angles of an object visible as possible so it doesn't appear flat, always go for as much depth as possible (3/4 angles=good). Use angle's psychologically, looking up at authority figures, looking down on weakness. Type of shot for different uses, long shot for establishing, close up for details. Think progressively, each shot gets closer, or more tilted, etc. Don't forget about contrasting angles and types of shot for variety. "Employ long shots to show players in relation to background, and to allow them space to move from one place to another, as the action progresses. Use medium shots, particularly two-shots, to show important inter-action between players. Utilize close-ups to emphasize a particular action, or to isolate a player or action by removing all else from view." "Choice of camera angle may be decided by analyzing the purpose of the shot, and the effect wanted on the viewer. Should teh audience be shocked at slum conditions depicted ... sold on a new product,... angered by a corrupt political situation...awed by a display of atomic weapons...look with disdain upon a despicable inspired by a religious message"

2. Continuity
It's safest to do master scenes (film the whole damn thing from long shot, then refilm all of it in closer ups) because best way to make sure the editor has enough to work with to cover any mistakes. But it gets boring, so it's good to also plan some alternate stuff sometimes as well. But there's only so much shooting budget. Easiest way to film triple take is to overlap action at the begin and end of a scene, so can cut anywhere to come in and to go out. "By establishing and re-establishing with long shots, depicting the heart of the action in medium shots, emphasizing the important portions with close-ups; good continuity will be achieved. Closer shots will automatically suggest themselves whenever the action becomes concentrated in a smaller area. Moving in closer satisfies the audience's curiosity for a more intimate look." Know your line of action, use straight on shots to change directions if needed. Make sure actor's looks match line of action. Group shots, group the players so you can have groups looking back and forth while maintaining line of action. Reverse shots, best if there is a landmark (staircase, desk, people sitting) so that viewer's can keep track because they're are seeing it's front or back, works best like anything with a motivation (player's look) and also helpful to have an establishing shot first, and if the reverse is an over the shoulder shot. Anything may change during a shot (camera movement, player movement) Nothing should be changed between shots. If coming from a long shot and cutting to a closer in one, it's useful to film the closeup from a new angle, because if the head is slightly different or something it feels similar to a jump cut, so a whole new angle nullifies that.
If camera is panning with subject, keeping them centered, you can't cut to another similar, without the subject clearing the screen, and entering the new one (it'll feel like a jump cut). Entrances and exits should be shot clean (as in film before subjects on screen, and keep filming until they're completely gone) When in doubt an entrance and exit should be filmed. The camera should be started before subject enters the frame and cut after they've left. Or the camera's movement can be motivated by the subject (still camera, subject walks in, camera starts following to keep subject centered, camera comes to a rest subject continues to walk off screen).

3. Cutting
The editor strives to impart visual variety to the picture by skillful shot selection, arrangement, and timing. Cut-away's should be part of the initial set up shots, so that when the character's all react and look off, the audience won't be surprised when we cut to the far corner of the room where they noted a guy was sitting alone in the corner in the establishing shot. Cutting to a neutral or a close-up is a way to switch the path of action smoothly. Cutting is brilliant for keeping continuity interesting by telescoping time and space, cutting out the boring connecting part that doesn't matter to the story (I stood up and walked over to the cabinet, you don't need to see every step) Cut in closeups should be made on all lengthy actions so editor can choose to shorten them (or lengthen). Always start and end a close-up clean so that editor can cut on action of player entering or exiting. Changing both camera angle and image size will aid in smooth cutting.
Cross-cutting, juxtaposing separate events (like opposing armies, or Mr. Incredible snooping in computers with Mrs. Incredible talking to Edna) is used to heighten interest, provide conflict (marching towards each other), heighten suspense (gunman in shadows, important person speachifying), make comparisons, and to depict contrast.
If tempo of camera movement is maintained, you can usually intercut moving shots. Continuous player movement can be carried across both static and moving shots. But static and moving shots of still objects can't be interconnected.
Camera movement: a moving shot must be used in its entirety (or a continuous chunk) because it is almost impossible to cut during a camera movement (dolly, pan, zoom, etc). Screen length of a moving shot is based on the camera, of a static shot is based on the subject action. A static shot can be cut up if it needs to be. Straight cuts are always faster because they get straight to the point, with a moving shot an editor may be forced to leave in useless time because can't cut out of it (panning along a conveyor belt you're stuck for the whole thing, if you have a static shot of getting on, then you can cut right to the getting off.) So camera moves can slow the screen action. Unless a moving shot is dramatically motivated, it's stronger to shoot static shots because the editor can shape the screen energy better. A trick with moving shots is moving in sync to music. A loose camera is distracting on closeups, better to have the camera locked and the player sit down into it, then to have the camera distractingly try to frame the player after they've sat down.
"Each shot should make a point. All scenes should be linked together so that their combined effect, rather then their individual contents, produces the desired audience reactions. Film editors have a motto: "Make them laugh or make them cry, but make them care!" The cameraman should be most focused on what the audience is most interested in.

4. Close-Ups
"The close-up may transport the viewer into the scene; eliminate all non-essentials, for the moment; and isolate whatever significant incident should receive narrative emphasis...They should be reserved for vital spots in the story, so that their intended visual impact upon the audience is assured." Over the shoulder close-ups provide a transition from an objective view to a p.o.v. close-up that will follow. Alternately an objective close-up can lead to a p.o.v. one, but it's not quite as smooth. The foreground character's nose shouldn't show, because that's enough of the face that they start competing for attention, and it feels like a badly done profile dialogue shot. P.O.V. shots are basically the camera taking the place of an actor to look at the partner (but the partner never looks directly back into the lens), involving the audience the most directly in the scene. Close-up backgrounds should not be distracting. Can always use close-ups to hide information, like opening a sequence with a closeup so audience doesn't know that this doctor type person sounding so reasonable is actually in jail.
Close-ups should be used to: play up narrative highlights (important dialogue or reactions), isolate significant subject matter (eliminating non essential information), magnify small scale action, distract the audience (changing screen direction, or cutting out time) or substitute for hidden action (like watching the dials on a machine who's inner workings aren't visible).
"Close-ups provide dramatic punch; point up story highlights; depict related action; comment on principal action; magnify the unseen; provide transitions; emphasize narrative by isolation of subject, and elimination of unwanted matter; or distract the audience to cover jump9cuts. Close-ups should be made to count. The stronger the motive for using a close-up, the more the close-up can help make the story-telling truly effective!"

5. Composition
All the basic rules of still image composition. Try and only have 1 center of interest, group if possible. Movement will usually suck attention, disguising a bad composition. Try and compose with the key positions of the movement in mind. Composition and camera movement should harmonize (don't pan horizontally across a row of tall vertical pillars) (a skier zigzagging down hill motivates a similar more gentle tracking with the camera). Keep in mind where the viewers eyes are, and where that lands the eyes in the next shot.

Lasseter emotion note

"And to help us achieve the emotion we're after in a particular sequence, we use lighting and color. I'd say color and lighting and even music, help give a scene it's underlying emotion better than dialogue. A character might say he's happy, but with somber lighting and music you know the guy's not fine."

-John Lasseter

The Art of Finding Nemo

Acting the First Six Lessons

Acting the first six lessons by Richard Boleslavsky

Dramatic Action. For each beat have a verb you are trying to achieve through the words to be said. And choose the verb for your character: a high court lady could "be insulted" but it is stronger for her to "preserve her dignity" it fits her station better and it's easier to do then to be.

An actor brings to life a unique human soul for every part. "This human soul must be visible in all its aspects, physical, mental, and emotional." Not just a young woman who could be Sally or Ella or the actress' twin, but specifically Ophelia's soul.
Characterization of the body: Use what you know: who was Ophelia? the daughter of a courtier. which means: she is well bred and well controlled. So look at paintings of courtiers by Raphael and Da Vinci. Borrow the hand poses from Boticelli's Birth of Venus, and the head posture from the Mona Lisa, "the clouds driven by the wind can inspire your walk"
"Characterization of the mind in the part on the stage is largely a question of rhythm. The rhythm of thought I should say" Shakespeare did all the thinking for Ophelia, so you need to try and understand and adapt to think the way the author does. To apply that to a part "it is mostly the rhythm or organized energy of your delivery of the author's words. After studying him and rehearsing him for a length of time, you ought to know the movement of the author's thoughts. They must affect you. You must like them. Their rhythm must infect yours. Try to understand the author."
Characterization of the emotion: "emotion is God's breath in a part. Through emotion, the author's characters stand alive and vital." Basically you need to have your part all worked out through actor's craft (know what dramatic action you are trying to achieve for each beat, have your lines memorized so they flow easily, be able to give yourself phantom sensory input to react against, incorporate things you've seen real people do, usual acting craft stuff)

An exercise to develop observation " I decided that for three months, from twelve to one every day, wherever I happened to be and whatever I might be doing, I would observe everything and everybody around me. And from one to two, during my lunch time I would recall the observations of the previous day."

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Chris Sears is doing this Ecorche.

He's taking Rey Bustos' ecorche class.

Interesting the armature for the pelvis, and makes sense the ribs are armatured.

Something I'd like to do myself eventually

Thursday, September 4, 2008

magic of stopmo

A conversation I started over on 11secondclub helped clarify for me the strengths of stopmotion over CG.

Use the medium that best matches the look you want. If the style of movement and the visual look don't match it pulls me out of the story. So part of the art direction will have to be how things will move. Coraline's replacement heads and slightly imperfect spacing pulls me out.

CG is inherently clean and smooth, takes a lot of money to make it look otherwise

Stopmotion is handmade, so the world should look handmade because the motion will

2D can bring believability to charicature (triplettes of belleville) and do fluid changes so easily (orgesticulanismus)

When Stopmo looks smooth like CG, the stopmo movement pulls me out of it (Corpse Bride, and Coraline(lookin like at least) When CG looks like Stopmo the same (Shane Acker's 9)