Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dramatic Structure

I'm visiting my mom and she has crappy internet, so this is more of a seed post for me to hopefully come back and grown more answers later.

All those screenwriting books and blogs, and movies, and even western novels, can easily trace their roots back to Aristotle's Poetica and his 3 act structure. What I have been curious about is what is the inherent, unquestioned, dna foundation of stories in other non western cultures that don't directly trace back to Aristotle.(granted ancient greece was at the center of a huge empire and the hub of a huge trading center so it's influence was wide spread.) Specifically I am curious how that manifests itself in modern cinema from other places. (Kurasawa for example, he's obviously aware of Western story conventions but he grew up with a different cultural history.) In other words the 3 act structure is so ingrained in the telling of stories that I'm used to that it's like water to a fish, so I am curious what other flavors of water there are.

So it occurred to me to start at Aristotle and see if I could link out from there to the field of study. That got me to dramatic theory which got me to Natya Shastra which is a very interesting start. (attributed to Sage Bharata) The Nātyashāstra delineates a detailed theory of drama comparable to the Poetics of Aristotle. Bharata refers to bhavas, the imitations of emotions that the actors perform, and the rasas (emotional responses) that they inspire in the audience. He argues that there are eight principal rasas: love, pity, anger, disgust, heroism, awe, terror and comedy, and that plays should mix different rasas but be dominated by one.

Each rasa experienced by the audience is associated with a specific bhava portrayed on stage. For example, in order for the audience to experience srngara (the 'erotic' rasa), the playwright, actors and musician work together to portray the bhava called rati (love).

so definitely have some leaning to do (once I'm on a better connection.)

Wiki screenwriting

Thank god for wiki. Sums up all those screenwriting books and blogs I was reading last year nice and quick. Straight copy paste from the screenwriting entry.

Syd Field's Paradigm
Screenwriting guru Syd Field wrote the seminal book Screenplay, and posited a new theory, which he called the Paradigm. Plot Points are important structural functions that happen in approximately the same place in most successful movies, like the verses and choruses in a popular song. Here is a current list of the major Plot Points that are congruent with Field's Paradigm:

Opening Image: The first image in the screenplay should summarize the entire film, especially its tone. Often, writers go back and redo this as the last thing before submitting the script.

Inciting Incident: Also called the catalyst, this is the point in the story when the Protagonist encounters the problem that will change their life. This is when the detective is assigned the case, where Boy meets Girl, and where the Comic Hero gets fired from his cushy job, forcing him into comic circumstances.

Plot Point 1: The last scene in Act One, Turning Point One is a surprising development that radically changes the Protagonist's life, and forces him to confront the Opponent. In Star Wars, this is when Luke's family is killed by the Empire. He has no home to go back to, so he joins the Rebels in opposing Darth Vader.

Pinch 1: A reminder scene at about 3/8 the way through the script (halfway through Act 2a) that brings up the central conflict of the drama, reminding us of the overall conflict. For example, in Star Wars, Pinch 1 is the Stormtroopers attacking the Millennium Falcon in Mos Eisley, reminding us the Empire is after the stolen plans to the Death Star R2-D2 is carrying and Luke and Ben Kenobi are trying to get to the Rebel Alliance (the main conflict).

Midpoint: An important scene in the middle of the script, often a reversal of fortune or revelation that changes the direction of the story. Field suggests that driving the story towards the Midpoint keeps the second act from sagging.

Pinch 2: Another reminder scene about 5/8 through the script (halfway through Act 2b) that is somehow linked to Pinch 1 in reminding the audience about the central conflict. In Star Wars, Pinch 2 is the Stormtroopers attacking them as they rescue the Princess in the Death Star. Both scenes remind us of the Empire's opposition, and using the Stormtrooper attack motif unifies both Pinches.

Plot Point 2: A dramatic reversal that ends Act 2 and begins Act 3, which is about confrontation and resolution. Sometimes Turning Point Two is the moment when the Hero has had enough and is finally going to face the Opponent. Sometimes, like in Toy Story, it's the low-point for the Hero, and he must bounce back to overcome the odds in Act 3.

Showdown: About midway through Act 3, the Protagonist will confront the Main Problem of the story and either overcome it, or come to a tragic end.

Resolution: The issues of the story are resolved.

Tag: An epilogue, tying up the loose ends of the story, giving the audience closure. This is also known as denouement. In general, films in recent decades have had longer denouements than films made in the 1970s or earlier.

The sequence approach
The sequence approach to screenwriting, sometimes known as "eight-sequence structure", is a system developed by Frank Daniel. It is based in part on the fact that, in the early days of cinema, technical matters forced screenwriters to divide their stories into sequences, each the length of a reel (about ten minutes).[12]

The sequence approach mimics that early style. The story is broken up into eight 10-15 minute sequences. The sequences serve as "mini-movies", each with their own compressed three-act structure. The first two sequences combine to form the film's first act. The next four create the film's second act. The final two sequences complete the resolution and dénouement of the story. Each sequence's resolution creates the situation which sets up the next sequence.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

James Baxter Acting notes

Long time back now James Baxter returned to Dreamworks and did a couple lectures on acting. There were notes up for a while, then they went down. Looks like some are up again at Jim Hull's Seward Street (which he stopped updating a long time ago)

Day 1

Day 2

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Carlos Baena dolly

Old post from Carlos on how to think about moving cameras.

The camera should never call attention to itself. It’ll take an audience out of a film. It should bring people inside the film based on the storypoints.

Regardless of the medium, the camera still has weight, and if it moves too light and flips around 20 times, chances are, the audience may not be into that as much.

Always keep in mind composition. Even though the camera is moving, it’s re-composing shots in every frame.

What lenses are used will obviously affect the composition of the moving camera. Wider lenses tend to be used in steadycams and/or when following people around and are easier to follow focus as well. Longer lenses are move difficult to track people in my opinion. However, longer lenses are always a lot more personal to a character.

Camera level matters. Not the same to go eye level, that low level. Why and how the camera is placed again should be based on what’s being told.

The camera should work with the actors, follow once they start moving, as if the camera where an actor looking. To go with or before an actor moves feels staged.

Don’t move the camera just to move it. Keep it still if you are unsure what to do.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thinking - Matt Williames

Matt Williames has some "how I do it" posts. Found this part interesting:

I think sometimes it can be a downfall of animators to mistakes nice poses for "thinking" [a pose meaning thinking]. I've done it for sure-- certainly poses can evoke thinking, but i really feel like think is shown mainly in change. i.e A character is in a situation where he is being asked to make a difficult decision. He is tense, shoulders up, chest inflated, brows down-- he realized he needs to make a certain decision and is at ease with it. He relaxes his shoulders and exhales and lifts his brows. There is not a huge pose change in there, just a change of shape that shows us his thinking. You are working within a pose with something like this-- now sometimes you want to have some sort of change of line of action to make your idea clear it's just knowing where to do it

Aanimate feelings! Meaning, don't think "ok i gotta pick up the leg, move it here"--- naw naw naw, C'mon! animate feelings man! Yes, mechanics: spacing, arcs, on-model drawing contribute to good performance but they are merely a support FOR the performance. I personally feel this way, without great mechanics you can't communicate your great performance properly and yet if your animation is wonky because you don't understand good technique i think it could potentially pull someone out of the performance. Likewise a beautifully animated character from a technical stand-point only tickles the brain, not touch the heart. So while you need to be mindful to a degree at this stage of the process of technical things, your main goal is making that funny little character breath and live.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dog Gallop slow motion

I found it on Murika's blog, but she found it animation resource which looks to be worth a wander through.

Dodger Slow Motion Running from D__E on Vimeo.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hand Drawn is Awesome!

Glen Keane super ruff. Saw this somewhere, re found it at pencil depot.

Tarzan rough Pencil-Test from Victor Ens on Vimeo.

Went looking for this one cuz had seen it long while back. Rune Brandt Bennicke straight ahead no x sheet no nothin, just the cd on loop.

Life in poses comes from thought in characters

Post a while back at the artcenter by Mark McDonnell.

story should always be in your head... Imagining what the character is thinking will make your work stand out. There needs to be a thought behind the poses, not just how light falls on form. This is how to get life into your work.
pose should clearly describe who that person is

both a more dramatic or subtle push can be accomplished by focusing on the overall silhouette. This will automatically exaggerate the pose and make it far more dynamic than merely copying what you see in front of you. From here adding the subtleties of what the character or person is thinking will push the drawing into the unique category.

One good rule is to leave the facial features til last, the body language should communicate what the action is in the pose first.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Canemaker - Studio Approaches to Storytelling

Daniel Caylor found this great article. It's John Canemaker (who I can tell is some big guy in animation but not quite sure who he is yet) interviewing some story guys. Really great stuff. Check Caylor's blog for the whole thing.

Bill Peet
The first thing you have to have is a set of characters that can carry you through the story once they're established. That's the most important part. It's like a train leaving the station without the passnegers: if you don't have the characters from the word go, you don't have the story really started. I'm very familiar with the characters before I get into the story. If I know them well, I can develop the story.

Jerry Rees[Brave Little Toaster] Once characgter was clearly defined, [radio is an entertainer no matter waht, the vacuum cleaner holds things inside, the lamps a bit dim]the scenes began to almost write themselves. You knew what they would or wouldn't say. THere's certainly room to develop and let that evolve, but you know what is in their nature and what isn't, and it builds.

Peter Schneider (VP Disney Pictures) I happen to think personality, character and story go hand in hand. it's like the train leaving the station with an engine, with the passengeres on it- it would be a very interesting ride but there's no control. I happen to think story is your control, from which characters and personalities must work as your framework to allow the entertainment, the jokes, the fun to happen. But story is the control that governs the speed, takes you up and down the hills and if you only have personality and characters, you don't ever get up your hills... You can't have a story without personality and character, and you can't have charaacters and personality without a very good story to hang the frame on.

Bill Peet: Yes, for animation you need strong, definite personalities, so that yo ucan have broad and explicit action, and there'll be no doubts about what your characters are thinking. in animation, we're not trying to duplicate live-action or create realism. We're trying to make it larger than life. We want exaggerated actions and attitudes. That's the fantasy of animation, more than special effects or all the wlid things they can do in STAR WARS. It's our larger than life personalities.

How do you make an audience feel something for these characters?
Rees: Well, you have to feel it first. That's the main thing. It's so easy to slip into formula approaches or cribbing something that has been done before in film... The thing is, those films {classic Disney films that influenced Rees et co} were a first-time experience for those story people and the animators invovled. And it was something they brought out of their own experience.

Rees talked about a moment of conflict in the Brave Little Toaster that they moved on from the Disney preference for pantomime>dialogue because having a well-written script scene allowed them to naturally fit in some needed exposition which allowed them to cut an unneccessary scene.

Rees: I have found a danger in having that collaborative thing be there all the time. {room full of story artists vs individual offices} My feeling of rhythm is that it's great to have collaboration to critique things. But then for a moment to really ring true, I feel it has to get down to an intimate exploration again. And one or two people is plenty for those moments, and then you expand to more people to have input on that. Just a personal thing, you know.
Animation staging is an important part of how you tell the story. {the equivalent of art of cinematography in live action}
There's a first impression you get, and changes that happen from that first impression can be very valuable. Changes that happen from your fifteenth or sixteenth impression just become reworking something because you are used to it. So you have to remember that your first impressions are more in tune with what the audience is going to feel.

Peet: I do agree with Walt Disney that to have to listen at great length ot an animated cartoon with voices coming on and on and on hurts the film, because it is an action medium. The fun of animatin is to see drawings in action...I still say that the charm of animation is the obvious appearance of it. It's a drawing come to life. And the living drawing is the charm of it. It always has been, no matter how elaborate you can make it. Animation stands alone.

I had had a story kicking around for a while. Or more accurately I had a cool setting and general idea, but no specific story. Then I started doodling out a character shape comparison sheet like this one from Aladin and BAM I immediately started getting an idea of who the characters where, how they would interact, and that was enough to start weaving the story. I think it helped that it was visual, I had tried to decide on personalities before, but that was using words, and I'm a visual thinker, asigning verbal personality traits felt so arbitrary, but matching personality traits to visuals felt totally natural and easy and intuitively right.

Adele Blanc-Sec

Check it. A female Han Solo/ Indiana Jones/ Scoundrel - from France.

Definitely worth working out what makes Indy & Han so cool, vs today's jackass characters.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Night Parade

Sabrina Cotugno 2nd year film, great use of consistent color

* on animation again

Amelia Lorenz

Love that watercolor BG. If she threw some color behind those pencils it would be a great look. She's got heart. Her blog.

2nd year

Change in the Weather from Amelia Lorenz on Vimeo.

1st year

Milo's Encore from Amelia Lorenz on Vimeo.

*found by On Animation

real eyes, animated body

Not sure what I think about these. No denying that it makes a super strong result, but kind of feel like it's cheating: of course it's gonna have a strong result. I think these ones by Carlos Lascano are the most effective. That monkey one at the bottom is kind of freaky.

Seems aftereffects is integral to so much these days, whole worlds are built in it, suppose I should learn it.

Making of J'ai pas le temps / sneak preview from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

J'ai pas le temps / I have no time from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

The Can from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

A SHORT LOVE STORY IN STOP MOTION from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Justin & Shel Rasch documentary

John Ikuma filmed Justin and Shel Rasch for a documentary, only just ran across it. I love these guys, totally inspirational, especially seeing this and seeing how low tech they are, just getting it done not worried about doing it the "proper" way, and then their end product comes out looking great.

Juan Soto Shooting

really nice 2ndary motion by Juan Soto

Foam Latex how to tutorial

Stop Motion Magazine recently put up some youtube tutorials walking you through the steps for molds, armatures, and the black arts of mixing latex. Solidly presented.

(this is vid 5 of 6)

I recall that in the Dec 2009 issue there were instructions for making an oven to bake your latex in (so you don't poison your family with your kitchen oven.)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

John Brown Drawing Tips

Was watching a scultping tutorial by John Brown and he threw some great tips that apply equally well to drawing or sculpting.

He defines a curve as a series of intersecting lines. So if you want to exaggerate, it will still feel right if you maintain the ratio of the lines. (the red lines)

Then he uses the silhouette to check his shapes from his reference against his piece. He looks at where the apex (furthest out part of the line is) is in relation to the length of the line (here 3/4 of the curve appear above it), and at what kind of negative space the curve creates, and checks his piece against those things.

Pretty cool stuff. Easy to follow video, makes you feel like you can do it.