Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

One Frame

One shot, one frame. I always believe that each shot in a film can be done in one frame. I mean that for each shot there should only be one main story telling idea or pose. Now, I know every shot has more than one pose and some shots you need more than that but the overall feel and story telling of that shot can generally be summed up in one frame.
At the beginning of any shot I work on I try to find this frame. I usually reference the storyboards first because in story they are also trying to accomplish the same goal of telling the story in one drawing. Then I try and figure out what my acting is for the shot how that fits into the composition of the frame and what the strongest single pose is for my shot. I then look at my shot looping with this one pose in place, with the sound playing back and then I ask myself does this read? If the emotion or story point of the shot doesn’t come across in this simple test I then go back to the drawing board and try again. I always believe that animation is best when it’s simple, and uncomplicated. The reason I look for this one pose is so I start from a simple place that works, then I can start to build my performance from there and hopefully just strengthen what I already have. If you start with out this I find it’s easy to get caught up in fancy poses, nice arcs, and movement that winds up not telling the story but rather winds up looking over acted or not quite connected to the overall telling of the story. It winds up looking like you moved a bunch of stuff while trying to find the point of the scene.
There are many different approaches to animation and I’m only sharing what has worked for me. So give it a shot, see if it works for you too. The great thing for me about this approach is it really makes you ask questions too yourself about what’s important, what’s going on in the scene, how the character is feeling, what they want, all these things because you have to get all that in one frame. It really simplifies it for me and allows me to focus on what’s important rather than just creating a bunch of head movement bobbing to dialog that doesn’t mean anything or relate to what’s really going on the scene.
Again Bill Waterson was a master at this one panel story idea. These are so clear you can see them come to life in your head as you look at them.


Blogger Dork 4 said...

Thanks for the post, Dr. S.G., that's a really useful way to think about building a scene. And Bill W. accolades are always in order--I can feel the gorgeous new box set calling out to me...

10:33 AM

Blogger chris chua said...

Great advice...I'll have to try this on my next shot! Thanks!

11:23 AM

Blogger erica said...

Excellent post! I've certainly fallen prey to meaningless head bobbing before. Illustration and comics are great inspirations to look to for telling a story in one frame; your Bill W. examples certainly demonstrate that.

11:55 AM

Blogger Dr. Gordon said...

Great Post Stephen! You've been holding back that gold. Keep em coming...

2:43 PM

Blogger Leif said...

Wow....awesome post Stephen! It makes perfect sense. . Like Andrew said, this is pure animation gold! I'm looking forward to trying it out! Keep the awesome posts coming!

9:53 PM

Blogger Doron Meir said...

Great post, thanks! This is exactly the sort of thing that tends to be forgotten as one struggles with the animation itself, so it's important to hear it over and over again.

P.S. Calvin&Hobbes is a personal favorite of mine, the man's a genius!

10:03 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, what a cool post and a cool way to think about your shots, i'm gonna give it a try!


12:45 AM

Blogger Drew said...

great way to look at it. most animators who have done any proper schooling have had life drawing and storyboarding classes. it's almost like we (by "we" i mean "i") forget that we are communicators. clarity is key and this was a really great way of articulating that.


11:07 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah thanks Dr. Stephen, once again pointing us to the hidden treasure that is Calvin & Hobbes. I know'd it all along, I tells ya!

2:33 PM

Blogger Sean MacNeil said...

Awesome tip! That's a great idea about looping the dialogue with the one pose to see if it's communicating.

Thanks Stephen.

4:02 PM

Blogger samacleod said...

With as much praise as C&H gets, it's still under-rated. Amazing stuff Mr Watterson.

4:28 AM

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