Animators by day Animation teachers by night.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

When The Dialogue Ends, The Character Keeps Talking.

I've been planning a lecture recently on dialogue and I was trying to grab some images as reference. I did a Google image search for "mouth + lips" in the hope of finding some diagrams of the mouth and it's mechanics and the image of the Mona Lisa popped up. I stopped dead in my tracks. I have a point in some of my notes addressing the importance of "inner dialogue" and keeping a character alive when they're not talking, but this simple image search made me think of the concept on an entirely new level.

Most of us are familiar with the Mona Lisa and it's significance in history. Having said that, anyone I've talked to who has actually seen this piece in person at the Musee du Louvre, the first thing they usually say is, "I never knew it was that small." What an amazing statement that is if you analyze it. Why does that surprise people? Because of how large an impact that picture has had on people for centuries. It's amazing to see what a sideways glance and the upturned corner of the mouth can do to inflame the imagination of an audience. I don't mean to raise the bar too high, but that's the exact kind of thing you should be thinking about when animating your dialogue. When the track ends, you must keep the character alive. Thoughts need to remain engaged, and it's amazing sometimes to realize how little it takes. I find myself also being reminded of the power of a single, motionless pose.

What is truly amazing to me is that the piece transcends the artist. I'm a big fan of Leonardo, but when you think about it, this piece is far greater than the artist who created it. Why? Because after more than 500 years... it's still alive.



Blogger Fränk Spalteholz said...

Hi Adam!

That's a great topic especially concerning animation. I was at the animation-award-hamburg yesterday and there were many animated shorts full of never stop talking narrators and dialogs. But a movie is (whatever animated or real-life) in it's essence a story for the eyes, because it's told in pictures. Look to the old silent movies ("The Kid" from Charles Chaplin is a great example). They had no dialogs you can listen to (only the tables) but all relationships, moods and even dialogs can be "seen", 'course the acting and the staging was so well done, that the story worked without any spoken word. There is one scene in that movie, where the kid was picked up by the police, crying and bagging for help and mercy and you can see him (it's a boy) crying but you don't WANT to hear it 'course the pictures are so strong apart.
That impressed me very much.

Another great example from today's movies is at the end of the sequence in "The Incredibles" where Bob comes home from his "bowling-night". In the very last scene of that sequence Helen just turns her head a tiny bit and blinks. That's emotional so strong! You can read in her face and in her body-language, that she's helpless and a bit desperate.
That impressed me as well.

Cheers Frank

3:46 AM

Blogger Kamui.EXE said...

I dunno if your still looking for lip syncing stuff, but I do recall that I've got a few sites I've dug up once when I was looking in to that. The links are here:

But that aside, it's amazing the power of body language and how much of that language can be conveyed by the eyes. Now the Mona Lisa is an excellent example. But another one I think of comes from actual forensics and CSI. The eyes can also act as sorta a prmitive lie detector depending where the pupals of the eyes are and where the person is looking. Looking RIGHT means that the person is trying to remember something. Looking LEFT means that the person is mentally CONSTRUCTING something which pretty much means that they're either very creative or they're lying. Here's an example of a character sheet that someone created in Blender 2.3 that details this exactly:

Another example of body language and its' impact is in Japan. In Japan, there are many different social gestures that can have just as much meaning as the actual physical spoken language itself. My last example is certain Native North American cultures have a thing about the eyes. One of those things is that you can't make direct eye contact. Direct eye contact is viewed as being rude and disrespectful.

So long and short of it, the eyes and body language in general can be very impacting and sometimes even more impacting than a spoken word.

7:03 AM

Blogger Doctor Cerebro said...

that is so interesting... when i was in paris and went to the louvre, i was shocked to see the crowd watching the mona lisa... instead of actually watching and enjoying the painting... they were making pictures of themselves beside the mona lisa! they just wanted the picture! it was like a pop star thing, like asking for her autograph... crazy.

9:48 AM

Blogger Dave said...

Great post and a great example!

12:04 PM

Blogger Titus said...

I've been at the Louvre and the experience with Mrs Lisa is not what you could expect. The picture is small and always seems to be a lot of people (diminishig more the aparent size), it's like trying to get a signature from Madonna.

Mona Lisa is a great picture but not correctly displayed, she's a superstar.

Thank's for sharing your knowledge.

5:15 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michelangelo's David. I know it's 14feet tall and sort of hard to see past his enormous body, but check out the face detail this photo.

He's thinking. Not so much in the mouth as in the eyes and brows though. You can tell someting bad is about to happen. I always liked that the moment Michelangelo chose to show in this sculpture takes place right before the event. I imagine he's just seen goliath approaching over the horizon. His body is posed relaxed and confident, (we all know how this story ends) but look how his face is telling a different story.

3:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just saw Ratatouille, and I have to say, this movie is going to continue living on just like how Disney movies can never get old. And after reading this lesson about MOna Lisa's immortality from Burke, I gotta say that it totally relates to Ratatouille as a successful film. My jaw's still on the ground.

4:39 PM

Anonymous Derek Guglins said...

Part of the "I thought it was larger" might be, too, because it's a portrait and a lot of people just accept that a given portrait will be life-size unless it includes the body, and I think it's only 14 inches tall.

Oh, and while I'm not sure of that, I do know Michelangelo's David is actually closer to 18 ft.

9:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

correct on the david, but not on the painting

its about 2x tha tsize

2:45 PM

Blogger Kamui.EXE said...

Just to put the numbers out there, the actual size of the Mona Lisa (AKA: La Joconde) is about 77×53cm OR 30×21in. Yeah.... I'm a plethora of weird and randomized facts that usually seem useless. XD Lol.

5:41 AM

Blogger Nick said...

Hey all,

I just saw Ratatouille last night and was really impressed. The animation was beyond my expectations and there were to many scenes I really admired to even begin to comment. Again you guys have set the bar.

The lighting, wow the lighting...

Thanks for the blog and more importantly the great films...

3:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

the funny thing about The Mona Lisa in the Louvre is that on the wall right behind The Mona Lisa are two massive Raphael's that incredible to say the least and they are almost ignored by most people in the room...

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7:48 PM


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