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.


Friday, June 22, 2007

Annecy Links

I was going to give an update about the stuff I saw at Annecy, but Cartoon Brew beat me to it. The most memorable film I saw was Peter and the Wolf by Suzie Templeton. It was a stop motion film. It was about 30 minutes. I was in awe watching the film. The overall feeling was great. The cinematography was also amazing. It was a different take on the classic story. One thing that really impressed me was the lack of expressions that Peter had. When I say he had a lack of expressions, I mean that they did not animate from one to the next. All you needed to know about what the character was feeling was told with one pose. I really felt for the characters in the film. Ultimately, the film won the Annecy Cristal award and audience favorite. I think this is due to the strong story. For me, it really does come down to how the story is told. I cant sit through alot of films because they just have no point. Ok, maybe they were done with some strange method, but I want to be transported. Peter and the Wolf did this for me. Here is the link from cartoon brew:

annecy on cartoonbrew

Thursday, June 21, 2007

What inspires you?

I have found myself recently in a position where people are looking to me for advice when I'm still looking for the same sort of guidance for myself. I've learned along the way that there are very few absolute answers and that after you learn techniques and strategies, your education begins to become more of an exploration of discovery. Since I've started teaching, students reach out for an answer to their animation and film making problems, only to find that there are none. At least in the sense of walking away from class with a guarantee for success. There are tried and true principles that can work for you and we as teachers help to facilitate passing the knowledge of such things. However, so much of what your work comes down to is what you are inspired by and how it strengthens your instincts. The tools at your disposal are useless if you don't know how to use them or fully understand the potential of what they can give you. A lathe in the hands of someone trying to fix a kitchen chair leg is different from a lathe in the hands of a master craftsman.

We all have movies that inspire us artistically as animators, but try looking a little deeper. Look at a favorite film of yours, one that you don't equate with your passion for animation, and take a moment to ask yourself questions about it. Why do I like this movie so much? What makes this entertaining? Why is this moment so funny? What makes this moment so powerful? Now go through the analysis of finding the answers to those questions as you watch your favorite movie again. Perhaps hold the film and those questions up to comparison with a film that you don't enjoy as much and and look at how they differ. You'll be surprised and inspired to find how the answers can directly relate back to the animation work that you do.

In the upcoming weeks I'll try to post some individual examples of what I'm talking about. I'd like to talk about design, composition, and music. Some things you wouldn't immediately leap to discuss when you seem to hear everyone going on about arcs, timing, and overlapping movement. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch The Odd Couple again and try to figure out why I still laugh so hard at Felix clearing his sinuses in the diner.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Where are all the US animation festivals????

Being here at the Annecy Animation festival really makes me wonder why the US does not have any animation festivals anywhere near the scope of Annecy. Sure, there is Siggraph, but I'm talking about animation, not just computer animation. There are so many films represented here from all over the world. Every medium of animation as well. I just find it odd that the country that in some ways invented animation does not have something like this. Maybe the US views animation in a much different way than the rest of the world. Anyway, its really inspiring to see so much animation going on. I'll try to post some of the films that I thought were great and where they can be viewed.


Annecy Info

For those of you who will be in Annecy this year, there will be a few Pixar talks related to Ratatouille. I'll be talking on Wednesday the 13th. Two other animators, Ross Stevenson and Patty Kihm will also be presenting material. Click on the link below for more info

Monday, June 04, 2007

Contrast in Animation

I think one of the most powerful principles is Contrast. Contrast is obviously not one of the original principles of animation, but it can be found in many of them. Lets explore some of them. Contrast in pose for instance. Having two characters posed differently can tell the viewer a lot about each character and create an interesting dynamic between them. In the example of Bob and Helen arguing, there is a really nice contrast between Bob's hunched over pose and Helen's more upright one. This then gets flipped when Helen becomes more angry. Contrast is also really great in motion. It directs your eye to where you should be looking. An obvious example would be two people talking. You would not want to move the character that is not talking too much so that you could take in what the other character is saying. Another example could be a crowd of people moving around. The person that is not moving is most likely the person your eye will be drawn to. Animation is like a choreographed dance. You really need to understand how to weave the different elements in and out of your scenes. That reminds me of contrast across many scenes. You want to think about it not just on the scene level, but on a more global one.

Hope this helps...