At the beginning of the semester I found I was relatively new to the terminology that was being used and the details that make animation what it is, I can happily say I had limited knowledge of storyboarding but when it came to the principles of animation and the components that make up cinematography I hadn’t a clue! However I knew that this knowledge and understanding would grow and develop through research and lectures but my biggest task to face was teamwork! Everyone has different work ethics and I have previously had bad experiences with working in a team, which is why I found the thought of having to continuously work in teams terrifying but I have to say it has been both enjoyable and beneficial, problems are solved a lot quicker (it’s hard to bounce ideas when working alone) I’ve found that good teamwork can provide a little healthy competition, motivating individuals and everyone is unique, I can learn quite a bit from my fellow classmates.
The first task we faced was to create a two-minute film based on perception and with not knowing much about cinematography, camera shots or camera angles, this seemed like a pretty daunting task. A book that I found to be extremely helpful was ‘Cinematography, Theory and practice’ by Blain Brown. The author describes cinematography as writing with motion and through breaking down the conceptual tools of visual storytelling into categories I found they became easier to apply to our film.
The frame is where the story is conveyed and from here we can direct the audiences attention. We are also able to inform them of information about the character and their current situation. For example, using a wide and distant shot such as this image (taken from Punch Drunk Love) emphasizes the isolation and loneliness of the character, which is reinforced by the dull color scheme.
In this scene from our own film we try to direct the viewers attention to our main character by blurring out the background along with simultaneously de-saturating the background, something is going to happen and it’s more than likely bad.
The colour drain in the scene above can be seen at various points throughout the film in an attempt to unsettle the audience. Light and colour are described by the author as ‘visual tools that add additional layers to the content of the story’, they have the ability to reach people at an emotional level.
Roger Deakins, the cinematographer for Skyfall uses light to create silhouetted figures but also controls where the audience focus their attention, we tried to incorporate this technique into a couple of our own scenes with the camera flashes, we want the audience to be looking directly down the lens in preparation for the scenes that follow.
‘We manipulate the image in the some way, we add visual texture to it.’
Texture is an obvious example of a conceptual tool we have experimented with. The layering and pace changes we used have been essential in visualizing to the audience what exactly the model is experiencing, the mental and physical effects rejection can cause
Through an establishing shot we were better able to explain to the audience vital information that they needed to know before progressing with the film, taking inspiration from ‘Angel Heart’ – a close shot of information being conveyed to the audience. The dutch angle and cool colour help in conveying to the audience that something is off.
This scene also required us to experiment with timing, too quick and the audience wont have understood why that shot is used, too long – they may lose interest and it would be wasting time we may need elsewhere in the film, two minutes is already short enough!
According to ‘Timing for Animation” by Harold Whitaker and John Halas the ‘readability’ of what is unfolding onscreen depends on two factors:
Good staging and layout. Each scene and important action is to be presented in the clearest and most effective way and the rule of thirds can be used to achieve this. By observing the rule of thirds we prevent the subject being placed at the center of the frame or a having a horizon line which appears to be dividing the picture in half.
Good timing. This ensures that enough time is spent preparing the audience for something to happen, the action itself and the reaction to the action. However if too much time is spent on either of these details the timing will be off and the audience’s attention may wander and if the action is too fast, it will have finished and the audience will have been left behind.
Every detail must be planned to ensure it runs smoothly and read easily (keeping in mind how the minds of an audience work) and the easiest way to ensure these outcomes are achieved is through the use of a storyboard.
The storyboard is the first visual impression of the film, essentially the blue print containing the composition of shots, basic character poses and can be used as a tool for timing. The Storyboard allows for mistakes to be spotted and corrected early, such as continuity errors, preventing time wasting later on and before they reach the more expensive, time consuming stages of animation.
We received a forty- second audio clip from Winnie the Pooh and had to storyboard for it. Firstly we watched the actual clip to gain a sense of what was happening: it’s windy, Piglet is sweeping up leaves, he ends up being lifted by a large one and is swept away by the wind, he bumps into pooh, who then grabs Piglets scarf in an attempt to rescue him.I thoroughly enjoyed this exercise but when it came to labelling my scenes I found that I had one very long scene where I would have benefitted from including more camera movements to allow for more cuts and more scenes, this is something I’ll now be more aware of in future projects.
Within this exercise the principles of animation also have to be applied and with not knowing any of them at all, I found the best place to start was, ‘The Illusion of Life, Disney Animation’ by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston and ‘The Animator’s Survival Kit’ by Richard Williams.
A quick video visualising each in it’s simplest form: https://vimeo.com/65815545
The same principles had to be applied when using flash; with our bouncing ball the main principles that came into play were squash and stretch but also considering arcs and exaggeration.
As the ball falls towards the ground it will be picking up speed, this will influence the contact the ball has with the ground, faster will create a bigger squash however stretch is only added with faster moving objects, if it were applied to a ball moving slowly it would destroy the illusion of a solid object. It is the squash and stretch that add life to the ball, they are exaggerating the movement of a real ball but it is the spacing that adds the weight. Frames will be closer together as the ball bounces upwards, toward the top of the arc, giving the illusion of slowing down and more weight to the object. As the ball falls, accelerating under gravity toward the ground, the spaces between frames increase creating a bigger contrast when the squash begins giving more snap to the action, the bigger the gaps in the spacing the lighter the object. The animator’s job is to apply just the right amount of exaggeration so that the movement can look natural within the cartoon medium.The bouncing ball example can be used within animation to give weight and life to a character, below is a screenshot from my attempt at the animation.
Neither animals nor humans when moving are completely ridged, while progressing with an action, various shapes can be seen as the result of movement.
A good example being the contraction of the biceps, when contracted the bicep squashes, essentially folding in on itself and as it relaxes it stretches out. This can be applied to the body of a character jumping, as seen in this image taken from ‘Human and Animal Locomotion’ by Edweard Muybridge, this side image of a man jumping shows how the body squashes in on itself before the action (anticipation), where it will stretch out during the jump (action) before finally squashing in on itself again (reaction.)
Another principle I found myself applying to my Winnie the Pooh storyboard was anticipation, before piglet throws the leaf away we can see him clearly preparing not only himself but also the audience for the action and then reacting in the same way shown in Muybridge’s image.
By the time we reach the fifth frame of Muybridge’s image we know exactly what the man is going to do before any of the action takes place. Anticipation is a way of preparing the audience for the action that follows but it can also be used as a tool to direct the audience’s attention to where the important action will take place within the frame at the right time. Movement is a signal for attention; the audience will always be at least a fifth of a second behind the action so anticipation acts a cue, delaying the action giving them time to process the information.
Within the storyboarding exercise there was no syncing of sound in any detail, this came in a later project when my team were given a clip from the 1954 film ‘Suddenly’ starring Frank Sinatra with the audio removed.
‘A truth whispered among animators is that seventy percent of a shows impact comes from the soundtrack’ – Michael Dougherty.The sound in a film can be just as important as the images appearing onscreen, the soundtrack chosen, whether it be bold or subtle, will alter the overall effect of the film.
‘Sound effects play an important role in conveying action, music helps express emotion.’ – Michael Geisler. Music has the ability to connect with the audience on an emotional level, it can control the mood of the scene in the same way lighting does within cinematography. The soundtrack is one of the elements that is finalized near the beginning of the project, a full length score will allow for easier planning of the animation to match the music and the beat is important for the timing of the movement after all it is easier to edit the animation to better fit the music than it is to completely recompose a track to fit a change in the animation.
The clip we received was quite intense; the train is approaching the tranquil town and the assassin has his rifle mounted in preparation for the President’s arrival.Within the clip there was a lot of non-diagetic sound needed such as, the train approaching, it needed to be heard even when we are watching the action inside the Benson household and as it gets closer the volume and panning would be adjusted accordingly, however I found that the hardest sound effect to keep track of was the gunfire! There was a lot of it and coming from a number of characters!
For a few of the sounds we decided to experiment with making our own Foley’s mainly footsteps and shuffling of the actors, any of the noises that would need to be timed carefully with the action to make it look realistic. When it came to editing I found that it was a lot easier to add in our own Foleys than the sounds we had downloaded, they were a lot less time consuming as they were planned and timed out with the action onscreen. This was the same with the dialogue; the recordings I received via dropbox were well synced with the movement on screen as there was pre-planning involved. In my opinion there is nothing worse than having dialogue and lips are out of sync, it distracts from the whole of the film making it un-enjoyable and impossible to watch.
Moving on to the soundtrack, we wanted to add a modern sense to the clip and experimented with the different sounds GarageBand had to offer. We tried to add to the tension and intensity of the scene and found that the confined space of the Benson house helped and added to the overall feeling of the scene.
I thoroughly enjoyed this exercise and experimenting with how different sounds will change/ affect the mood of a scene and although I am definitely a fan of soundtracks, especially the work of Hans Zimmer but I find that silence or the removal of music is often more powerful when used in the appropriate situation, using an example from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Removing all music from this clip and leaving only the sound effects of the action on screen creates a chilling atmosphere causing the tension and fear to build throughout the scene, drawing the audience in and these are the scenes that completely win me over.
With that being the end of semester one and the completion of the Design discourse module I feel that my knowledge of the subject has grown and I have developed a deeper understanding in areas previously unknown to me, applying them throughout each of the projects. I have become more confident in my ability to use the correct terminology to convey ideas in a clear and successful manner and I find myself no longer able to just watch a film but constantly analysing, noticing elements of the cinematography meaning I have developed a greater love and understanding for the medium which has expanded into the activities I enjoy. I hope to improve on the skills I have gained which in turn will result in producing work of a higher standard.
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