Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Take it for what it's worth

We had this interesting conversation at work today about the temptation to try and make every scene be the most incrediblest amzingest scene you'd ever done in your life. Shoot, I've done that before. Guilty as charged, yer honor. While the goal is admirable (striving to be and do the best), I think the end result of that desire is to force things out of what they ought to be. Some scenes come with a certain groove to them before they ever end up on your desk. Trying to turn them into something else in some effort to prove you're worth your salt as an animator is a bit misguided. Generally folks aren't coming to the movies to bask in the glow of you, the genius animator. They're coming to enjoy the ride of the story and the characters. Don't jump the car off the rails by doing something out of place just because you've got something to prove. You've got a story to tell first and foremost. Take what the story gives you, turn the character where they need to go naturally. Our job is to guide the ride where it needs to be.

Linking animation to another art form- singing, I came up with this analogy. We've all heard singers who are trying to impress you with their voice and their ability to ramble through the notes. A simple, elegant song is turned into a painful beating on the ears when Ms. Pop-Star decides to run scales on every stinking lyric. National anthems seem to be abused the worst. "Home of the free" is 5 notes on the music sheet. Invariably some singer decides she needs to run that into 23 notes. The audience is left cringing. Just sing the song already! I can see this temptation in animation, too. It whispers to me with it's cool silky voice of doom. We want to show the world how amaaaaaazing this shot is. But if it's supposed to be something subtle, sublime, in context, well, that's where the fruit is. Shoot, this stuff is hard enough as it is without trying to do animation acrobatics on top of it.

If you feel like looking at some really sublime, masterful animation take a gander at the work of James Baxter. His work on characters like Belle, Rafiki, Quasimodo are stunning in their elegance. I love his work for how clean and simple it is. Simple, but so darned good! The point isn't showing us how many notes you can hit. The point is knowing just which ones to hit and hitting only those with style, grace, elegance. Sometimes a 3 note scene is just a 3 note scene. Hitting 10 notes in there doesn't make it better. Quite the opposite I think.



Anonymous said...

Awesome post... music is the perfect example.. i play the bass.. and when i use to take lessons, i was obsessed with being very notey and wanted everyone to notice the awesome bass line!!! playing the right notes at the right time is better than playing notes for playing them.. when they have no meaning , they should not be played.. the same definitely applies to animation, where that one gesture at that right time brings the character to life so simply yet magically.

Anonymous said...

Definitely, I was watching Jungle Book last night and noticed how simply Bagheera moved in places - particulary on close-ups.

The movement was so graceful and to-the-point, only what needed to be there was there, beautiful animation.

Nye said...

Especially as a newby in the biz, you sooo want to prove yourself. So when you get a shot where there is a background character standing there and your lead just asks for a moving hold,you have to fight yourself from going: "This is going to be the best darn guy standing around they have ever seen!"

Just animate what they need for the good of the show.

Zev said...

I can't remember where I read this, but I remember reading something about Hitchcock repeatedly turning down his best storyboard man, when he made his shots too dramatic too earlier in the film...save it for later (please forgive me if my memory changed names or facts, but the gist is true). I know there are times in planning where I've violated this (I'm a beginner so I haven't done much more than planning...).

Also, I got your email about the videos! I’m very excited about it. Now, I know God is a big part of your life, but somehow I doubt that the first video will really be on “What makes for god poses.” :-)

Keith Lango said...

What can I say? I have a really cruddy keyboard and it has consistent trouble with double o's. either that or I can't type. :)


Anonymous said...

heh, the Shatners of animation, where... every.. word... is.. its.. own.... sentence....

and... every... scene... is... its... own... movie.