Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I've been going through a classic book on acting by Constantin Stanislavski, "Building a Character". While much of the book tends to be a rather pendantic procession through physical exercises for body control, etc, I found the chapters on speech and acting to be really interesting. Here's a fun exerpt of analysis regarding the effect and power of a performance given by their instructor. This performance was an example of just the use of intonation- without meaningful words- a performance of complete gibberish- that still communicated a sense of great emotional meaning.
"Intonations and pauses in themselves posssess the power to produce a
powerful emotional effect on the listener. "
I did some thinking of how this translates to decoding the vocal performance of a voice actor for subsequent animation. I'm always drawn to the idea of trying to unravel the intended subtext of the way the line is delivered. The way the actor hits certain words with either a rising or a descending tone, the trading of volumes and ebbing force of the delivery gives clue to the subtextual intent that drives the acting. It's more than just listening to the auditory patterns of rise and fall and working some seemingly fitting pose- there's some real life and energy running as a current under the lines. Dig deep to find where that wind blows, see how it rustles the leaves of your character's soul. Then try and capture that and bring it out with boldness and decisiveness in the story telling poses.


Chad said...

I have just finished reading a book called "Blink: the Power of Thinking without Thinking".

The book is fascinating as it discusses what the author calls "Thin Slicing" or what most folks call gut feelings or intuition.

For animators, the book has some really interesting commentary on what we would call appeal, staging and clarity. Also the author discusses Eckamn's FACs research and how that relates to "Thin Slicing". I highly recommend the book to anyone, especially an animator.

Now back to your topic, one of the examples the author sites concerning Thin Slicing information is the work of one psychologist (sorry the name escapes me right now). This researcher took a selection of 10 second Dr./Patient conversations, and modifyed them so that all that was left in the audio clips were the intonation, inflection, timing and spacing of the Doctor's conversation. He removed the words themselves.

Those audio clips were then given to people to listen to and guess which Dr. was accused of malpractice. They test subjects had a very high sucess rate (something over 80%). The authors point is to show people tend to sue doctors they don't like more frequntly than the ones they dont. This is based on very rapid information gathering at the time of the visit with the Doctor. Bedside manner and report have a large chunk of that relationship.

I think this example shows to animators that it is more than just the "the auditory patterns of rise and fall" as you called it Keith. Its the subtext, and character that lies within.

That is why animation is so very moving and powerful, because as the audience our eyes must be lead to follow and beleive. We the audience can pick up very very quickly or thin slice these hints on the untangible things that make or break a scene/character/story.

Anyhow it is a fascinating read.


Anonymous said...

This is why it's better to see a foreign film with subtitles than with dubbing. Hearing the actor's voice intonation, even if you can't understand the language, communicates a lot about the character's point of view and state of mind.