A Dreamer Walking

Film Mediums!

Posted in Personal Philosophy by Jacob on June 15, 2010


So there are three different mediums of film making that I have done a lot of research on. I have ambitions to make movies in each one of theses mediums. 2D animation, CG animation, and live action all have their own strengths. Contrary to many people’s belief, animation is not just for little kids. It can be and often is as much for adults as live action is. In this post I want to give a basic outline of the differences and strengths I see in each medium.

Above are some photos of the legend animator Frank Thomas. You can clearly see the resemblance of the real Frank in the cartoon drawing and the computer rendering. However, neither the computer generated picture or the cartoon drawing are supposed to look exactly like Frank. The beauty of both CG and 2D animation is that they are less interested in the reality of what something looks like but instead strive for creating the feeling of an object or person. In both the CG picture and 2D picture the artist have exaggerated Franks face.  It stays reconcilable but we are given a stronger impression of the person’s character.

If you study the face of the real Frank Thomas you will see that the animated pictures have the head 1 1/2 times the size of the normal head. Also, the nose and chin have been sized up. Frank’s facial features are more rounded, the artists are able to create a impression of Frank’s real face out of simple shapes that are easy to read.  In both mediums of animation you are allowed more freedom with expressing who your character is on the inside, physically.

Carl Fredricksen from Pixar’s UP is a great example of how abstract animation can make something physically look. Carl is a very closed minded grumpy old man, thus everything on the outside expresses who he is on the inside. Look at Carl’s head, it takes up more then 1/4th of his body. His body is extremely square, you can even see that the model artist has made Carl’s fingers square, no doubt representing who he is on the inside. If you look close, you can see that Carl is wearing some extra thick clothes.  The coat Carl has on is about 3 times thicker then normal.

We as an audience do not question the realness of Carl. Even though his body and clothes are very much exaggerated, we are allowed to get to know Carl and think of him as a real person full of emotion and feeling.

Another huge difference between live action and animation is the time it takes to do just one shot of film. With live action you just need to take a camera and record real life footage. With animation you have an animator for each character. Animators spend weeks of hard work just doing a few seconds worth of animation. This is actually one of my favorite things about animation because every single movement is taken into consideration, every single frame is carefully planned out by the animator.

With CG animation you are given a model to use. This model is a empty shell until the animator breathes life into it. In a model like Carl Fredricksen there are literally thousands of different body parts that you can move. For example there might be well over a hundred different switches that control Carl’s face alone. Each switch moves a different part of the face and allows the animator to put more detail into the acting.

With 2D animation you are given a blank page. The animator most likely has model sheets in front him or her, giving pointers on how to go about drawing the character in the right dimensions. However, each scene is different and the 2D animator needs to start with a blank page. 2D animation takes the most broad talent of the three mediums. The 2D animator needs to have a firm understanding of movement. He needs to be a good draftsmen so he could draw the dimensions of the character correctly. And, he needs to know how to act. Even though it seems 2D animation is the hardest medium to work in, I have found nothing more magical then seeing a bunch of drawings turn into a living breathing character.

I appreciate some of the wonderful aspects of live action. With live action you can have everything. The actor does not need to start with a blank page and he can not possibly think of every frame of movement he makes. There is a power in just going with something and not thinking about every little action you are going to make. It give you the ability to have on the spot inspiration and improvise. Improvisation is sometimes the most powerful aspect of film. There is nothing more exciting to some actors then to be thrown a curve ball and need to deal with a comment or action they had not prepared for. With live action characters are allowed to bounce off of each other more easily. You are allowed to see a scene be expressed in many different ways and pick and choose what fits best for the over all film.

In both types of animation you do not have more then one take. You do not have the ability to act something out a million different ways and choose what’s best. The best type of animators are able to thumbnail different ways on how to go about animating a scene, however they do not know exactly what is going to happen until they are done animating the scene. Because of this the animator and director need to already have a good idea on what they want from the characters and story in pre-production, before any animating actually takes place. Pre-production is the most important aspect in animation, a bunch of artist grow through hundreds of drafts of the story on storyboards  so they can figure out exactly what they want to happen in each scene. This is often the reason why animated films take much longer to create then live action.

In the next few posts I will highlight each medium and go into more depths on what their individual strengths are. I think this is useful information and gives you a good idea of the basics of each medium. I am sorry if I am not as organized in this post, I stated at the very beginning of this A Dreamer Walking blog that I will be talking about things from off the top of my head. If something I have said does not make sense please feel free to comment. I will try to have the follow up blogs come sooner rather then later.

(Here are the links to the rest of the posts for this series, 2D Animation, CG Animation, and Live Action)

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