Design Discourse 1 (September – January)

Throughout this essay I am going to examine the historical context and artistic movements which have had an influence on modern day animation and how my group researched this throughout our first term in Design Discourse 1. In Design Discourse 1 we covered many topics and I will assess these areas as well within this piece of discussion. We examined sound and its relationship to film and animation as well as the many levels of sound in film design. We also examined storyboarding and it’s uses and history. to examine this area we used Winnie the Pooh. We also used the development of Storyboarding to explore the creation and uses of animatics. Additionally we developed our knowledge of film language and timing by creating a short film based on the theme of perception. The group created a live action piece and then researched ‘the art of projection’ as an animated sequence over the live action to create visual illusions.

We employed Flash as an animating tool. Learning how to use Flash encouraged me to develop a platform game for the interaction aspect of our project during December.

Throughout the learning process in Design Discourse 1 we explored the benefits and limitations of teamwork. This has been a big part of the course and there has been a lot of development in this area since the beginning. All the teams I was involved with worked hard to make finished pieces of work through communication and understanding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. This was a prevalent theme throughout Design Discourse 1 as well as Creative Elements.

I believe the best example of teamwork in Design Discourse 1 was during the short film project based on ‘Perception’. After reading ‘The Purple Cow” by  Seth Godin the group I was in did some team building by firstly getting to know each other and then by mind mapping several plans and ideas that we thought might work with the theme we were given. We researched different things associated with perception such as fear and danger.  We decided to look at how danger is perceived and looked to a few different animators who have used perception, or changed a traditional perception of character archetypes in a distorted manner, in their work.

One of the animators and directors we looked at in the initial stages of this project was Lotte Reiniger.  During 1919 Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981) made the first of her shadow puppet animated films The Ornament Of The Enamored Heart. Her style was visually quite engaging and appealed to the whole group through her use of light and dark and contrasting tones. In 1926 Reiniger, created Adventures Of Prince Achmed, the duration of this film was one hour which has caused some to believe that it is the first example of an animated feature, but a feature is usually considered 75 minutes or longer.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)

After researching the animating techniques used by Reiniger my group thought it would look better if we did a live action piece with some elements of animation used to add to the story. We looked at a more surrealist style at this point by looking into unexpected juxtapositions. The surrealist movement was established during the 1920s and from that point onwards the movement affected the art, literature and film. The surrealist movement seems to have had a strong influence on animation. Surrealism is particularly apparent in Tex Avery’s cartoons from 1930s and 1940s. His cartoons seemed to have surreal elements within them and he seemed to bring out and focus on the surrealist nature already apparent in the cartoons, through exaggeration both of physical reaction and emotional reactions.

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The emotional aspects of our research were more intriguing than the physical exaggeration. Learning to use Flash during October and November was very useful in learning how to communicate different emotions to the audience with just expression and movement and with out the use of dialogue. Learning how to use specific expressions and movements to create emotion helped us to establish empathy between the actor and the audience.

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We did some research into empathy as we felt is was a particularly important part of perception. The audience empathizing with the character influences how the audience perceives the objects and actions in the film.

Empathy

Aside from empathy we also looked into iconography and how iconic items, which can be recognized by the audience affect how they perceive the film. Scott McCloud has written some interesting pieces about iconography in his book, “Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art” Visual Iconography and its Effects was a particularly important aspect of the audiences perception. Using iconography we used a small black chest to represent a “Pandora’s Box” in our film. The reason we did this was that there are so many negative connotations with this iconographic image that the audience would immediately perceive the box as a terrible, dangerous item. We then altered the perception of this by having our character react to the box in a positive manner at the end of the short film, but we do not reveal by the box suddenly gains a positive connotation which was a small risk as it could have ruined the engagement of the audience with the film. Fortunately the mystery only piqued audience interest.

The Story Boarding we did for this film was relatively simplistic but it communicated our ideas sufficiently to create the shots we wanted. We used the storyboard method developed at the Walt Disney studio during the 1920s. The artists at Disney including Walt Disney himself created the storyboard in 1929 when making Steamboat Willie. This method is still employed in film making today. An advantage of storyboarding is that it allowed us to experiment with changes in the storyline to evoke stronger reactions and generate more interest in our audience. This method of visual thinking and film planning allowed our group a better way of communicating our ideas to each other and then when we began arranging the storyboards on the wall we found ways of improving the film.

Mike helped us develop our storyboarding technique by showing us a clip from Winnie the Pooh, ‘Windsday’. After showing us this clip he asked us to story board it and while we were doing this he showed us some techniques, which would improve our storyboarding. Story boarding has been used more recently in web development to present and describe interactive events as well as animated pieces, particularly on user interfaces or home pages for web sites.

After looking at storyboarding we turned our focus to the ‘animatic’ process.  A different group provided us with a script and we then had to create some visual context for it. In animating the storyboarded guidelines for the film may be followed by simplified mock-up. These mock-ups or “animatics” are used to show how a scene will look with motion and timed sequences.

In its simplest form an animatic is a series of still images edited together, played in sequence with some rough dialogue from the script – and sometimes a sound track can be added to the still images – which can be taken from the storyboarded part of the process. This is done to test the effectiveness of sound and visuals when played together.

The Animatic we created based on a script taken from breakfast at Tiffany’s,

Clip Car Back ground

Character 1(To character 4): What do you think?… this ought to be the right kida place for a tough guy like you!

Garbage cans, Rats galore, SCRAM!

I said take off, Beat it.

Character 1 (to character 3): Lets go.

Character 2 (To Character 3): Driver pull over here.

Kill Shot.2 1

When we read the script we felt it would be fun to do a film set during the 1920s using a gangster theme. We looked to film noir for inspiration and developed a character based on the ‘femme fatale’ archetype. We looked at films like ‘Casa Blanca’, but we thought the limited colour palette was not interesting enough for the animatic. This encouraged us to look at the cinematography of ‘Sin City’, ‘The Spirit’ and ‘Max Payne’. This appealed to us since the films used a mainly black and white, classic Hollywood style of filming. The use of a colour in some scenes was made more dramatic and helped to show the context more clearly. This was why we made the only colour in our animatic the red dress worn by the anthropomorphic feline femme fatale character we created. Through this combination of cinematography and iconography we created a character that was key to the context of the film which, the audience could relate to. The only downside to the animatic project was the voice-overs. As I was doing the voice overs I had to use an American accent for the voice acting. Unfortunately when I was putting on the accent my dialogue lost some of its clarity, which detracted from the overall product of our animatic.

When we were creating the characters for this animatic we looked into advertising and audience appeal. There has been increased use of animation in online advertising. This is based on the belief that images, which hold a more dynamic quality have superior attention-grabbing potential over static images, which makes them vastly more appealing to the audience. Animation is one of a few innovational features of advertising, carrying moving images and graphics to simplify or enhance the presentation of messages in the media. We used the same methods employed in advertising to try and make our characters more eye catching and appealing, so that the audience would find it easier to follow the context of our animatic.

Sheep and cat

Another part of Design Discourse 1 was learning about sound in film. There are many different kinds of sound within film, Foley (The Creation of sound off location), diegetic, non-diegetic, the score, dialogue, monologue and scratch track. We explored these areas of sound through the creation of a sound track to match a clip of film we had been given. The sound track of a film is any audio aspects, which are used either during film production or afterwards in the postproduction stages. The dialogue, music, sound affects and other pieces of audio in a film each has its own track, these are all merged together to form the final sound track that is heard in the film.

When my group was creating a sound track for the clip we were given, we used a lot of sound effects to create gunfire, we also recorded some dialogue and created a score to go with the scene. The music we used complemented the clip, which was full of action. Usually the music used in The Score would have been written specifically to accompany a film. This encouraged us to research some film composers such as; Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer. Danny Elfman entered the world of music while in Paris. The group he created with his brother Richard; “Mystic Knights of Oingo-Boingo” was created for Richard’s directorial debut with the film, ‘Forbidden Zone’ released in 1982. Elfman went on to compose the scores for many films including The Batman trilogy.  He has often been referred to as “Hollywood’s hottest film composer” due to his outstanding success in this field. Zimmer was asked to score ‘Rain Man’ for director Barry Levinson. This film was a turning point in Zimmer’s career and earned him many accolades as the film went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year and Zimmer acquired his first Academy Award Nomination for Best Original Score.

This research into sound in film was incredibly useful for helping my group develop a better understanding of the importance of the relationship between the audio and the visual in animation. It showed us how society has influenced the industry and controlled the change in sound tracks to suit more modern tastes.

Overall through out Design Discourse 1 I have found the instructions and tutorials very useful. I feel that my skills in presentation have developed and that I have gained a much stronger understanding of film language and the nature of animation itself. In James Monaco’s ‘How To Read A Film’ we are told that “During the late sixties and early seventies, a subculture of ‘phone freaks’ and ‘computer freaks’ developed – people who had a high degree of technical knowledge about the electronic web that envelops us and the desire to use that knowledge to subvert the infinitely complex system.”

In terms of evaluation I believe that something like this is has occurred as I have furthered my understanding of film and animation throughout Design Discourse 1. I am satisfied with all the knowledge I have acquired here and feel that it will be useful as a base for any future work in the global animation industry.

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Writing a script for a film

This week my group and I wrote out a script for a film clip with out revealing the characters names or the name of the film. We did this so that when another group took the script it could be read out of context and give a fresh perspective to the lines. By doing this and leaving the lines with out context the group who receives our script will be able to make a clean judgement on what the situation is and will hopefully create a very original piece of work. This is an interesting technique for stimulating creative processes.

Sound in Film

This past week we have mostly been working on adding sound to film clips in garage band in order to practice visual and auditory linking. This has been good practice for when we have to do it for our own animations in the future. The use of sound in film has also been very useful in teaching us about the unitary links between what the hymn eye perceives and the reaction to it and how this reaction changes or becomes more extreme when sound is added. I surmise that this is because more of the senses are being stimulated.