Monday, July 10, 2006

TV storyboards and the rocking chair effect

Fade up to establishing shot ext. park. Truck in to park bench. Cut to closer shot of park bench. Truck in to close up of object in hand. Truck out to reveal...... TOO MANY CAMERA MOVES.
Sorry. That is not directed at any board or board artist in particular. It is a made up representation of something I see far too often when watching/working on TV shows. I call this the rocking chair effect. When the board artist or director feel the need to constantly keep the camera moving either in and out or back and forth across the screen. I think it may be easy to forget that the animator will be adding the acting to the shot or sequence and that if we are constantly moving we will miss the point. Of course there are exceptions to this but I feel they are few and far between.
Moving the camera for the sake of moving it or because it might look cool can be very distracting and the viewer may get confused as to what the intent of the scene is. As a viewer you may not register what is bothering you right away but you may decide you are not enjoying the show.
Imagine you are sitting in a restaurant with two other people sitting across from you. You are listening to their conversation. Your head moves back and forth as your attention switches from one person to another. Do you see what is happening between the two people talking or do you simply tune it out as you focus on the conversation in front of you. Imagine this as a series of " cuts" back and forth. If you were turning your head slowly from one person to another your attention changes from the two people talking to what is happening in the restaurant between them. Think of this as a pan. Now if there is absolutely nothing else happening in the restaurant and you pan slowly back and forth between the conversation it's going to get pretty boring. So you speed up the pan. Well now your just being silly. There's still nothing else going on between them and you are making yourself dizzy.
We humans view the world in a very linear fashion. In a sense we live on a 3D chess board but only perceive one board surface at a time. Too much movement back and forth or up and down disrupts our enjoyment of the world around us.
In boarding unless that is the purpose you might want to rethink why you decided to put a truck in there. It may be animation but it's also the "illusion of life". It still needs to follow the basic rules of film making. At least till those rules are successfully broke.
Feel free to disagree!

1 comment:

Doc Savageland said...

How can one disagree with such irrefutable logic? Did Hitchcock or John Ford ever jump back and forth around the location like a monkey with ATD? I don’t think so. Nope the sad reality is, when it comes to cinema or film language, animation is an artistically dead medium.

Yes I said artistically dead. Folks, for those of you out there unfamiliar with the workings of the animation industry, you might find it a bit odd that the directors of animated TV shows and movies never, if ever, do the storyboards. This means that some hired help is deciding every shot you see in any cartoon. Not the director. The director just looks over the storyboards and might make some changes, but this is the limit of their involvement in the visual storytelling. An animation director is more of a design/ storyboard supervisor. This process limits the possibility of a visual impresario surfacing and breathing new life into a script, becasue the visuals are being done by a storyboard 'team.' Would Martin Scorsese consider himself the director of a film, if someone else decided where the camera would be for every shot? No. He would never work under those conditions. Nor would any live action director.

It’s hard to know what animation is supposed to be. It’s so limited by it’s content (kids shows, animated musicals, manga, and scratchy “adult” programming), and most of it is done so inexpensively that the animators aren’t able to do as high a quality job as they can, or want to.

After this rant, I must say there are two examples to the contrary. Hayao Miyazaki and Brad Bird. I know they do have others drawing the storyboards as well, but they are far more involved in that process than usual. Their films actually look like real movies. It’s easy to watch them and forget you are watching animation.

You see the key to any really good cinema, is that you MUST have a point of view. Take a look at any great classic film, and you will see the director’s point of view of the story. Any scene can be shot a million ways, and still be right. But when a great director films something, they know where the camera should go because they have something they want to say about the story, and only by putting the camera in a specific place will that message be put across. That’s what’s missing in today’s storyboards, a vision, or point of view. Most storyboard artists just look at the script and make a visual mock-up of the script. What’s in the script is on the board, with a few extra sight gags for time pacing. That’s not a vision.