June 29, 2009

Whistler Livin'

It's been a lot of cinematography talk on here lately, so I thought I should post a sketch. One of the many Whistler patios in the sunshine. We are so spoiled here, and it's hard to focus on producing artwork when there are lakes and mountains calling your name. Plus, when you only get four months a year to travel, be active, and gain some alternative input (not that Oakville isn't stimulating enough) then you better fill your cup while you can, y'know?

On that note, I'm going outside...

June 15, 2009

My Turn

I am no Polanksi or anything, and my camera is pretty weak, but that didn't stop me from capturing shots around Whistler. Whenever I saw some type of story possible I pressed record. Below are the results of the day and some findings I discovered along the way...

First up is my favourite house on my morning walk. Here I learned that, just like any story, each shot has a beginning, a middle, and an end. We start off with a view of the brook to give the audience an idea as to the type of environment we're in. The camera catches a car (invisible here) moving across the bridge, which causes us to change panning directions. Finally, the car speeds out of frame, leaving the audience with a view of the house where the car is supposedly headed.

Below are the quilted BGs. One as the camera sees it, and another with a potential (but very crude) animation layer.

The following shot is a little more complex, but once I put it together it made a lot more sense. The idea is that we are following the character up the stairs and around the corner to the phonebooth. In the end, the trickiest part (aside from warping the layout properly) would be making sure the character maintained its volume and stayed planted on the ground. I have to thank the English Patient work I did for helping me with that task.

This was a happy accident. I just wanted to film a busy intersection to contrast with the peaceful mountains, but when the Purolator truck entered the frame a better story developed; it seems like the Purolator truck is delivering something up the mountain! lol Lesson here: what is at the beginning of a shot will unavoidably relate to the end of the shot, and vice versa.

Next up, I discovered that it looks really cool to move from an interior to an exterior. It feels really sneaky, as if someone has a secret or someone is the target of an evil plot. Here I thought it looked like the protagonist (again, invisible, but seen in crude drawings) was sitting on a bench inside with his reflection in the mirror while the antagonist was making a call to his boss on the payphone to say "I got him".

Also, it's awesome that you can move from a bright set to a dark set in one shot.

You know, there are much fewer verticle pans than there are horizontal or diagonal pans. Perhaps we don't look up or down as often as we stare straight ahead. Here, I stood on a bridge and caught this cyclist from above and followed him into the distance. Creepy...maybe...yes--but effective.

And finally, another deceptful-looking shot moving from an exterior to an interior this time. I'm not sure if I nailed the porportions of the character or not, but you get the idea. It seemed to me like he was going to his car to begin a mission.

It's key to remember that the character continues moving even when a large forground element covers him. He will most likely change porportions and/or direction by the time he gets out the other side.

And there you have it! After this first session I feel a teensy bit more knowledgeable and hopefully next time out in the field I will be able to capture more ambitious shots.

June 8, 2009

Same Same, but Different

And the screen-capping adventures continue...

After the layout discovery with Oliver Twist, I moved onto Anthony Minghella's The English Patient. Beautifully shot film. I had much more difficulty quilting these shots together, but it was worth the effort as I learned quite a bit. For example, the camera is like the audience's heart-rate. When you want them to breathe really quickly, make quick cuts. When you want them to rest, use long, sweeping shots. This I already knew, but analyzing films just reinforces the concept.

The first group below is comprised of all the straight-forward camera moves; pans and diagonals. Most are rest-period shots, but the half-moon background in the desert has a slight feeling of panic on screen.

Now things get a little trickier. Truck ins and rotating shots are incredibly awkward to piece together without layers. I fully appreciate the use of CG now. Some of the shots in live action are just impossible to achieve in traditional animation. The perspective is always changing. You would have to animate everything. Mad. Also, I think we often forget about hand-held shots. They can be really versatile and intimate.

Because this group is more awkward, I've also posted the boards below the background. Check out the complex staging in the first shot of the couple.

Okay, now these next shots just looked ridiculous when quilted. Everything was on top of each other, and I just couldn't make heads or tails out of it. Nonetheless, I've posted the boards because they are examples of how gorgeous camera work can reveal all the information the audience needs in one fluid shot.

After talking to Hans about my epiphany -- get this -- I thought I could offer a tip for his students in Asia. He trumped me by saying not only does he encourage his students to do this exercise already, but he tells them to get an actual videocamera, get out there, create their own shots, and analyse their own backgrounds. Yeah, it was like I told the Dali Lama how he should be meditating. Good one, Jamie. So guess what's next? You'll see my oh-so-developed camera skills. Beware.

June 2, 2009

a camera is a camera is a camera

This a new discovery for me, and everyone else may already know it, but I'm stoked about it and had to share...

As you may know, Hans Bacher posts many recreated animation backgrounds. Same same, but different. While screen-capping Polanski's Oliver Twist I was mainly looking at composition and lighting, but eventually I found myself wondering "How did he do that shot?" I took sections of each pan (or truck, or diagonal...) and stitched them together in Photoshop. Without realizing it, I had discovered how the layout would have to be drawn if the shot was animated!

The patched-up shots clearly showed what would be in the frame at any given time, where the necessary warping would be, which elements needed to be animated, where the characters would walk, etc.! For someone like myself, who finds planning a complicated layout about as easy as climbing Mount Everest, this analytical look at live-action shots shows that a camera is a camera regardless of whether the film is animated or live-action. Animation layouts may look all warped and funky, and they may seem to be a beast of their own, but they are drawn that way because that's what we see on the screen in live-action!

Below are a few of the quilted shots from Oliver. Some match up perfectly, but where they don't quite work is where the drawing would be warped or animated. It all makes sense now!!

The UPA Attempt

With our last character design assignment we were given the option to explore a flatter, UPA-style design, so I thought I'd give it a go. I realized that it's much harder than it looks. The designs are simple, but you really have to know your shapes and positive/negative space. I am still in the beginning stages of understanding these design concepts, but working on the characters above really forced me to focus on the essentials of a design. All tips and crits are welcome.

These three are the villains from our last storyboarding assignment. In the Wild West, these guys are not to be crossed.