Saturday, January 16, 2010

Old School Layout - Part One, Background Designs

Old School Animation required that every scene be "laid out" or prepared for animation. So, after the storyboard had been completed, it was sent to the director and layout department at the same time. This was an undesirable situation brought on by time constraints. Ideally, the director should time the storyboard to the recording session and edit down the board to the time available. Invariably, the recording or the storyboard was longer than necessary. The director could cut the storyboard down to the correct length and THEN send it on to Layout.

This procedure would, obviously, save time and money but with deadlines looming and staff artists waiting, the storyboard was rushed into layout. The Layout Supervisor (Me) would "break-down" the board for layout by dividing it into background areas. Dockyards, country road, Hideout exterior and interiors, old mining shaft, etc. If a section contained a lot of scenes, it would be broken down into two or more edible lengths of about thirty scenes (a weeks work). If a background area was short, like 8 scenes or so, it would be combined with other smaller sections to make up a week's worth of labor. This was done so the background areas would match with each other. If two sections in the same area were handed out without background design elements or plans, the result would be two completely different designs of the same section. I often "plotted" out the interior of a structure so that the artist would know where each room inside were located along with exit doors. This kept confusion down and the screen direction logical.

A folder of layout drawings contained several elements. The first element was the background or "set" of each scene. The background for the scene was designed to the supposed length required. If all action or dialogue took place in one spot, a single "field" drawing sufficed. A "field was approximately ten and half inches high and twelve inches long. If a lot of walking, running or movement was required the fields would extend in length. This was called a "pan". If a chase was required, the fields would hook-up in such a way as to repeat themselves. This was a "repeat pan". The backgrounds also contained any foreground elements, a table, a tree, a fence. etc. that passed by during the chase in front of the character. This was called an "overlay". If a background contained an open door but after repeating should be closed, a door was added to the background as an "underlay". The proper use of over and underlays added depth and the illusion of space to a single background element.

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