Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Old School Layout: Part 2, Camera & Composition.

The Old School Layout folder contained other elements besides background, overlays and underlays designs. At minimum, besides a background design, a layout folder should contain a separate piece of paper with the camera directions on it. This could be simple, just a tracing from the field guide chart indicating whether the scene was to be photographed at full field or a closeup either at center or some other location within the screen field. Sometimes a tilt of the camera was required. At other times the start and stop position of a pan was indicated. In any case, even if the scene only required a shot of a background, a separate piece of paper should be included to indicate the composition of the field.

Depending on the action, a folder could also contain several animation poses. I did one scene in my youth that contained twelve poses. I did this because the storyboard artist went through the trouble of drawing eight panels and I added a couple more to those. The animator who received my layouts, now a director, came to my desk and told me he was unaccustomed to receiving more than three poses in a folder. He found my poses so complete that he just "charted" the inbetweens for his assistant and sent the folder on. He asked if I was a frustrated animator! In truth, I was, so I wasn't upset about doing the animator's job so completely. I considered it a compliment because the animator is under no obligation to actually use any of the poses the layout artist draws. Often as not, an animator complains that he can't use any of the drawings he finds in a layout folder. In those days of TV animation, animators weren't always great artists. They considered themselves "graphic actors" and the actual "on-model" correct drawings had to be done by somebody else, usually their overworked assistant. Cross-over artists who understood compositional drawing and animation action were not common.

It's uncommon again with the advent of computer generated animation tools. Computer "geeks" are becoming involved in animation in creative jobs with very little or even NO drawing experience. The tools (or "crutches") available to them give them the illusion of being artists. The best examples of great computer generated animation is the result of a collaboration between a graphically trained animator and a techno-genius computer wiz. Working in tandem, they cross-check their work so the artist doesn't stray too far from the software requirements and the computer nerd doesn't restrict the creative posing of the animator. Remember how the early 3D attempts were limited to robots or vehicles because human characters didn't look "real" when shoved through a digital process? Computer Graphic animation has come a long way since then. Still, the best animation artist has always been someone who has a workable left and right brain. More on that next installment.