Wednesday, 22 February 2012

animators are actors?

As you may have seen in one of my previous posts, in the last week and a bit we have had Ed Hooks lecturing us at Bournemouth Uni. Now his lecture series has come to a close I'd thought I would share with you some of my thoughts about his theories, and expand a little bit more my previous post and the question are animators actors?

Psychological Stuff

First of all I'll talk about the last of his lectures. We started looking at psychological stuff, more specifically status transactions and negotiations. Ed Hooks says that status transitions happen all the time through 'negotiation'.

A conversation is a perfect example of status transition. For example students give a lecturer high status by listening to them, then when a student asks a question the status is transferred to the student as people are listening to them now. A good example of a negotiation is eye contact, we do this all the time, when people catch you looking at them and you look away quickly. You are 'negotiating' at this point, if you hold their gaze you're engaging them in some way, whether it be showing you're listening or challenging them. When you look away you are saying 'fine you caught me I don't want anything to happen'.

He went on to talk about how as humans we see 80% and hear 20%, therefore what you show the audience carries more power than what is being said. This is where 'psychological gestures' come into a performance. This is when an actor makes a gesture that contrasts what is being said, and by doing so adding some more depth to a performance.

For me personally this is a really fascinating way of seeing our social interactions, it's really interesting how quick negotiations can be and how our body language can contrast what we're saying, it definitely puts a new perspective on things when I'm people watching. As Ed says, if you're an animator, you have a licence to stare!

Animators & Actors

There was some more stuff Ed talked about regarding heroes and villains, human emotions and micro expressions, but I'll save that for another day. I am now going to delve into the are animators actors debate once again.

I said in my previous post that I believed animators were actors. I wrote this post after coming out of the lecture, and I had my stubborn head on. After posting I had a discussion with a course mate about the issue and it really got me thinking.

My course mate (who isn't an animator) agreed with Ed on the issue of the present moment vs the illusion of the present moment, whereas I've always gone with the whole 'animators are actors with a pencil' argument. The case I was making was that Hooks' argument lies solely on one point, a big point, but still just one part of a larger process, and if the process is almost identical then I don't believe the two areas can be so definitively separated. Hooks' argument essentially boils down to spontaneity and that animators cannot really achieve this as an actor would. Anyway this debate left me thinking for a few days about my stand point on the whole issue.

So some time went by and i had another discussion with an animator this time. We discussed some more things Ed talked about, in particular delving deeper into the present moment argument. I mentioned Ed made a point about eyebrows. That an actor is not concentrating on his eyebrows during a scene, but as an animator we think about them for every frame and what they're doing and when exactly, emphasising his theory of the present moment again. He believes the characters are the actors, which is fine, they are technically the ones 'on stage'. But surely just as a live action actor would get into the character, an animator does as well. It just happens to be for a significantly longer period of time.

My animator friend then came back and said that an acting choice is an acting choice no matter how long it takes to arrive at that decision and if you're not a performer you'll never "get" the character enough to convince people. This is exactly what I agree with, to create a convincing performance you have to 'get' the character, regardless of the medium you are using to create the performance.

It was nice to hear that someone shared my original views of Ed Hooks' theory, and after some more time deliberating I've decided I am going to disagree with Ed Hooks, and I'm going to stick with my original belief that animators are actors. But it is nice to now have a deeper understanding of why I believe this.

Well that was a long post, I hope people out there find this stuff as interesting as I do, it's nice to get into discussions about these things, it gets you thinking. If you made it to the end congratulations. :)


Tuesday, 14 February 2012

acting for animators...

Hello again! It's been a while since I last posted, but I've been quite the busy bee with my innovations project. Its coming along nicely, but this post is not about that. This is about the very interesting lectures we've had so far this week from Ed Hooks. (Brace yourselves, this might be a long post).

Ed Hooks is the author of 'Acting for Animators' and has taught all over the world in all of the major film and games studios. He is obviously teaching us about the art of acting, and in particular acting from the point of an animator.

One of the first points Ed made was that animators are NOT actors. I do believe that animators ARE actors, however Ed makes some interesting points against that. Mainly that the animator has 'no present moment', they just have '24-frames-make-a-second, or the illusion of a present moment'. This makes sense, although I still believe that as animators we prepare in the same way as actors, and although our 'present moment' might be different we go through a very similar process from start to finish. This includes researching the role through to taking directors notes and changing the performance accordingly.

Throughout the few lectures we've had so far I have learnt an awful lot about acting, Ed has clearly spent time crafting his teaching of animators and has given us some very useful concepts to think about. Something which should stand me in good stead before tackling some of more important major project performances. Ed defines the role of an actor/animator as having to create empathy within the character they portray. I've always understood that, but have never been completely clear on how to achieve that empathy. We empathise with emotions, but how do we show emotions? Ed's formula is that 'thinking tends to lead to conclusions, conclusions tend to lead to emotions, and emotions lead to actions'. We have emotional responses to the conclusions we make, if we think someone looks threatening, we might come to the conclusion they will attack us, which leads to fear.This was a revelation moment for me, I now understand in a practical way to approach the thinking of my characters, and in turn, their emotions.

The second major point Ed made was that at any given point in any film any character should be 'playing an action in pursuit of an objective whilst overcoming an obstacle'. This really made me think about the animations I have done in the past and how I could improve them. As Ed said the reason characters become compelling is because they aren't just moving, they have a brain, they are thinking, and acting based upon their thoughts.

The most impactful point I've taken away from the lectures, is that you should animate the thought, not the word. He said it was a classic new animator mistake, and one I have fallen into. I've done several lip sync exercises purely thinking about the words, and not looking deeper into the thoughts behind those words, and the reason the character is saying them.

I'm sure that's quite enough of waffle for one post. As you can see, I've learnt a lot, and my animations will certainly be better for it in the future.

I promise my next post will have more moving stuff and maybe even a flashy image!


Thursday, 2 February 2012

One man, four animations...

IT'S DONE! I've finished all four of my master class animations, and handed them in. It's nice to chill for a bit before getting back to the grind tomorrow.

Overall it's been a pretty good learning experience. I purposefully went for a more cartoony style of animation because I've never tried that before and it was nice to get away from realistic stuff. I've had a lot of good feedback from Kevan Shorey who has helped me out a lot throughout the process. Talking to him and getting notes has definitely opened my eyes to my work process and how to improve it. A general note he gave me in all of the animations was that I needed 'more'. I need to push poses and keep the audience interested. I improved my animations a bit on this front, but not as much as I'd like. It'll certainly be at the forefront of my mind in the future.

So, here they are, hope you like them:

The Clone Trooper Sting

The Sneaky Guy

The Angry Guy

The Depressed Guy

I think on the whole I was too timid from the start. I had some good ideas but was afraid to try them because I wasn't sure I'd have time to finish them, so my blocking passes were a bit dull. I think in future I'll follow the advice of Kevan - 'If a shot is daunting, pick the single most important moment/pose and begin to visualise around it. Pretty soon you'll have a shot!'. I think I would've had a lot more success if I'd have chosen the moments where the character interacts with the gate and worked around that. Having said all that, I am actually quite happy with the animations, they're by no means perfect, but I feel the perfectionist in me would make being 100% pleased with it impossible. There is always something I'd like to do better.

Happy animating!