Friday, July 16, 2010

The Camera Move That Dare Not Speak Its Name

I have always liked the look of an animated camera move, not the static style rostrum camera moves that most animations have (that is a still camera moving incrementally over a single piece of art) but the dynamic shifting view that is drawn frame by frame. Tezuka Osamu does it brilliantly in the fantastical POV he animates in his film ‘Jumping.’ Instead of being restricted to the single stage view that a lone piece of art allows (no matter how inventive the art)

the animated camera reveals a more complete and graphically interesting understanding of the film’s environment. Unfortunately, like most animation eye candy it takes a long time. When I was working on an educational film for the NFB called What’s In a Name I was asked to animate realistic characters in a historical style. I decided an easy way of getting around drawing full anatomical bodies was to have the camera move continuously around the room. The moving camera would catch glimpses of the characters thus saving me the task of drawing their whole bodies. Well time saved in one task is often banked somewhere else. To make a long story short the sequence was done by rotoscoping a 3D camera move into 2D drawings. I designed all the props, room layout and created a schematic for the camera. 3D artist Lawrence Teng modeled the room and animated the 3D camera move. We printed out every 8th frame, I added the characters and then the whole thing was inbetweened, all 1500 drawings worth. The result is below.

CREAMERS -NFB Sappho Sequence from Hilary Moses on Vimeo.

Insanely I decided to do the same thing for the opening of Creamers. I wanted a comprehensive flyover of the whole studio so the audience would have the full picture of Ester’s working environment – in all its cavernous, lonely glory. Lawrence and I teamed up again and using a blocked out version of the studio.

and a schematic of the camera’s path...

we toiled away at multiple variations to get the movement right.

Creamers - 3D Camera Move from Hilary Moses on Vimeo.

The plan was to print out 3D reference keys as I had done on the NFB sequence and start drawing. Easy peasy right? In the lofty distracting haze of my swooping camera's carefully choreographed dance to the opening music track, I was blind to the heeUUUUGE elephant in the room. I had set myself up to draw and paint literally thousands of creamers, teapots, saucers and cups, all of them patterned. To top that off they were lovingly lined up on vertical shelves that not so much panned but strobed by in an epileptic inducing visual that would make even the most meth soaked episode of Pokemon seem tame.

A few more months behind me and some new glaring truths…

1. This 1 minute establishing shot would take eons.
2. It would hurt peoples eyes.
3. This was not the way to start production.

Screech to a halt – what next?