Thursday, 21 October 2010

Acting Research!

Charlie Chaplin was the slap-stick master of the silent movie era and is easily one of the best examples of acting you can ever hope to find. The above clip from his 1931 film 'City Lights' is an excellent example of staging and comedic timing, as well as acting in general. The great thing about Chaplin's films is that he rarely ever changes his expression, yet still manages to convey a wide range on emotions and connect with his audience through bodily action alone. I chose the boxing scene in particular as it relates to my own fight scene I have planned with my character, and I hope to implement the principles used here in my own work in order to make my character more believable. One of the first things I noticed from watching was that the two fighters almost always stand in profile when they face each other, making their postures and lunges very easy to read so the audience has no trouble following the action despite the lack of sound. They also mirror each other, often dancing around the ring in circles rather than actually fighting, and this gives the composition of the scene a nice feeling of balance and prevents it from becoming to hectic, as well as allowing for the comedy to build up as the same gag is repeated to greater effect. The camera follows the two around, sticking to them like glue so they are almost always framed perfectly in the center of the shot, ensuring that the audience doesn't become distracted by anything else in the background as well as, again, making the movement very easy to follow. The poses are exaggerated and defined well; if you were to imagine this film as a story board you would have no trouble understanding what was going on even in static pictures. I think this is the key element I need to focus on - my storyboards must be crystal clear and make good use of staging in order to properly get my story across. I likewise intend to keep my character framed in the middle of the shot during her fight scene, and I want each storyboard to contain a pose at the peak of movement (the accent) so each stage of the fight flows clearly from one pose to the next as it develops, much like Chaplin's boxing. Furthermore, if I do this I would then be able to use said storyboards as keyframes to help get me started animating.

Back to animation, 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' from Disney's Fantasia is another great example of character acting, this time in a similar context to what I'm aiming for with my story. Like my character, Mickey finds himself overwhelmed by what was previously an inanimate object under his control, putting him in grave peril as the brooms revel in their new found lives. What I really love about this, and in particular the scene at 5:03, is Mickey's face as he struggles against the current to try and get to the steps, and later as he tries to climb out the well against the waves of the water being thrown in. Rather than just being a simple change from one facial expression to another, his expression contorts and flickers in between the two accented points as the water hits him; his eyes squint and he shakes his head while gasping for breath, making the struggle so much more believable. I really want to include detailed secondary animation like this in my own work, as I think its the tiny little details that most people often overlook that really make a character come alive.

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