By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooks

“It’s not the size of the dog, but the size of the dog’s fight.” —Mark Twain

A character’s scale can vary from sequence to sequence. If you are designing “Jack and the Beanstalk,” your hero will have two size relationships. The first one will be to the objects in his home, and the second to objects in the Giant’s castle. Scale is established by designing the props with the character, but insufficient information can cause confusion.

Figure 7-1

[Fig. 7-1] Jack and two chairs. The scale is ambiguous in (b).

In Figure 7-1(a) we can accept that Jack is a normal-sized man with a normal-sized chair since they appear to work to the same scale. Example (b) is more ambiguous. It is not really clear in the second drawing whether Jack is a normal man with a very large chair, or a tiny man standing next to a normal-sized chair. He is put into proper context in Figure 7-2 by the addition of a background that shares the same scale as the chair.

Figure 7-2

[Fig. 7-2] The characters’ scale relative to the setting must be worked out at the start of the production. New scales are worked out for different settings, if required.

Scale must be determined at the start of the project. It’s particularly important to get this right when working with CGI characters. In one instance, a student designed and modeled two characters independently of one another and found that when he put them together, the passive character was twice the size of the aggressor. This was not ‘realistic’ but it was extremely funny, and fortunately for him this “mistake” worked out well in the context of his film.

Figure 7-3

[Fig. 7-3] A very large rabbit chased by a very small fox. The fox was originally planned to be larger than the rabbit. The mistake produced a funnier fi lm. Most scale accidents won’t end this happily.

Designers and story artists create a character ‘lineup’ similar to the one in Figure 7-4 at the start of the production to indicate variations in character size and scale. Many different scale combinations are tried to see which ones work best. Once rough size differences are agreed on, storyboard artists use the rough character sketches as “placeholder” characters on rough boards. The boards may be redrawn when the final character designs are created.

Figure 7-4

[Fig. 7-4] A ‘lineup’ of characters and typical props is drawn up at the start of the production to provide size and silhouette reference for storyboard artists. The character designs may not be finalized until much later.

Excerpt from Prepare to Board! by Nancy Beiman © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.

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