This is an excerpt from Dream Worlds: Production Design for Animation by Hans Bacher. In this excerpt, Hans draws a comparison between film and animation in terms of camera rules– different shots, perspectives, and the number of characters that can be used in your animation. As you begin to read, you will see the amount of thought that can go into just one scene!
In live-action movies, it is the cameraman who decides about the camera position and the picture size, and of course following the ideas of the director. In animation it is the layout artist who plans the use of the camera. He executes what has been planned in rough sketches in a workbook meeting. This stage is visually the most important moment of the movie, because at this point the storyboard is being translated into film language. Usually a storyboard in animation is not visually interesting. Its job is only to tell the story. The breakdown into different shots, perspectives, the choice of the number of characters in one scene, the exact location following a floor plan, the direction of the light, props, effects – all of this is decided in the workbook meeting. It is easy to imagine that only one sequence can be worked out in a several hours-long meeting, with all major department heads in attendance.
Usually it is the job of the production designer to come up with sketches of the best choice of camera angle in these meetings. That’s why it is so important to know everything about them, when to use them and why. It is not accidental to have a low positioned camera for an upshot.
You want to emphasize a threatening situation, or during a dialogue sequence explain the relation between characters. Dialogue scenes in particular need very careful planning. To make them interesting you cut from close ups to medium- or wideshots, use over-the-shoulder or POV (point of view) positions. It gets more and more complicated the more characters are involved. You can confuse the audience completely when you jump around uncontrollably with your camera. The location and the relation of every single character to each other has to be followed by the movement of the camera.
I explain jump-cuts in the book Dream Worlds. They can be a disaster and completely destroy a sequence. It is dangerous to lose control over a logical development of a sequence like that, and a confused audience will not be able to follow the story.
Excerpt from Dream Worlds: Production Design for Animation by Hans Bacher © 2012 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved. Dream Worlds can be purchased Amazon.com, BN.com, and wherever fine books can be found.